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Esper: DOD should ‘tighten up’ who gets access to sensitive docs

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(NewsNation) — Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper says the Department of Defense (DOD) needs to “tighten up” which servicemembers have access to certain sensitive documents.

“While he may have had the clearances, that doesn’t mean he needed to have access to the information,” Esper said.

The guardsman, an IT specialist identified as 21-year-old Jack Teixeira, was taken into custody without incident Thursday after FBI officers converged on his Massachusetts home. He is expected to be charged under a provision of the Espionage Act that makes it a crime to remove or transmit classified national defense information, Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

“There was no need whatsoever for him to have access to finished products from the Joint Staff or from the CIA Operation Center,” said Esper. “Absolutely no need whatsoever.”

The hundred — or more — files from the Pentagon have embarrassed U.S. allies and cast doubt on Ukraine’s ability to succeed in its war with Russia.

Esper believes that doubt may become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy as it may impede the U.S.’s ability to gather further intelligence from Russia.

“I think the immediate impact there is it will affect our access to the Russian military and intelligence networks and understanding what Moscow was trying to do,” he said. “There are immediate, real-world impacts here. Both with the war in Ukraine and with our allies around the globe.”

While Thursday’s arrest was a pivotal moment in an investigation into the highest-profile intelligence leak in years, the military and Justice Department were still scrutinizing how sensitive government secrets shared in a chat room ended up circulating around the world.

While Esper believes current U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley will investigate the leak, he believes the first form of damage control can come from Teixeira himself.

“The most important thing is to get from (Teixeira) information about the scale and scope of the release of information he made, and find out if he was working with anybody else.”

NewsNation affiliate The Hill and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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