avril haines
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines testifies May 4, 2023, before the Senate Armed Services Committee

Discord leaks ‘demoralizing’ for US intelligence agencies, DNI Haines says

The leaks of classified documents online by a Massachusetts Air National Guard member have had an emotional impact on the government agencies that produce those products, the director of national intelligence told Congress on Thursday.

"It's been absolutely, extremely frustrating, obviously, and demoralizing for folks in the intelligence community who work so hard, frankly, to put together the kind of intelligence that then gets disclosed in leaks,” said DNI Avril Haines at a hearing by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“And the damage that it does to our national security is just unacceptable on every level, obviously,” said Haines, who oversees the 18 federal agencies with intelligence operations from her position at the White House.

Airman Jack Teixiera, 21, is accused of sharing sensitive military documents, including battlefield assessments from Ukraine, with fellow users of the messaging app Discord. The Justice Department says he used his top-secret clearance to gather troves of information. Teixiera was arrested April 14 and faces charges under the Espionage Act.

Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said that “every time this happens, we put in place things like keystroke logging, more restrictive controls, but we’re still having problems.” Haines said that agencies are trying to put the best “user activity monitoring” and other techniques in place, while re-evaluating policies such as user privileges.

“What I can tell you at this stage is only an interim answer, because we are still getting the information from the investigation as to what exactly happened,” Haines said. “And to understand that is obviously then to have greater confidence in saying that the things that we're doing are going to make a difference to ensure that this doesn't happen again.”

The Pentagon is still working to fully implement zero-trust technology, where networks assume that improper behavior is already happening, and users must authenticate themselves as they access different levels.

Department of Defense CIO John Sherman said Wednesday that zero trust “would have made it a lot more likely” that the Discord leaker would’ve been caught earlier.

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Joe Warminsky

Joe Warminsky

is the news editor for Recorded Future News. He has more than 25 years experience as an editor and writer in the Washington, D.C., area. Most recently he helped lead CyberScoop for more than five years. Prior to that, he was a digital editor at WAMU 88.5, the NPR affiliate in Washington, and he spent more than a decade editing coverage of Congress for CQ Roll Call.