Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said Sunday she has “a lot of questions” for the Biden administration about the circumstances around the leak of highly classified Pentagon documents.
“I have a lot of questions about: Why were these documents lying around? Why did this particular person have access to them? Where was the custody of the documents and who were they for?” Gillibrand said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.”
The Biden administration spent much of the past week scrambling to rectify damages after Jack Teixeira, an airman with the Massachusetts Air National Guard who held top-secret security clearance, posted documents online that revealed blunt details on the US intelligence assessment of the war in Ukraine as well as the extent of US eavesdropping on key allies.
Teixeira, who worked as a low-ranking IT official, was arrested and federally charged last week for facilitating the leak. He allegedly began posting information about the documents online around December and photos of the documents in January, court records show.
Gillibrand, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, sidestepped criticizing the military’s vetting process for security clearances but said questions needed to be answered at a Senate briefing this week.
“It sounds like he was extremely immature and someone who did not understand the weight and the importance of these documents. And so we need to figure it out and put proper protections in place,” she said.
The Pentagon breach has left looming questions about national security implications. In a statement acknowledging the extent of the problem the leaks exposed, President Joe Biden said Friday that he had directed both the military and intelligence community to “take steps to further secure and limit distribution of sensitive information.”
Pentagon officials have said the Defense Department has moved to tighten the flow of highly sensitive documents, limiting who across the government receives its highly classified daily intelligence briefs. Those briefs are normally available on any given day to hundreds, if not thousands, of people across the government.
Congress is also vowing to investigate what happened and why the US intelligence community failed to discover its secrets were on a public internet forum for weeks.
“We need to know the facts. We need to know who this airman was, why he felt he had the authority or ability to show off confidential documents, secret documents to his friends,” Gillibrand said.
Meanwhile, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said Sunday that there was “no justification” for Republicans who have appeared to defend the leaking of classified information.
“Those who are trying to sugarcoat this on the right, you cannot allow a single individual of the military intelligence community to leak classified information because they disagree with policy,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
House Intelligence Chairman Mike Turner echoed that message Sunday in an interview with “Face the Nation” on CBS.
Teixeira, the Ohio Republican said, “is someone who has compromised his country and has certainly compromised our allies. That’s not the oath that he took. That’s not the job that he took.”
“If he’s brought through this process, and he’s found guilty, it will be of espionage. It’s of being a traitor to your country. That’s not someone … to look up to,” Turner said.
Their comments come after Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia tweeted a defense of Teixeira’s actions last week.
“For any member of Congress to suggest it’s OK to leak classified information because you agree with the cause is terribly irresponsible and puts America in serious danger,” Graham said.
This story has been updated with additional information.