As the federal government deals with the fallout from the leak of Pentagon intelligence, which led to the arrest of an Air National Guard member Thursday, Defense Department leadership sent a memo to the force Wednesday reminding troops of their responsibilities in handling classified information.
The one-page memo, signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and obtained by Military Times, is addressed to senior Pentagon leadership, combatant command heads and “defense agency and DoD field activity directors.”
Pentagon press officials confirmed the memo’s authenticity, and multiple servicemembers told Military Times they had received it in their inboxes this week.
“Do not access or download documents with classified markings from unclassified websites —either from home or work,” the memo states. “As the data may be classified, it may be associated with hostile foreign elements, or it may contain malicious code or embedded capabilities that could introduce cyber threats into our information systems.
“If you have already accessed or downloaded such documents on an unclassified network or device, please consult with your supervisor and contact your organization’s IT/cybersecurity service provider immediately for guidance,” the memo continues.
The memo further directs troops to contact the Defense Department if the media or congressional members contact them.
Hicks’ memo notes the “recent reporting on the unauthorized disclosure” of purported Pentagon and intelligence community documents and reminds DoD personnel that unauthorized disclosure of classified information, whether intentional or unintentional, “is a reportable security incident.”
The memo also urges personnel not to speculate about such unauthorized disclosures and reminds them not to discuss classified information with unauthorized people.
“Personnel with access to classified information are trusted stewards of that information and the responsibility to safeguard classified information is a lifetime requirement for each individual granted a security clearance,” Hicks’ memo states.
The FBI arrested Airman 1st Class Jack Teixeira, 21, “without incident” Thursday afternoon in connection with the intel leak, Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters. He described Teixeira as a Massachusetts Air National Guard employee.
“He will have an initial appearance at the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts,” Garland added, though he did not give a date or time.
The New York Times first reported on Thursday that Teixeira is assigned to the 102nd Intelligence Wing.
Teixeira is a cyber transport systems journeyman, a sort of information technology specialist, at Otis Air National Guard Base, an installation located within Joint Base Cape Cod, according to service details released by the Air Force Thursday,
He has served in the Air Guard since September 2019 and earned the Air Force Achievement Medal.
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Teixeira was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, at the time of the leaks, which occurred earlier this year but were first acknowledged by the Pentagon on April 7.
Military Times reporter Meghann Myers contributed to this report.
Geoff is a senior staff reporter for Military Times, focusing on the Navy. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was most recently a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.