The hunt for a massive Pentagon leak was going on for a week
The Case for Jack Teixeira: An Airman in the Navy, a Defense Under the Footprints of the Snowden Leakage and the Failure of the Security Executive Branch
Jack Teixeira, an airman with the Massachusetts Air National Guard, has been charged with retaining and sending national defense information and withholding classified documents. The New York Times was the first to identify Teixeira, and FBI agents arrested him at his family’s home soon after the publication named him as the alleged source of the leak.
The Biden administration has already seen the episode as a reason to limit who receives highly classified intel, while questions continue about why a 21-year-old junior Air National Guardsman didn’t discover the information sooner.
The Biden administration raced to determine the identity of the leaker who had posted pictures of folded-up documents online, to understand the full scope of what had been leaked and to soothe allies who were varying degrees of angry that their secrets had spilled out for the world to see.
While the suspected leaker has been arrested, the administration’s damage assessment is still ongoing. It remains unclear whether the full extent of the impact of the leaks is known, as details from additional classified documents continued to be published throughout the week – even on Friday morning, the day after his arrest.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was very concerned about the national security ramifications from the leak, a US official told CNN. The defense secretary was briefed on the leak last Thursday, and the department has been meeting daily to discuss it.
In the last few years, the episode represents the most egregious disclosure of classified documents. The leaked documents have exposed what officials say are lingering vulnerabilities in the management of government secrets, even after agencies overhauled their computer systems following the 2013 Edward Snowden leak, which revealed the scope of the National Security Agency’s intelligence gathering apparatus.
It is unlikely, however, that those safeguards would have prevented the most recent leak, sources said. A former US official stated that all classified systems have multiple levels of risk controls but a determined Insider will find weak points over time.
The Pentagon has already taken steps to clamp down on who can access sensitive classified material, while Austin has ordered a review over access to classified documents. The US intelligence community missed the chance to discover its secrets when they sat on a public internet forum for weeks.
President Biden acknowledged the extent of the problem that the leaks exposed and said that he had instructed the military and intelligence community to take steps to further secure and limit distribution of sensitive information.
“This is a breakdown,” Chris Krebs, the former head of the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency, told CNN. There is no question that there will be a lot of reflection within the intelligence community and government on where those breakdowns took place. How do we ensure that we tighten that system of military discipline that that was referred to earlier to ensure that these things do not happen?”
The Discovery of U.S. Documents from a Topiced Discord Chatroom: The 102nd Intelligence Wing, Otis Air Force Base
Teixeira is believed to be the head of obscure invite-only Discord chatroom called “Thug Shaker Central,” multiple US officials told CNN, where information from the classified documents was first posted.
There is no indication that the US intelligence community was aware that the documents were on the internet. Discord servers are typically small, private online communities that require an invitation to join.
Investigators wrote in the affidavit that at least one of the documents that described the status of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, including troop movements, was classified at the TS-SCI level, meaning it contains top-secret, sensitive compartmentalized information.
The affidavit states the document contains national defense information and is based on sensitive U.S. intel gathered through classified sources and methods.
The 102nd Intelligence Wing, a unit at Otis Air National Guard Base, is made up of an airman’s first class and was assigned to an operational mission that involved taking intel from various sources and packages it into a product for some of the most senior military leaders around the globe.
The official said it wasn’t like a help desk where you could call and they would come fix your computer. They need that clearance because of the highly classified system they are working on.
CNN has reviewed 53 documents that were posted on social media sites, which include US intelligence assessments of Ukrainian and Russian forces, as well as details about other countries providing weapons to Ukraine and other intelligence matters. The Washington Post has reported on an additional tranche of documents from the server.
The photos showed documents laying on top of magazines surrounded by other random objects, which appeared to have been hastily folded and put into a pocket before being removed from a secure location.
On the first few hours of the leak: A conversation between Biden, Sherman, and other top officials in the era of a high-decision investigation
The Pentagon launched an investigation into who may have been behind the leak after The New York Times first reported on it.
The Justice Department took over the investigation into finding the leaker, while the Pentagon focused on the damage caused by the leaks.
On Monday, FBI agents from Washington to California to Boston were combing through evidence and conducting interviews, and looking into computer data that pointed them to the suspect. They worked with Army CID investigators experienced in classified document probes.
Anthony Ferrante, a former FBI agent, said that the “first few hours are critical” in a case as investigators rush to find the digital evidence before it becomes harder to find online.
The FBI combed through the leaker’s other online accounts to build a picture of him, and they probably worked backwards from the initial post on Discord, according to ex-FBI agent Giovanni Ferrante.
In a different scenario, without the intense public attention, agents might have watched him for weeks to see if he was meeting anyone suspicious or if he had accomplices.
Austin and Milley were talking to US allies and partners around the world regarding the top secret intelligence information that was recently put out in the public sphere. The conversations were expected to last through the end of the week, another US official said.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was tapped to lead the diplomatic response to the leaked US intelligence documents, according to a US official familiar with the matter.
Biden was kept informed of the investigation while abroad, as well as the efforts of his top officials to find the source of the information that was leaked. That effort was something that Biden had to deal with behind the scenes as he prepared for his foreign trip.
Biden downplayed the significance of the leak when he made his first comments. “I’m concerned that it happened, but there is nothing contemporaneous that I’m aware of that is of great consequence,” Biden told reporters Thursday.
Breaking the LLM Gap: We Are All Safe with TikTok, but We Don’t Know What to Do When You’re Uninformed
Anyone worried about chaos agents of a different variety now have a new way to protect their online identities. LinkedIn this week began to roll out new tools that allow you to verify your identity and your job. And for iOS users who want a built-in way to protect their security, we detailed how to use Apple’s all-in-one password manager.
While your personal security might be moving in the right direction, ChatGPT and other large language models (LLMs) aren’t so lucky. This week we explored the world of “jailbreaking” generative AI tools, which allows users to trick the powerful chatbots into doing things that their creators have tried to stop. There is still a lot to learn about this world of LLM hacking, but it is safe to assume that we will hear more about this in the months to come.
Downloads of TikTok were banned yesterday by Montana lawmakers. The legislation is expected to be approved by the governor despite the risk of legal and technical challenges.
It is not the only thing. Each week, we round up the stories we didn’t report in-depth ourselves. Click on the headlines to read the full stories. Stay safe out there, and stay safe.
Comments on a 21-year-old Internet Chatter Spyware User Leaked to the Washington Post and Not to the Invite
The 21-year-old allegedly revealed the top-secret information in an attempt to show off to the members of the invite-only chat room. The chat consisted of two dozen adolescent boys and young men who, according to The Washington Post, largely did not understand the significance of the leak.
Monitoring chatter in public chat rooms is commonplace for law enforcement. If US intelligence agencies plan to spy on private conversations without probable cause they will be in for a rough ride. “We do not have nor do we want a system where the United States government monitors private internet chats,” Glenn Gerstell, a former general counsel of the National Security Agency, told NBC News.