Classified document leaks spur new focus on safe handling

  • Published
  • By Beth Reece

As federal investigators assess the impact of recent classified document leaks, Defense Department officials are reminding employees how to properly handle information designated as top secret, secret or confidential.

“Personnel with access to classified information are trusted stewards of that information and the responsibility to safeguard classified information is a lifetime requirement for each individual granted a security clearance,” reads an April 12 memo signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks.

Defense Logistics Agency Chief of Staff Eric Smith cautioned employees against searching the internet for the leaked information on government or personal devices because it remains classified despite disclosure and wide reporting by civilian media.

“Advances in artificial intelligence allow the ability to capture search trends, and you can exacerbate the problem by searching online through a web browser,” Smith said in an email to the workforce.

Employees should also avoid speculating about unauthorized disclosures and not discuss classified information with anyone not authorized to view it. Failure to safeguard classified information – intentional or not – is punishable. Consequences range from official reprimand and loss of clearance to being fired and criminal charges in the case of nefarious intent.

DOD officials reinforced regulations on the handling of classified document early this year amid news reports of mishandling among some political officials. Matt Baker, DLA’s information security program manager, said diligence is key, especially in busy environments where documents can be mistakenly mixed with unclassified documents. Even employees without a security clearance are responsible for protecting it, he said.

“If we don’t properly handle classified information, it can put the warfighter in danger, jeopardize missions and put lives on the line,” he added.

Information and operations security experts at DLA Headquarters and major subordinate commands are available to answer questions and help employees from disclosing unauthorized information.