One of the odd mysteries in the case of Jack Teixeira—the 21-year-old airman arrested on Thursday for pilfering and leaking hundreds of highly classified documents to pals online—turns out not to be so odd after all.
The puzzle, as I noted in a column on Thursday, is why the Massachusetts Air National Guard, which is where Teixeira worked, would have access to such material in the first place.
The answer is that Otis Air Base, the Cape Cod home to the Massachusetts Air National Guard, is one of a few northeastern bases for NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command. This means one of its main missions is to detect, track, intercept, and defend against foreign incursions of U.S. air space.
As such, according to a former intelligence officer who still does high-level intelligence analysis, the base would routinely have access to reports and dispatches filed on the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System (JWICS, often pronounced J-Wicks)—and the key word here is worldwide. All information about foreign aircraft, air-defense weapons, military operations, and foreign-policy decisions would be swept up and transmitted throughout the system.
Teixeira was low-ranked—an airman first class is equivalent to the Army’s private first class—but he was working in the base’s intelligence wing. Just to work in that wing, according to the former intelligence officer, he would have had to be granted a TS/SCI security clearance, allowing him to see documents marked “Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information.”
Though it is not yet known what Teixeira’s precise duties were, he was an IT specialist in the intelligence unit, meaning he would have had access to the JWICS—and, once inside that system, he could have searched any topic. [Continue reading…]