The U.S. government is taking the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information very seriously and is working with interagency partners and the intelligence community "to better understand the scope, scale and impact of these leaks," Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said today.
Even as Ryder was speaking in the Pentagon briefing room, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the FBI had arrested Jack Teixeira, an airman in the Massachusetts Air National Guard, "in connection with an investigation into alleged unauthorized removal, retention and transmission of classified national defense information."
Ryder said DOD officials continue to review a variety of factors in an effort to safeguard classified materials. DOD already has stringent guidelines in place for safeguarding classified and sensitive information. "This was a deliberate criminal act, a violation of those guidelines," he said. "I think it's important understand that we will continue to do everything we can to ensure that the people who have a need to know when it comes to this kind of information have access to that."
The press secretary said there have been daily meetings with the defense secretary and the senior DOD leadership team to assess the scope and impact of these disclosures. They are also discussing mitigation measures. "I will tell you that these discussions are very focused, very deliberate and very measured … in terms of ensuring that we're doing the right things, while not impeding or impacting our ability to do our important missions worldwide," he said. "Frankly, we're continuing to conduct our operations and provide people with the information they need, without missing a beat."
Just because documents appear in the media or on a website or in a chat or as an attachment does not mean they have been declassified, DOD officials said. These documents remain classified and should be treated as such. Even though these documents may be in the media, service members and DOD employees must not read or download them.
"Just because classified information may be posted online or elsewhere does not mean it has been declassified by a classification authority," Ryder said. "We're just not going to discuss or confirm classified information due to the potential impact on national security, as well as the safety and security of our personnel and those of our allies and our partners.
"And for that reason, we will continue to encourage those of you who are reporting this story to take these latter factors into account, and to consider the potential consequences of posting potentially sensitive documents or information online or elsewhere."