The Air Force has fired the former commander of the intelligence wing to which Airman 1st Class Jack Douglas Teixeira was assigned following an investigation into how the junior airmen allegedly shared a trove of classified documents on private Discord servers, the service announced on Monday.
An Inspector General’s report released Monday found that at the heart of the leak, beyond Teixeira’s misconduct, were three of his immediate supervisors who knew about or had even seen him breaking rules around secret information but intentionally did not report him.
“Three individuals in the unit who understood their duty to report specific information regarding [Airman 1st Class] Teixeira’s intelligence-seeking and insider threat indicators to security officials, intentionally failed to do so,” the Inspector General found.
In response to the report, a total of 15 airmen ranging in rank from staff sergeant to colonel have received punishments including being relieved of their positions and receiving nonjudicial punishment in the wake of the data breach, the Air Force news release says. The 102nd Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group’s mission has also been reassigned to other Air Force units.
Air Force Col. Sean Riley, the former commander of the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 102nd Intelligence Wing, received administrative action and was relieved of command for cause following the massive data leak, an Air Force news release says. Riley assumed command of the wing in June 2020.
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Air Force Col. Enrique Dovalo, former commander of the 102d Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, also received administrative action over concerns with the unit’s culture of compliance with policies and standards, the news release says. He was not relieved of command.
Dovalo had moved into a different job before Teixeira’s alleged actions were discovered, a defense official told Task & Purpose on Monday.
“The IG investigation found individuals in Teixeira’s unit failed to take proper action after becoming aware of his intelligence-seeking activities,” the Air Force news release says. “However, the investigation did not find evidence that members of Teixeira’s supervisory chain were aware of his alleged unauthorized disclosures.”
Teixeira has been indicted on six counts for the unauthorized disclosure of national defense information. He was serving as cyber transport systems journeyman with the Massachusetts Air National Guard when he was arrested in April.
He is accused of posting documents showing that the U.S. government was able to provide Ukraine with intelligence about Russian attacks before they took place, and other sensitive topics. Some of the documents that he allegedly leaked strained U.S. relations with South Korea and Israel.
Following Teixeira’s arrest, the Air Force Inspector General’s Office launched an investigation into the 102nd Intelligence Wing that was separate from the Justice Department’s criminal investigation into Teixeira.
“Indirect factors that enabled Teixeira’s unauthorized disclosure include the failure of commanders to adequately inspect areas under their command, inconsistent guidance for reporting security incidents, inconsistent definitions of the ‘Need to Know’ concept, conflation of classified system access with the ‘Need to Know’ principle, inefficient and ineffective processes for administering disciplinary actions, lack of supervision/oversight of night shift operations, and a failure to provide security clearance field investigation results,” the news release says.
Investigators determined that Teixeira had been issued a Top Secret-Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance even though his background check had uncovered some negative information about him. Information found in background checks are not routinely shared with airmen’s units, according to excerpts of the Inspector General’s investigation released by the Air Force.
“While information in A1C Teixeira’s background check did not ultimately preclude him from receiving his clearance, there were indications that A1C Teixeira could have been subject to enhanced monitoring,” according to the investigation. “In addition, had the unit been made aware of potential security concerns identified during the clearance adjudication process, they may have acted more quickly after identifying additional insider threat indicators.”
With his Top Secret-Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance, Teixeira had access to numerous classified systems through the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System, or JWICS, investigators determined.
The FBI determined that Teixeira may have first posted classified information on Discord in February 2022, and starting in January he also began posting pictures of Top Secret documents as well, the investigation found. At some point, Teixeira reportedly began taking documents home so he could photograph them and post them online.
“The preponderance of the evidence shows three individuals in A1C Teixeira’s supervisory chain had information about as many as four separate instances of security incidents and potential insider threat indicators they were required to report,” the investigation found. “Had any of these three members come forward and properly disclosed the information they held at the time of the incidents, the length and depth of the unauthorized disclosures may have been reduced by several months.”
One of the incidents that were not reported to proper security officials happened in September 2022, when an airman in Teixeira’s unit saw him writing information about intelligence on a post-it note, the investigation found. Although Teixeira was told to shred the note, no one made sure that he did so.
The airmen in Teixeira’s unit did not report violations like this because they feared security officials would “overreact,” according to the investigation.
The process for disciplining members of the 102nd Intelligence Wing was also cumbersome because the airmen were on federal orders, so supervisors may have sought to bypass the system entirely by issuing verbal warnings and Memorandums of Record instead of more appropriate forms of discipline, the investigation found.
“After interviewing higher levels of the supervisory chain, it appears knowledge of these security incidents was not fully disclosed above the squadron level,” according to the investigation. Based on the preponderance of the evidence gathered during the investigation, three individuals in the unit who understood their duty to report specific information regarding A1C Teixeira’s intelligence-seeking and insider threat indicators to security officials, intentionally failed to do so.
Furthermore, investigators found that some members of Teixeira’s unit believed that any airman with a Top Secret-Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance was entitled to look at classified information on JWCS, even if it was not related to their jobs. While computer and IT specialists need access to the system to maintain it, they don’t need to see the actual intelligence on the system itself.
Airmen in the unit who were on the night shift also had unfettered access to JWICS sites and were able to use printers without much supervision, according to the investigation.
The Air Force Inspection Agency conducted a separate investigation that commanders with the 102nd Intelligence Wing and 102 Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance group “were not vigilant in inspecting the conduct of all persons who were placed under their command,” investigators found.
Many members of the group had not completed Intelligence Oversight training and airmen in the wing reported a culture of complacency, according to the investigation.
“Feedback indicated leaders’ focus on completing tasks not directly mission-related, with minimal resources, created a critically permissive culture that reinforced risk-accepting behaviors at inappropriate levels,” investigators found.
CORRECTION: 12/13/2023: this story was corrected to make clear that Col. Sean Riley was not suspended prior to being relieved of command.
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