Some senators this week were given a classified briefing regarding the recent leak of a trove of highly-classified documents that were obtained and released by an Air National Guardsman that was low on the power totem pole.
Those senators said recently that they were shocked by how law enforcement of the rules that are in place to protect the secrets of America are actually enforced.
Democratic Senator Mark Warner from Virginia, who serves as the chair of the Intelligence Committee in the Senate, for instance, commented publicly after the session that was held behind closed doors with officials from the Pentagon and the intelligence community:
“I think there are a whole host of questions. From access to internal security controls to making sure how we really make sure continuous vetting in an internet-driven age can actually spot anomalies.”
Jack Teixeira is the 21-year-old Airman 1st Class who is being accused of leaking the documents. He made a brief appearance in court recently, during which his attorneys asked for more time so they could prepare his case.
In the meantime, the Air Force put a stop to the intelligence mission that the Massachusetts Air National Guard had. That’s where Teixeira was serving. The shutdown happened as the investigation into the leak is ongoing.
The New York Times initially broke the story of the massive leak.
The criticism of the intelligence leak came from both sides of the political aisle this week. Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who serves as the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said:
“I think it’s stunning that the Department of Defense and the intelligence agencies found out about it primarily from the press. It’s unacceptable. And I’m not sure, at least in the time I was in there, I certainly wasn’t satisfied with any plans they have in place to prevent this from happening in the future.”
Many people have questioned whether Teixeira should have had the security clearance he did, since he’s only 21 years old. He had TS/SCI clearance, which stands for Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information.
Yet, Lloyd Austin, the defense secretary, pushed back against those criticisms at a news conference this week, saying:
“The vast majority of our military is young, and so it’s not exceptional that young people are doing important things in our military. That’s really not the issue. The issue is … how you responsibly execute or carry out your duties and how you protect the information.”
Austin said that Teixeira held the job of being “a systems administrator.” This means he essentially served as an IT expert for the Massachusetts Air National Guard.
Still, many lawmakers are questioning why Teixeira would have that clearance. Maine Independent Senator Angus King, for instance, appeared on CNN recently and said:
“This young man allegedly, apparently, was not an intelligence analyst or a member of the intelligence community. He was a technician running the network. So, the question is, can you keep the network running without having access to the content on the network, or are there ways to secure it?”