Gaming Guardsman’s access to top generals’ secrets renews questions about security clearances
Wolf says that there are major issues in documents and how they are classified, but there is also some information that he described as over classified
The revelation that a 21-year-old National Guardsmen was able to access top-secret memos prepared for the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff and share them with his gaming friends is renewing hard questions about who gets security clearances, and how closely they are monitored.
"I think there's a lot of questions that the Biden administration needs to answer," former Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said on the Thursday edition of the "Just the News, No Noise" TV show. "Look, I've handled classified information over the course of my career and I've seen different procedures."
On Thursday, the FBI arrested 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira, who is suspected of leaking sensitive Pentagon documents related to espionage and Ukraine's war against Russia.
The leaked documents started appearing last year on a Discord online chat group called Thug Shaker Central but weren’t detected for months by U.S. officials.
“I guess, you know, the folks in the intelligence community don't go home at night and play Minecraft games. Maybe their kids do, but it wasn't a place we were looking at,” former CIA officer Daniel Hoffman said. “And the concern is, is not just that we didn't spot it, when we should have, but that there might be more.”
Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, said a serious investigation and evaluation of national security information needs to be conducted, but he fears the lack of accountability for major leaks over the last decade has left some in the government without reservation against leaking.
“Ultimately, you need to know that there's an honest investigation,” Davidson told the John Solomon Reports podcast. “But we haven't even found who leaked the Supreme Court decision over at the Supreme Court, let alone who leaked classified information. So I don't think this administration takes this information very seriously.
”And no one's been held to account for failure after failure in the administration. So at some point, Congress has to do that with the power of the purse,” he added.
Officials said that the government has ballooned in size, and literally thousands of workers now have access to top-secret documents and tens of thousands have access to secret documents.
Former National Security Advisor John Bolton said not enough has been done over the last decade to monitor and detect leaks before they occur, to identify people who are potential risks to leak, or punish those who fail to live up to their obligations to protect security information.
”I don't think there's any question we haven't done enough over the years,” he said.
Wolf said there are major issues in how documents are classified, but there is also some information that he described as over classified.
"I've seen some organizations and agencies really guard that information, and others be a little bit more relaxed about it," he stated. "This is important information that you need to safeguard and you need to protect. While at the same time, I think that there's a lot of information that's actually over classified."
"I saw a lot of information at the Department of Homeland Security that was over classified that never should have been classified at the end of the day," Wolf added.
According to one of Teixeira's friends, he allegedly leaked the information to inform some of his friends of what was going on in Ukraine.
"This guy was a Christian, anti-war, just wanted to inform some of his friends about what’s going on," one of the suspected leaker's friends told The New York Times in an interview. "We have some people in our group who are in Ukraine. We like fighting games, we like war games."
Wolf agreed those who violate security policies need to be held accountable.
"There is information that needs to be protected and you need to put the right policies in place," he said. "You need to hold individuals accountable that if somehow they abused that trust and abuse, they're held accountable for that. So again, a lot of questions to be answered here. A lot of more information has to come out and I'm interested to see what comes of it."
Hofmann said the months of effort that will now need to go into solving this leak and how it wasn’t detected will take away from other national security priorities.
“I've been around these things. I was serving at CIA when we had Chelsea Manning and Snowden. And we put a taskforce together, and it's an interagency task force,” he said. ”We've got FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency and CIA, among others working with DOJ.
“And when all these people are working on this massive counterintelligence lab, they're not going to be doing the other things that they should be doing,” he added. “And it's a zero sum game. And that has implications for our national security, significant ones.”
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