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After Discord leak, Pentagon tightens procedures for classified information

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin commissioned the review after National Guardsman Jack Teixeira was arrested in April for posting hundreds of pages of classified documents on the social media platform Discord.

The massive leak exposed some of the country’s top military secrets, from America’s relationship with its allies to the war in Ukraine, and raised questions about whether US government agencies are properly protecting classified information. Teixeira, who has a history of violent threats and had previously been caught taking classified information, pleaded not guilty.

Given that Teixeira had the necessary security clearance to view the documents, it is unclear whether the Pentagon’s enhanced procedures would have prevented the leak.

Based on the findings of the security review, Austin asked senior DOD officials to “validate” that their personnel have a continued need to access sensitive information and to ensure that those personnel have a valid nondisclosure agreement on file by Sept. 30, according to a June 30 memo.

Each military installation containing classified information – called a “SCIF” for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility – must also be reported to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for entry into the agency’s SCIF repository by September 30.

Austin also ordered the Intelligence and Security Office to develop and maintain a centralized tracking system for SCIFs and other special access facilities by Dec. 31, and to establish a “joint management office.” for insider threats and cyber capabilities.

The Pentagon will also review and update security processes and procedures to clarify their meaning and reduce any “ambiguity”, according to a senior defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to comment publicly on the matter.

Still, Austin pointed out in the memo that “the department relies on a culture of trust and accountability for those who have access to CNSI,” using the acronym Classified National Security Information.

“This review found that the overwhelming majority of DOD personnel with access to CNSI are trustworthy and that all DOD components demonstrate a broad commitment to security,” Austin wrote.

The senior defense official added that the review found no “single point of failure” that led to the leak and that the vast majority of DOD personnel with access to classified information complied with security policies.

The Pentagon also said it was working to ensure the new measures do not impede information sharing between US agencies.

“The department recognizes the need to balance information security with [the] requirement to get the right information to the right people at the right time to improve our safety,” according to a DOD statement.

As the DOD implements the recommendations, “careful consideration will be given to guard against any ‘over-correction’ that could impede progress on information sharing,” the statement said.

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