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Biden Administration

Defense Secretary Tightens Classified Information Controls After Ukraine War Documents Leak



Defense Secretary Tightens Classified Information Controls After Ukraine War Documents Leak

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, on April 7, 2022. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has issued new instructions for how military personnel and contractors are allowed to handle classified information after sensitive military planning documents were recently leaked online.

On Friday, Mr. Austin issued a memo (pdf) providing military components, supporting agencies, and contractors with new instructions for how to handle classified national security information (CNSI). Among the changes Mr. Austin ordered were for the heads of various Department of Defense (DoD) components to ensure all their personnel with access to classified information are properly documented and that various security protocols are being followed.

In one portion of his memo, Mr. Austin ordered heads of DoD components that are not part of the Intelligence Community (IC) must “validate the continuing need for their personnel to have access to Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) and ensure personnel who require such access have a valid SCI non-disclosure agreement on file.” The defense secretary also instructed that DoD component heads make sure to document all Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities (SCIFs) and Special Access Program Facilities (SAPFs), which are two different facilities used for handling classified information.

The security crackdown was brought on by a number of classified documents that surfaced online this Spring, giving insight into U.S. military strategies and evaluations of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The disclosure of these private documents was ultimately connected by leak investigators to Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old low-level IT specialist with the Massachusetts Air National Guard.

On April 13, Mr. Teixeira was taken into custody and accused of violating the Espionage Act by improperly retaining and transmitting information related to national defense. He is currently being investigated for crimes.

The DoD started a 45-day review of its security programs, policies, and procedures on April 14 following Mr. Teixeira’s arrest. Last week, the 45-day review period came to an end.

“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,” Mr. Austin wrote. “However, the review identified areas where we can and must improve accountability measures to prevent the compromise of CNSI, to include addressing insider threats.”

Mr. Austin ordered the Defense Security Enterprise Executive Committee and Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Ronald S. Moultrie to create a “centralized tracking system” to record locations for storing classified information and to establish greater accountability for individuals with access to those classified settings. This is in addition to documenting which DoD personnel have access to classified information and accounting for all SCIFs and SAPFs. Additionally, Mr. Austin mandated the implementation of “electronic device detection systems and mitigation measures in all DoD SCIFs and SAPFs” in order to further restrict the use of personal or portable electronic devices in classified environments.

The Ukraine War Documents Leak

The documents from the Ukraine war that surfaced online earlier this year included

Online images of the documents bearing “secret” and “top secret” stamps were made available. One document listed the different kinds of military hardware that the US and its allies and partners had sent to Ukraine, along with training schedules for Ukrainian troops to use those weapons systems and potential timelines for a “spring offensive,” which may have been a reference to an offensive that Ukrainian forces are currently engaged in but was only rumored at the time the documents were leaked.

On the Russian and Ukrainian sides of the conflict, another document details equipment losses and casualty assessments. The locations of Ukrainian and Russian forces on the battlefield are described in one document, and the locations of American military units in the rest of Europe are described in another. The rates at which Ukrainian forces have used ammunition for weapons like the HIMARS rocket artillery system were detailed in yet another document that surfaced.

Before they spread to other websites, Mr. Teixeira allegedly posted the documents on the instant messaging service Discord.

The exact number of classified documents that were leaked is unclear.

After he was accused of the leak, the 102nd Intelligence Wing at the Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts underwent a reorganization. The intelligence responsibilities of the unit were transferred to other Air Force units, and a number of the unit commanders were removed from their posts.

Biden Administration

Secret Service Increased Security for Zelenskyy While Denying Security For Former President Trump



Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s trip to Washington in December 2022 was treated with the utmost importance, featuring extraordinary security measures. Hundreds of law enforcement and intelligence officials were activated, with the U.S. Secret Service leading the effort as Zelenskyy visited the White House and addressed Congress. From the moment he landed, Zelenskyy was accompanied by a Secret Service detail, and this protection continued until his departure. His motorcade was also provided by the Secret Service, assisted by local law enforcement.

Former Secret Service agent Don Mihalek explained that the agency is responsible for protecting all visiting foreign heads of state on U.S. soil. Zelenskyy’s visit was seen as particularly sensitive due to the ongoing war with Russia, raising concerns about potential threats from Russian agents or collaborators.

Security for Zelenskyy’s trip to Capitol Hill was akin to State of the Union preparations, with significant measures implemented. The Secret Service consulted with the Capitol Police, CIA, FBI, and other agencies to ensure safety. Every Capitol Police officer was on standby, given the potential threats.

In stark contrast, former President Donald Trump’s security detail has faced significant challenges in obtaining the same level of resources and personnel. Over the past two years, the Secret Service acknowledged denying multiple requests for increased security at Trump’s events. While the agency provided alternative measures, such as local sniper teams and hand-held magnetometers, Trump’s team felt these were insufficient and inadequate to address the security risks involved.

The recent attempted assassination of Trump at a rally in Butler, Pennsylvania, has intensified scrutiny. A sniper managed to get rooftop access roughly 150 meters from Trump’s position, raising serious questions about security lapses. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle is facing calls for her resignation, including from House Speaker Mike Johnson.

Despite these assurances, the disparity in security measures for Zelenskyy and Trump has raised significant concerns about the Secret Service’s prioritization and ability to adequately protect high-profile individuals. Trump’s security detail and advisers have repeatedly voiced their frustrations over what they perceive as an unequal allocation of resources and attention.

The decision to prioritize Zelenskyy’s security to such an extent, while denying crucial security enhancements for a former U.S. president, suggests a troubling inconsistency in the Secret Service’s approach to protection. The assassination attempt on Trump highlights the severe consequences of these decisions and underscores the urgent need for a reassessment of priorities and resource allocation within the agency.

The handling of security for Trump, particularly in light of the recent assassination attempt, exposes significant gaps and inconsistencies within the Secret Service. As scrutiny intensifies, the agency must address these failures, ensure equitable security measures for all high-profile individuals, and restore confidence in its protective capabilities. Director Kimberly Cheatle’s leadership and decisions are now under intense examination, and calls for her resignation reflect the gravity of the situation and the demand for accountability.


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2024 Race

DNC to Proceed with Plan to Confirm Joe Biden as Presidential Nominee



The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is moving forward with plans to confirm President Joe Biden as the party’s presidential nominee despite increasing calls for him to step aside. Amid internal turmoil over the party’s candidate for the upcoming election against former President Donald Trump, the DNC’s Rules Committee met on Friday, maintaining that everything is proceeding as planned.

The committee convened to discuss plans for a virtual roll call vote to formally nominate Biden weeks before the convention. While no votes were taken or decisions made, party leaders informed the nearly 200 committee members about the current process. The committee will meet again on Friday, July 26, to consider adopting the virtual roll call process, which would take place in the first week of August.

The virtual roll call idea has its detractors within the party, though the meeting saw little dissent. Questions arose about whether other candidates could be nominated during the virtual roll call. Technically, this is possible, but practically unlikely. The meeting started shortly after four Democratic members of Congress called on Biden to step aside.

Despite the growing calls for Biden to step down, party leaders, including DNC Chair Jaime Harrison, expressed their excitement to “renominate President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris” and promote the “Biden-Harris ticket.” Leah Daughtry, co-chair of the Rules Committee, and Alex Hornbrook, convention executive director, highlighted the planned events and the involvement of social media influencers to reach young voters.

The primary purpose of the meeting was to address a paperwork issue causing concern among Democrats. Parties typically nominate their candidates during live roll call votes at their national conventions. However, Ohio’s Aug. 7 deadline for submitting nominees conflicts with the Democratic convention’s Aug. 19 start date. Despite a legislative fix, the issue persists as the change won’t take effect until Sept. 1.

Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose has stated that the discrepancy is not a problem, accusing Democrats of using Ohio as a scapegoat for their internal issues. However, Democrats worry that delaying Biden’s nomination could lead to litigation from Republicans, potentially jeopardizing his ballot access.

Some Democrats fear the virtual roll call is a strategy to shut down debates over Biden’s candidacy and secure his nomination. However, Biden holds significant control over the process, having won 99% of the pledged delegates during the primaries. His allies dominate the DNC, chosen for their loyalty.

Experts, including longtime DNC member Elaine Kamarck, suggest that Biden could still be replaced if he steps aside after the virtual roll call. “This doesn’t mean we’d be stuck with one person if that person isn’t willing to run,” Kamarck explained, noting that the Rules Committee could amend the process if necessary.

As the DNC moves forward with plans to confirm Biden as the nominee, the party faces internal debates and legal uncertainties. The upcoming meetings and the proposed virtual roll call will be crucial in determining the Democratic candidate for the November election against Trump.


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Biden Administration

Former Obama-Biden Advisor Claims “The First Amendment Is Out of Control,” Hinders Government Action



In a controversial opinion piece published recently, Tim Wu, an advisor to both the Obama and Biden administrations, argued that the First Amendment is becoming a significant obstacle to effective governance. The essay, titled “The First Amendment is Out of Control,” has sparked widespread debate and criticism.

Wu’s argument centers on the assertion that the First Amendment, designed to protect free speech, is now being exploited by powerful entities, including Big Tech companies, to resist regulation and oversight. He cites recent Supreme Court rulings regarding Texas and Florida laws aimed at regulating social media platforms as examples of this exploitation.

According to Wu, the collaboration between the government and major social media platforms is often hindered by the First Amendment, which is used as a defense to protect free speech in digital public forums. He suggests that this constitutional protection is being misused to prevent necessary government action aimed at safeguarding citizens.

Critics, however, argue that Wu’s perspective misinterprets the fundamental purpose of the First Amendment. They contend that the amendment’s role is precisely to protect citizens from government overreach and censorship, ensuring that free speech remains a cornerstone of democracy. The idea that the First Amendment is an obstacle rather than a protector is seen by many as a dangerous and misguided interpretation.

Furthermore, Wu’s essay touches on the issue of banning platforms like TikTok and implementing age verification laws, such as California’s Age-Appropriate Design Code. He suggests that the First Amendment stands in the way of these actions, which he believes are necessary for national security and protecting minors online. Critics counter that these measures, if implemented, could set precedents for broader and potentially harmful censorship practices.

Wu’s reference to the First Amendment as a “suicide pact,” borrowing language from a 1949 dissenting opinion in the Terminiello v. City of Chicago case, underscores the dramatic tone of his argument. He suggests that the amendment, while intended to safeguard freedoms, can also be interpreted in ways that undermine societal safety and security.

In conclusion, Tim Wu’s essay has reignited the debate over the balance between free speech and governmental regulation. While Wu argues that the First Amendment’s current application hinders effective governance and protection of citizens, his critics maintain that the amendment is essential for safeguarding democratic principles and preventing government overreach. As this debate continues, the interpretation and application of the First Amendment remain at the forefront of discussions about free speech and public safety in the digital age.


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