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Leaked Pentagon Documents Show ‘Top Secret’ Isn’t So Secret



WASHINGTON. Why would a 21-year-old National Guardsman have access to top secret documents?

Thursday’s dramatic arrest of Jack Teixeira, a Massachusetts Air National Guard reconnaissance unit pilot who federal officials believe is linked to leaked reams of classified documents, exposes a huge number of people who have clearance to view national security documents that the government classifies as top secret. .

From National Guard members on bases in Massachusetts, to generals at NATO headquarters in Brussels, to US bureaucrats around the world, “top secret” security clearance gives bearers an extraordinary level of access. With it, they can see secure Pentagon and other intelligence sites, daily intelligence briefings, situation maps, and detailed analysis of the state of the world through the eyes of the American intelligence community.

Top-secret US military personnel include nearly all of the more than 600 or so generals in the various services. But this level of clearance also extends to some of their military aides, many Pentagon colonels, Navy ship captains, a wide range of junior officers, and even, in the apparent case of Airman Teixeira, enlisted men serving in intelligence units.

Pentagon officials say the number of people with such access is in the thousands, if not tens of thousands. And just below that, those with “secret” security clearances include almost everyone who works for the Pentagon or other national security agencies. There are military contractors and even think tank analysts who have a certain level of security clearance.

The Pentagon will likely deal with the aftermath of the leaked dozens of pages of sensitive material over the course of several months as Russian military planners pore over the leaked files for clues to their own compromised agencies. But the case raises broader questions about whether the term “top secret” is even secret at all, and whether the national security agencies have allowed their classified material to go too far.

“Obviously, too many people have access to too much top secret information” that they don’t need to know, said Evelyn Farkas, a senior Defense Department official in Russia and Ukraine during the Obama administration.

On Thursday, the Pentagon came to its senses from the possibility that the leak may have been far from the highest echelons of military intelligence and sensitive national security data.

Instead of finding a leak in the offices of the Joint Headquarters, where high-ranking generals and officials were gathering together many of the documents that were posted on a small gaming chat group called Thug Shaker Central, the officials found themselves raiding the home of Teixeira the airman.

“Each of us signs a non-disclosure agreement — anyone with a security clearance,” Pentagon spokesman Brigadier General Patrick S. Ryder said at a press conference. “By all accounts, again, this is a criminal act.”

According to Ms. Farkas, Teixeira’s arrest serves as a warning of what awaits those who mistreat classified information.

“They will throw everything at him,” she said, “and that will make it more important for the government to take action against those who think they are invulnerable because of their high positions.”

Officials said a person found guilty of such a leak could face a lengthy prison sentence. The Teixeira pilot was arrested under the Espionage Act, violation of which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison for each count. Reality Winner, a former Air Force pilot and NSA contractor convicted of leaking a classified document to the media, has been sentenced to five years and three months in prison. Naval engineer Jonathan Többe, who tried and failed to sell secrets to a foreign nation that were classified at a lower “confidential” level, was sentenced last year to 19 years in prison. His wife, Diana Többe, received almost 22 years in prison.

“This is a serious security breach that should not be allowed to happen again,” Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “Any person with a security clearance who betrays his country by deliberately mishandling classified documents or revealing classified material must be held accountable.”

Some military officials have defended the practice of issuing permits to military personnel regardless of their age; if someone is old enough to die for their country, then they are old enough to trust its secrets, they argued.

“When you join the army, depending on your position, you may need security clearance,” General Ryder said. “And if you’re in the intelligence community and need a security clearance, you must be properly vetted. We put a lot of responsibility on our members from an early age.”

National security officials on Thursday said the episode highlighted weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the cleanup process, despite changes made following the case of Edward J. Snowden, a former U.S. intelligence contractor who became one of the world’s most notorious fugitives after he revealed methods of mass surveillance. news organizations.

“These reforms were clearly not effective enough,” said Javed Ali, a former senior US counterterrorism official who has held intelligence positions with the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

For example, top secret ballots are stored on government computers that are located in secure work areas known as SCIFs – Confidential Information Centers – where no one is allowed to bring in any electronic device that can be used for photography or video or audio recording. . Visitors to the many Pentagon offices are required to leave their cell phones, laptops, and anything that can be used for writing or photographing in lockers in the hallway.

To limit the leakage of intelligence in the aftermath of the Snowden affair, senior officials introduced rules to limit the ability of people to electronically access material in SCIF.

“The problem with Snowden was that people couldn’t download classified material electronically,” Mr. Ali said. “This person went in a different direction, probably because of the post-Snowden measures.”

In this case, the documents appear to have been unsealed and seized from classified facilities, officials said, although much about how the materials ended up in the chat is still unknown.

On Thursday, it was unclear what clearance level the Teixeira pilot had. But he was assigned to the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 102nd Reconnaissance Wing, and it’s possible he had security clearance, a Defense Department official said Thursday.

“The obvious question is why someone in this relatively low-ranking and rather obscure corner of the military, namely the Massachusetts Air National Guard, could have access not only to some of the nation’s most important secrets, but to such an extraordinary amount of them. which could have had nothing to do with his work,” said Glenn Gerstell, a former general counsel for the National Security Agency.

Mick Mulroy, a former CIA officer and senior Pentagon official, agreed: “It really raises the question of how such a junior can access some of our most sensitive data and documents to inform our most senior officials,” he said. “This should make us think about who has access to this level of material and how and why we allow people to print such material.”

Jack Teixeira, US Air National Guard, pictured on social media.

Two major changes in how intelligence was handled in the past have helped set the stage for the most recent leaks.

Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the intelligence services have become much more circulating materials to the government. Then, after the failed intelligence assessment of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, intelligence agencies began to share more information about the sources of their information and their confidence in how reliable the material could be.

Mr. Gerstell said the changes were made for good reason, but they went too far. Now access to some top secrets is “just mind-bogglingly wide,” he said.

We have gone so far and made it so convenient and easy to access a wide range of people precisely because we never want to be able to say that we could have prevented something if only we had shared this information, ”he said. said. “We have a principle of providing information only in case of a “need to know”, but in practice we do not follow it.”

US intelligence agencies have strict rules about who can access information, but the military has adopted a looser set of rules that effectively allow anyone with security clearances to access documents from multiple spy agencies.

Mr. Gerstell said that a “zero trust architecture” is needed to secure information. Under this model, people could see the title or title of the intelligence information, but they needed to verify their credentials to see the details. This will allow you to better track who accesses information and how often.

Instead, under the current system, “after you’ve been cleared, you’re entitled to just about everything,” he said.

On Thursday, hours after Teixeira’s arrest, Undersecretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks sent out a memorandum outlining rules for handling classified material.

“Personnel with access to classified information are the trusted custodians of that information, and the responsibility to protect classified information is a lifelong requirement for every person with security clearance,” she wrote.


FBI Arrests National Guardsman Jack Teixeira in Leaked Documents Case



NORTH DAYTON, Massachusetts. — The FBI arrested a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard on Thursday in connection with the leak of dozens of highly classified documents containing many national security secrets, including the breadth of US surveillance. lead to Russia.

Airman First Class Jack Douglas Teixeira has been taken into custody on charges of leaking classified documents after federal authorities said he posted batches of sensitive intelligence on an online game group called Thug Shaker Central.

When reporters from The New York Times gathered outside the house on Thursday afternoon, about half a dozen FBI agents broke into the home of Teixeira’s mother in North Daytona, with a twin-engine government spy plane on duty overhead.

Some of the agents arrived heavily armed. Law enforcement officials learned before the search that the Teixeira pilot had several weapons, according to a person familiar with the investigation, and the FBI found weapons in the house.

Shortly thereafter, cameras captured Teixeira, a pilot in handcuffs, wearing red shorts and boots, being escorted from his home by two heavily armed men.

In Washington, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, in a brief statement, announced the arrest and said that the Teixeira airman would be taken to Federal District Court in Massachusetts. Mr. Garland said he was arrested in connection with the “unauthorized seizure, storage and transmission of classified national defense information,” a reference to the Espionage Act, which is used to prosecute mistreatment and theft of sensitive intelligence information.

The arrest raised questions about why such a junior enlisted airman had access to such an array of potentially dangerous secrets, why adequate security measures weren’t put in place after earlier leaks, and why a young man risked his freedom to share intelligence about the war in Ukraine with a group of friends. whom he knew from a video game social networking site.

The motive behind the case remains unclear. But according to people who knew him online, Teixeira’s flyer was not an informer. Unlike previous huge leaks, from the Pentagon Papers to WikiLeaks to the Edward Snowden revelations, outrage at wrongdoing or government policies didn’t seem to be a factor.

Indeed, the revelations had the potential to harm all parties in Ukraine, as well as future intelligence gathering. While some officials, including President Biden, have downplayed the damage from the leak, it will take months to find out if US intelligence is losing access to important data-gathering methods due to the disclosure.

The FBI followed the Teixeira airman for several days, tracking their own investigative evidence, as well as the same information as The Times and Washington Post According to officials, he talked about a Discord group where he shared documents.

However, as reporters got more information, law enforcement had to speed up the investigation.

While federal investigators believed the Teixeira airman could pose a danger to search agents, his online friends knew him as the sometimes aggressive leader of their small community.

A few months ago, Thug Shaker Central user aka OG started uploading hundreds of pages of intelligence briefings to a small chat room. The group also discussed weapons and military equipment, as well as their group’s original theme of video games.

While members of the chat group did not name the leader of the group, a trail of digital evidence collected by The Times led to Teixeira the airman. US officials have confirmed that they believe he uploaded information illegally taken from US military computers.

In posting the material, OG was lecturing group members who had bonded during the pandemic lockdown about the importance of staying on top of world events.

Airman Teixeira was trained as a cyber transport systems specialist, a job that could involve many responsibilities, such as keeping his unit’s communications networks up and running. He was assigned to the 102nd Reconnaissance Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base, part of Joint Base Cape Cod, according to an Air Force official. The official Facebook page of the 102nd Reconnaissance Wing congratulated Airman Teixeira and his colleagues on their July promotion to first class pilots.

Officials have not responded to questions about what Teixeira’s job as a pilot requires him to have access to daily slides about the war in Ukraine, not to mention the daily stream of intelligence reports from the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. There are units at the base that process intelligence gathered from drones and U-2 spy planes, though it’s doubtful that the job itself would require this sort of access to the vast array of classified information that’s been leaked to the Discord server.

But he could have accessed the documents in other ways as well. Secret service-cleared US government officials often receive such documents by email over a secret computer network, one official told The Times, and the emails can then be automatically forwarded to other people.

Teixeira’s mother, Dawn, speaking in front of her home in North Daytona on Thursday, confirmed that her son was a member of the Air National Guard and said he recently worked the night shift at the Cape Cod base. he changed his phone number, she said.

Later, someone who turned out to be the pilot Teixeira drove into the compound in a red pickup truck.

When the Times reporters approached the house again, the truck was parked in the driveway. Airman Teixeira’s mother and stepfather were standing in the driveway.

When asked if the Teixeira airman was there and if he was willing to speak, his stepfather, Thomas P. Dufolt, said: “He needs to get a lawyer if things are going the way they are going now. The feds will come soon, I’m sure.”

In a few hours, Mr. Dufoe’s prediction retired air force sergeantwas confirmed when the FBI and other government officials entered the premises.

A neighbor, Paul Desouza, watched as FBI agents called out the name of the pilot Teixeira. According to the neighbor, after that the young man left the house.

Mr. Desuza did not know the Teixeira pilot, but said he often heard him firing weapons in the woods behind his house.

After the pilot Teixeira was taken away, the search of the property continued. And as the sun began to set, a food delivery truck arrived at the FBI agents searching the family home of the Teixeira airman, which meant the search was likely to continue for several more hours.

Members of Thug Shaker Central who spoke to The Times said the documents they discussed online were meant to be purely informative. Although many were linked to the war in Ukraine, the participants said they did not take sides in the conflict.

The documents, they said, only began to gain wider attention when a member of the group of teenagers took several dozen documents and posted them on a public online forum. From there, they were picked up by Russian-language Telegram channels, and then by The Times, which was the first to report them.

In Washington, the leak crisis began late last week, when some documents began to surface on Telegram and Twitter.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III was initially informed of the leak on the morning of 6 April. Pentagon officials tried to delete some messages on Telegram and Twitter with photos of some of the documents that were originally found, but were unsuccessful. .

The next day, last Friday, Mr. Austin began calling department-wide meetings to address the growing number of revelations. The Pentagon and other US officials have begun contacting Congressional leaders and allies to warn them of the leaks, which have sparked political storms in some countries.

Also last Friday, the Joint Headquarters of the Armed Forces, which produced many of the leaked briefing slides, put in place procedures to limit the distribution of highly sensitive briefing papers and restrict attendance at meetings where briefing books containing paper copies of documents were made available.

In his first public comments on the leaks Tuesday, Mr. Austin struggled to explain why the Department of Defense only became aware of the leaks long after they first appeared on Discord.

“Well, they were online somewhere,” Austin said of the leaked documents. “And where exactly and who had access at that moment, we do not know. We just don’t know at the moment.”

As Mr. Austin spoke, the news outlets began writing about the discovery of new documents.

On Thursday morning, Mr. Austin called a meeting with senior officials to discuss the crisis.

But by then the FBI was preparing a search warrant for the North Daytona home, and investigators were beginning to assure Pentagon officials that the whistleblower would soon be caught.

Reports and studies have been provided Riley Mellen, Adam Goldman, Michael Schwartz, Helen Cooper, Eric Schmitt, John Ismay, CJ Chivers, Michael D Shire, Kitty Bennett another Sheila McNeil.

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Blue state legislators flex their muscles on state and local contributions



“Long Islanders pay some of the highest property taxes in the country, and for the hard-working middle-class families in my area, the $10,000 cap means they can only deduct a fraction of what they pay from their federal income taxes.” – Garbarino. says in the statement. “I’m talking about police officers, firefighters, nurses, teachers, and small business owners being taxed twice on money they never had.”

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GOP pundits must stop being a tool to disinform Democrats



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