USAF Report Faults Lax Security Culture in Unit of Airman Who Allegedly Leaked Documents

The Air Force announced Dec. 11 that it has initiated disciplinary and other administrative actions against 15 Airmen and implemented reforms service-wide after scores of classified documents were allegedly leaked earlier this year by Airman 1st Class Jack Teixeira. 

The disciplinary actions were taken against Airmen ranging from staff sergeant to colonel and followed an Air Force inspector general’s report that found a “culture of complacency” and lax security protocols in the Massachusetts Air National Guard wing in which Teixeira served.

“Every Airman and Guardian is entrusted with the solemn duty to safeguard our nation’s classified defense information,” Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said in a statement. “Our national security demands leaders at every level protect critical assets, ensuring they do not fall into the hands of those who would do the United States or our allies and partners harm.”

The Air Force Inspector General’s office determined that Teixeira acted alone in obtaining classified information and sharing it in online chat rooms but that his actions were enabled by a “lack of supervision.”

The IG’s investigation described several incidents when Teixeira’s supervisors and colleagues in the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base, Mass., were aware of his improper actions and did not act to stop them or share their concerns above the squadron level.

“Evidence indicates some members in A1C Teixeira’s unit, reporting chain, and leadership had information about as many as four separate instances of his questionable activity,” the inspector general report, dated August 2023, states. “A smaller number of unit members had a more complete picture of A1C Teixeira’s intelligence-seeking behaviors and intentionally failed to report the full details of these security concerns/incidents as outlined in DoD security policies, fearing security officials might ‘overreact.’ Had any of these members come forward, security officials would likely have facilitated restricting systems/facility access and alerted the appropriate authorities, reducing the length and depth of the unauthorized and unlawful disclosures by several months.”

The inspector general report is separate from the criminal investigation of Teixiera being led by the Department of Justice.

The 15 Airmen facing disciplinary and other administrative actions at the base include Col. Sean Riley, 102nd Intelligence Wing commander, who received administrative action and was relieved of command for cause, and Col. Enrique Dovalo, 102nd Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group commander, who received administrative action for concerns with unit culture and compliance with policies and standards.

In the most detailed publicly released account yet of Teixeira’s actions in his unit, the Air Force inspector general paints a picture of an Airman who repeatedly violated protocols but who had supervisors who tried to downplay his actions. It also notes the unit encouraged the sharing of classified intelligence that should not have been widely disseminated as part of an effort to educate Airmen about their part in the nation’s intelligence mission.

Members of the 102nd Intelligence Support Squadron, including Teixeira, were “encouraged to receive weekly intelligence briefings to better understand the mission and the importance of keeping the classified networks operating. This ‘know your why’ effort was improper in that it provided higher-level classified information than was necessary to understand the unit’s mission and created ambiguity with respect to questioning an individual’s need to know,” the inspector general found.

Beyond the broad oversharing of information, Teixeira’s superiors repeatedly had reason to suspect that he obtained and kept records of classified information. Teixeira was cited for his improper handling of classified information, though not through the correct reporting channels, the inspector general found.

During the summer and fall of 2022 and continuing into 2023, Teixeira was observed looking at top secret/sensitive compartmented information (TS/SCI) or referencing the contents of that material in a number of suspicious incidents. 

In the first case, around July or August of 2022, he was seen looking at TS/SCI information and one of his supervisors was informed. On Sept. 15, 2022, Teixeira was seen viewing intelligence and copying information down on a post-it note.

“However, it was never verified what was written on the note or whether it was shredded,” the IG report states. “His supervisor and another unit member documented the event via Memorandum for Record (MFR), and A1C Teixeira was directed to stop taking notes on classified information and ‘to cease all research where he did not have a need to know.’ These incidents were not reported to the proper security official.”

Despite the warnings, Teixeira’s activity continued. Roughly a month later on Oct. 25, 2022, Teixeira “asked very detailed questions and even attempted to answer questions using suspected TS-SCI information he did not have a need to know,” the IG states. “Teixeira was again ordered to ‘cease and desist’ intelligence ‘deep dives.’ This third incident was documented with another MFR, but not reported to the proper security official.”

Then on Jan 30, 2023, Teixeira was again seen viewing intelligence. The incident was finally reported, but the unit appears to have tried to downplay the severity Teixeira’s actions.

“The supervisor was informed, an MFR was written, and more senior members of the squadron’s leadership were made aware of three of the four preceding incidents,” the IG report states.

After some internal discussion the episode was reported to security officials but in a way that minimized concerns over Teixeria’s activities. 

“As a result, additional available security actions were not taken and no further inquiry or investigation occurred,” the IG report said.

The Department of Air Force says as a result of the investigation it has reformed its processes.

They include determining whether an individual with a security clearance actually has a “need to know” specific classified information, improved security training, and emphasizing the responsibility of commanders and other personnel to report concerning behavior up the chain of common–all key failings in the Teixeira case.

Speaking to reporters shortly after the findings were released, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Maj. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder said Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III was “confident the Air Force is taking necessary steps to look into this.”