How Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old guard leaked documents from deep inside the Pentagon

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APRIL, 14 2023

This photo illustration created on April 13, 2023, shows the suspect, national guardsman Jack Teixeira, reflected in an image of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.STEFANI REYNOLDS, AFP via Getty Images

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira’s job – essentially a military IT tech – likely allowed him access to the trove of secret documents he’s alleged to have leaked because he would have been familiar with the Pentagon’s most secret-secure computer network, current and former officials said.

It’s unlikely Teixeira would have been on the list of the hundreds of authorized recipients of secret assessments of the war in Ukraine, the battered Russian military or U.S. efforts to spy on adversaries, according to an administration official who was not authorized to speak publicly.

But on Sept. 30, Teixeira was mobilized for active duty with the 102nd Intelligence Wing located at Otis Air Force Base in Massachusetts. Even today, in federal custody, Teixeira remains active duty, according to Nahaku McFadden, a spokesperson for the National Guard Bureau.

While on active duty, his specialty of maintaining and safeguarding the Pentagon’s computer systems likely gave him access to the Joint Worldwide Communication, or JWICS, said Scott Murray, a retired Air Force colonel who specialized in intelligence.

It’s not a surprise that an IT tech had access to JWICS to help maintain it, Murray said. He described the system as an internet for classified documents. But Teixeira wouldn’t “get keys to all the kingdom.” There are sensitive, need-to-know documents like the President’s Daily Brief, a compendium of the latest intelligence that is closely held among a small circle of senior officials.

Teixeira’s relatively young age, 21, wouldn’t necessarily have been an obstacle to gaining access. Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters Thursday that young troops working in intelligence fields receive security clearances after proper vetting.

“We entrust our members with a lot of responsibility at a very early age,” Ryder said.

President Joe Biden said Friday he has asked U.S. officials to determine how Teixeira was able to access the classified materials.

Biden said he has instructed investigators “to make sure they get to the root of why he had access in the first place, No. 1, and No. 2, to focus extensively on the extent to which it all occurred.”

“I don’t think it’s going to take very long,” Biden told reporters traveling with him in Dublin, Ireland, as he was wrapping up a three-day trip.

Teixeira appeared in federal court Friday and was charged with two counts related to the leaks. Federal prosecution means he could not face military charges for the same offenses, said Don Christensen, a former top prosecutor for the Air Force. However, the Air Force could charge him with offenses such as dereliction of duty. It could also discharge him with an under other than honorable conditions.

Being on active duty likely made it easier for Teixeira to access the documents, Christensen said. But that doesn’t mean he should have.

“It really brings into question why anyone at Otis Air Force Base would need access to such to this type of high level strategic classified information,” Christensen said.

The JWICS system was designed in the early 1990s for the military intelligence community but expanded as others in the Defense Department found it helpful. It grew “rapidly to a must-have innovation” for the military’s top brass, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency’s web site.

The system was installed in the White House Situation Room after Bill Clinton visited the Pentagon.

Family members of Jack Teixeira leave John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston after Teixeira’s arraignment on Friday, April 14, 2023, for allegedly leaking classified Pentagon documents.

The briefing papers leaked to social media websites include those that reached the very top of the Pentagon’s uniformed command: the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark Milley.

Every document that is printed from JWICS is tracked, Murray said. Keystrokes on a user’s computer can also be tracked.

“If I’m on JWICS, there’s a record,” he said.


Courtesy/Source: This article originally appeared on USA TODAY