Pentagon Says Defense Officials Cracking Down On Access After Leak
Pentagon Deputy Spokesperson Sabrina Singh holds a press briefing at the Pentagon on January 26, 2023 in Arlington, Virginia.
(Photo by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

The Department of Defense (DoD) is working to cut down the number of people who have access to secret information, a Pentagon official said Monday following a leak of classified documents.

Officials are “culling through” distribution lists, as well as examining other issues such as printing access, as part of a “long-term” review, Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters during a briefing.

Singh said she could not provide “exact numbers” on who has had access revoked, but did concede “actions have already been taken” in a bid to restrict the flow of sensitive information.

“We have to make sure the service members or our civilians have what they need to be able to do their job, but also we need to make sure that it is on a need-to-know basis,” she added.

The DoD says an interagency review is underway to assess the validity and national security impact of images that began popping up in recent months on social media, starting with Discord, showing what appeared to be secret details about China, Russia’s war in Ukraine, surveillance efforts, and more. In addition, the Department of Justice opened a criminal investigation into the matter following a referral from the DoD.

A 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guard member, Jack Teixeira, was arrested and charged last week in connection with the leak. Teixeira possessed a high-level security clearance, a criminal complaint shows, and he worked essentially as a computer network technician while assigned to an intelligence unit at a base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

A U.S. defense official told The Washington Post many of the documents that appeared online look like they were prepared for Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other senior military officials, but stressed these records would be available broadly to people with proper clearance.

Some of the images reportedly showed documents printed on paper that had then been folded and crumpled up. Newsweek published images of several of the documents on Sunday.

At the order of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, a DoD post-leak assessment is expected to produce preliminary findings and recommendations for protecting classified information in 45 days, Singh said.

The Pentagon spokeswoman also offered the assurance that there is a “very robust vetting process when it comes to someone being able to have a security clearance” but noted there may be areas that could be improved upon, pending the review.

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