Air Force halts intelligence mission of suspected classified document leaker’s unit

The Air Force’s 102nd Intelligence Wing, where the suspect in the leak of classified documents was assigned, was told to stand down from its intelligence mission.

The Air Force’s 102nd Intelligence Wing, which the Air National Guardsman suspected of leaking classified documents was assigned to, has been ordered to stand down from its intelligence mission as the service’s inspector general conducts an investigation, the Air Force said Tuesday.

The Air Force also directed each unit to conduct a security-focused stand down in the next 30 days to “reassess our security posture and procedures, validate the need to know for each person’s access, and emphasize to all Airmen and Guardians the responsibility we are entrusted with to safeguard this information and to enforce and improve our security requirements,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and other military leaders said in a memo.

The 102nd Intelligence Wing is not currently performing its assigned intelligence mission and has been temporarily reassigned to other organizations within the military branch, the Air Force said in a statement.

Federal authorities arrested Jack Teixeira, 21, last week in connection with the investigation into classified documents that were leaked on the internet. He was charged with possessing classified documents pertaining to national security and possessing national defense materials. The charges carry a maximum of 10 years behind bars.

Jack Teixeira.via Facebook

NBC News obtained more than 50 of the leaked documents, many of them labeled “Top Secret,” the highest level of classification. They reveal details of U.S. spying on Russia’s war machine in Ukraine and secret assessments of Ukraine’s combat power, as well as intelligence about America’s allies, including South Korea and Israel.

Teixeira, an airman first class with the Massachusetts Air National Guard, has been in uniform since September 2019 and was stationed at the Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod. He was employed as a cyber transport systems journeyman — essentially an information technology specialist — which allowed him to obtain top-secret clearance for his work. 

Teixeira was not required to enter a plea during this initial court appearance on Friday, and a federal public defender, listed as Teixeira’s attorney, could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday.

Teixeira’s arrest has raised questions about why a low-level airman had expansive access to classified documents that he allegedly shared with a close-knit online community of fellow gamers. 

Teixeira reportedly used Discord, an online forum originally used as a chat platform by video game enthusiasts, to share the leaked information with his small community of online friends, and he took photos of paper documents that he may have smuggled out of a secure facility.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a memo Tuesday that ordered an immediate review of how classified information is handled and secured. It directs several Pentagon leaders to review procedures and standards and to provide an interim report to the undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security by May 2.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have also expressed concerns related to national security after Teixeira’s arrest. A Senate Intelligence Committee aide told NBC News that Congress would be reviewing the clearance system after the recent leaks and the committee would be holding hearings on the topic.

Phil McCausland, Ken Dilanian and Courtney Kube contributed.

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