Pentagon Details Review of Policies for Handling Classified Information

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Tuesday released details of its review of procedures across the Defense Department for using and securing the nation’s secrets following the arrest of an Air National Guardsman in Massachusetts in connection with the leak of classified documents.

Additionally, the Air Force announced several new actions focused on security protocols servicewide, including a pause in training and a review of each airman’s requirements for accessing classified information.

In an extraordinary move, the secretary of the Air Force also directed an inspector general investigation into an entire wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard and temporarily shut down its operations.

That unit, the 102nd Intelligence Wing, supports global surveillance drone and spy plane missions from its base in Cape Cod.

On Friday, Airman First Class Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old assigned to a support squadron within the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Joint Base Cape Cod in eastern Massachusetts, was charged under two provisions of the Espionage Act and a separate law that criminalizes mishandling classified information.

As a computer network technician, he had a top-secret security clearance that allowed him to work on computers carrying some of the nation’s most sensitive intelligence data. Many of the documents, which were released online, came from so-called sensitive compartmented information channels, a term used to describe human spies, signals intercepts and reconnaissance satellites.

“The 102nd Intelligence Wing is not currently performing its assigned intelligence mission,” Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokeswoman, said in a statement. “The mission has been temporarily reassigned to other organizations within the Air Force.”

The wing is being investigated for its “overall compliance with policy, procedures and standards, including the unit environment and compliance” related to “the release of national security information,” she said.

In a policy memo, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III ordered an evaluation of “security programs, policies and procedures” across the U.S. military, with recommendations for safeguarding classified information due in late May.

The directive reiterated the department’s policy that classified information can be transmitted only on appropriate government networks and may not be sent through commercially available encrypted channels such as WhatsApp and Signal.

New policies may be forthcoming that restrict or delete email distribution lists on classified computer networks, the memo said, and that limit access to certain intelligence and the ability to print paper copies of reports posted on the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System, or JWICS, a government computer network for top-secret information.

“The department is taking this breach seriously and continues to work around the clock to better understand the scope and scale of these leaks,” Sabrina Singh, the deputy Pentagon press secretary, told reporters on Monday. “Throughout last week and over the course of the weekend, the secretary and senior Pentagon officials continue to convene daily meetings to examine the scope and scale of this disclosure, as well as ensure that appropriate mitigation measures are being taken.”

Ms. Singh said the Pentagon has already begun reviewing the distribution lists for sensitive reports in order to identify recipients who no longer need to know the information.

“That effort is going to be ongoing,” she said. “It’s not just going to stop tomorrow and it’s not going to stop after a week. This is going to be a long-term effort.”

The defense secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other senior leaders in the department have been contacting their counterparts in allied nations to discuss the disclosures, Ms. Singh added.

The Pentagon’s review is being led by Ronald S. Moultrie, the under secretary of defense for intelligence and security. Mr. Moultrie oversees all aspects of the Defense Department’s interactions with the wider intelligence community, including the National Security Agency, which intercepts communications and hacks into computer networks around the world, and the National Reconnaissance Office, which runs the country’s network of spy satellites.

According to his official biography, Mr. Moultrie has spent nearly four decades in government service, including senior roles at the C.I.A. and the N.S.A.

Britain’s defense secretary, Ben Wallace, on Tuesday sought to play down the impact of the leaked documents, which contained information about the war in Ukraine and assessments of Russia’s military.

“There are things that might be a bit compromising, might be a bit difficult for a number of nations,” Mr. Wallace told reporters during a visit to Washington. “Do I think it’s going to strengthen Russia? No. Is it going to weaken Ukraine? No. Do I think it’s damaged our relationship with the United States? Absolutely not.”

Mr. Wallace said he did not believe disclosures about the Ukrainian military’s critical shortages of arms, ammunition and equipment would hurt its planned counteroffensive in the coming weeks or the overall course of the war.

“If you’re Ukraine and you’re sitting there fighting the war, you’re used to disinformation and leaks,” said Mr. Wallace, who warned that many of the documents circulating contain inaccuracies. “You’re used to hacking attempts. You’re used to human espionage attempts.”

Charlie Savage contributed reporting.

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