Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall speaks during the Department of the Air Force Total Force Integration Symposium on Joint Base Andrews, Md., March 14, 2023.

Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall speaks during the Department of the Air Force Total Force Integration Symposium on Joint Base Andrews, Md., March 14, 2023. (Eric Dietrich/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — The Air Force has opened its own investigation into how an airman had access to top secret Defense Department documents and was able to distribute them, service leaders told senators on Tuesday.

“This individual, whatever else, had no reason to be looking at or in possession of those documents,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall told the defense subpanel of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “We have to do better.”

Kendall said he directed the Air Force inspector general to examine the 102nd Intelligence Wing headquartered at Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Mass., where Airman 1st Class Jack Teixeira served and allowed the leak to happen. The wing handles collection and analysis of intelligence gathered from all over the world.

Teixeira, 21, was charged Friday in U.S. District Court in Boston with the unauthorized removal and retention of classified and national defense information. He is expected back in court for a hearing Wednesday. If convicted, Teixeira could face as many as 10 years in prison for each charge.

The Air Force also announced Tuesday that the 102nd Intelligence Wing is not currently performing its assigned intelligence mission. Those responsibilities have been temporarily reassigned to other organizations within the Air Force.

At the hearing, Kendall was questioned by senators about the leaked documents during a hearing on the Air Force and Space Force budgets for fiscal 2024.

"How could this guardsman take this information and distribute it electronically for weeks, if not months, and nobody knew about it?" asked Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., the chairman of the subpanel.

Gen. Charles Q. Brown, the service chief of staff, said the Air Force is conducting a service-wide review of how each command handles classified information.

The Air Force review is in addition to a military-wide directive issued Monday by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. He ordered all military facilities handling classified information report to him within 45 days to assess possible changes in how classified information is distributed and who has access.

The leaked documents exposed information relating to the war in Ukraine, U.S. intelligence gathering on other countries and other national security issues.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., commented that Teixeira was leaking documents in a gamer chat group, Discord, as if it was like a game to him.

“It’s not a game,” she said. “You are endangering lives. You are endangering freedoms. That is the one part that is incomprehensible to me and to many of us.”

Brown said Teixeira had access to certain materials based on his job as an information technology specialist.

“He took advantage of that access,” the general said.

author picture
Matthew Adams covers the Defense Department at the Pentagon. His past reporting experience includes covering politics for The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle and The News and Observer. He is based in Washington, D.C.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now