U.S. Rep. Nunn says leak of military intelligence very serious

JOHNSTON — Iowa Congressman Zach Nunn says it appears there were “multiple breakdowns” that led to the apparent theft of top secret Pentagon documents that were leaked on the internet. A 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guardsman was arrested Thursday and he faces charges after dozens of highly classified military documents were posted online.

“The Air Force has something to answer to why an individual who was a guardsman had access to this level of classified information and then how they got it out of the facility and put it online,” Nunn said this morning.

Nunn, who’s currently a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, got a top security clearance at the age of 24 when he was serving in the U.S. Air Force. He also commanded the Iowa Air National Guard’s intelligence squadron. Nunn said this is a “very serious” case as the leaked documents revealed sensitive military information, including key intelligence about the war in Ukraine.

“If indeed we have an individual who is 21 who has gone out there that is basically boasting about his access to classified information and leaking it in a way that not only harms national security, but puts frontline collection methods in jeopardy, we are in a very dangerous position,” Nunn said.

The arrested airman was trained as a cyber transport systems analyst and he began sharing top secret intelligence about the war in Ukraine on an app called Discord that lets users text, chat and share videos. A teenager in the private group posted some of the documents in a public forum.

Nunn indicated as a military intelligence and counter intelligence officer, he investigated allegations that classified documents were mishandled. “When I went in 20 years, it was immediate that we could serve a lifetime in prison if we violated this top secret standard,” Nunn said. “…In this case, I think this was an individual who did it knowingly, who was briefed on what the dangers were, but chose to go ahead and violate it anyway.”

Nunn said he’s concerned the penalties for this kind of espionage have been reduced in recent cases. A former military analyst who gave top secret information about the war in Afghanistan to operators of the WikiLeaks website served seven years in prison. This latest breach could give a tactical advantage to U.S. adversaries, according to Nunn.

“The type of information that we are talking about now is not something that should be fodder for somebody’s Facebook page or the potential to leak to a friendly reporter because they want to get a story,” Nunn said, “particularly when there’s a direct national security threat nexus involved in that.”

Nunn made his comments during the “Iowa Press” program which aired over the weekend on Iowa PBS. Nunn, a Republican from Bondurant, was elected last November to serve Iowa’s third congressional district in the U.S. House.