Pentagon increases security screenings following leak of classified documents

The Pentagon has increased its security screenings following a massive leak of classified documents allegedly by a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard that exposed sensitive information online, according to a Defense Department spokeswoman.

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA) conducts routine screenings of employees coming in or out of the Pentagon for classified information, but the number and frequency of these screenings have increased after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a review of procedures around the handling of sensitive and classified material last month.

“The Pentagon Force Protection Agency routinely screens employees entering and exiting the Pentagon for prohibited items and to ensure classified information is protected and handled in accordance with current security requirements,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sue Gough said in a statement. “PFPA has increased these security screenings and measures in response to the immediate review of information security procedures directed by Secretary of Defense Austin on April 17, 2023.”

In that memo last month, Austin wrote, “It is therefore essential to carefully examine the sufficiency of, and compliance with, all security policies and procedures.”

NBC News first reported on the increased screenings.

Austin also directed the under secretary of defense for intelligence and security to work with the department’s chief information officer and director of administration and management to conduct a 45-day review of Defense Department security programs, policies and procedures. That review should be concluded in the coming days.

The review came after a massive leak of classified documents. Jack Teixeira, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard who had access to highly sensitive information, has been accused of posting the trove of documents.

Teixeira, a junior enlisted Guardsman, was arrested in April after he allegedly posted the classified information on Discord, a social media platform popular with gamers. He was charged under the Espionage Act with unauthorized removal of classified information and defense materials, and unauthorized transmission of national defense information.

A judge decided this month that he would remain behind bars until his trial. He has not yet entered a formal plea.

Teixeira was serving as a cyber systems journeyman with the Massachusetts Air National Guard at the time of the alleged leak. Documents released this month showed that Teixeira’s enlisted leaders in his unit were aware of three separate occasions when he was discovered viewing classified intelligence unrelated to his job. It’s unclear what actions, if any, were taken against him.

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