Air Force disciplines 15 airmen in investigation of accused leaker Jack Teixeira

The other service members failed take proper action, the inspector general said.

December 11, 2023, 11:13 AM

Fifteen airmen have been disciplined -- including with removal of their command -- for failing to take proper action when they became aware of accused leaker Jack Teixeira's intelligence-seeking activities, according to a broad Air Force investigation released Monday.

However, that watchdog report found no evidence that Teixeira's immediate superiors were aware at the time that he was allegedly sharing some of the country's most sensitive secrets online.

Instead, the report details a pattern of lax oversight by Air Force officials at Teixiera's base.

That indirectly contributed to his alleged ability to gather and then leak classified documents without being caught, even as other airmen knew he was improperly accessing the sensitive materials, which went beyond his duties in IT, the report states.

The 15 service members, ranging in rank from staff sergeant to colonel, have been removed from their positions and have received non-judicial administrative punishments, according to the Air Force.

The internal review is separate from the Justice Department's criminal investigation, which led to Teixeira's indictment earlier this year on six charges of willful retention and transmission of national defense information.

He is accused of spreading highly classified materials through the popular online platform Discord -- to a small group, though the records then later circulated much more widely, ABC News has reported.

Teixeira pleaded not guilty and is awaiting a trial date.

Following his arrest in April, the Air Force inspector general was tasked with reviewing the environment around Teixeira, an airman 1st class, and the compliance with policy, procedures and standards by the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts where Teixeira was serving as an IT specialist.

The internal investigation places blame squarely on Teixeira for the unauthorized disclosure of classified information, but it found that members of his unit failed to take necessary steps such as adequately inspecting areas under their command and giving inconsistent guidance for reporting security incidents.

Other reported missteps include inefficient and ineffective processes for administering disciplinary actions, lack of supervision of night shift operations and a failure to provide results from security clearance field investigations.

PHOTO: An undated photo of Jack Teixeira, suspected of leaking classified documents.
An undated photo of Jack Teixeira, suspected of leaking classified documents.
Obtained by ABC News

The report details four separate instances where immediate superiors were aware of "questionable activity" and had a more complete picture of Teixeira's "intelligence-seeking behaviors and intentionally failed to report the full details of these security concerns [and] incidents ... fearing security officials might 'overreact.'"

The investigation concluded that if "any of these members [had] come forward, security officials would likely have facilitated restricting systems/facility access and alerted the appropriate authorities, reducing the length and depth of the unauthorized and unlawful disclosures by several months."

In short, according to the Air Force's watchdog, someone speaking up at Teixeira's base could have curbed his suspected leaks.

Around July or August of 2022, Teixeira was observed viewing intelligence content on top secret websites, according to the new report -- but while his supervisor was informed, the incident was not written up.

In September 2022, a unit member spotted Teixeira “again viewing intelligence products and saw him writing information on a post-it note," the report states. Teixeira was told to shred it but investigators said "it was never verified what was written on the note or whether it was shredded."

The watchdog report highlights inconsistent definitions of the "need to know" concept, where sensitive classified information is accessible to individuals with a top security clearance, like Teixeira, even though he did not have reason to access that information for his job in IT.

The review also found that his unit's leadership was not vigilant in inspecting the conduct of all persons who were placed under their command.

"Every Airman ... is entrusted with the solemn duty to safeguard our nation's classified defense information. When there is a breach of that sacred trust, for any reason, we will act in accordance with our laws and policies to hold responsible individuals accountable," Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said in a statement.

"Our national security demands leaders at every level protect critical assets, ensuring they do not fall into the hands of those who would do the United States or our allies and partners harm," Kendall said.

Col. Sean Riley, the 102nd's commander, received administrative action and was relieved of command for cause and Enrique Dovalo, commander of the 102nd's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance group, received administrative action for concerns with unit culture and compliance with policies and standards.

The 102nd's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance group was taken off mission when Teixeira was discovered as the suspected source of the leaks. The group's mission remains reassigned to other organizations within the Air Force.

Previously suspended commanders have since been permanently removed from two groups within the 102nd, including its intelligence support squadron.