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All Marine Units to Train on Stopping Classified Info Leaks

  • A U.S. Marine with 8th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team-8, uses a computer during Large Scale Exercise 17 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., on Aug 16, 2017.Cpl. Justin M. Smith/Marine Corps A U.S. Marine with 8th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team-8, uses a computer during Large Scale Exercise 17 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., on Aug 16, 2017.Cpl. Justin M. Smith/Marine Corps
  • Marine Corps computer. Photo by Keith Hayes/Marine Corps Marine Corps computer. Photo by Keith Hayes/Marine Corps

Days after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis published a Pentagon memo demanding "vigilance" from troops and civilian personnel in safeguarding classified and sensitive information, the Marine Corps announced a new training program focused on ending "unauthorized disclosures" within the force.

In a Marine Administrative Message published Oct. 5, the Corps' Plans, Policies and Operations branch announced that all Marine Corps commands would conduct a one-hour training session by the end of the month on the topic of illicit info leaks.

"The spate of unauthorized disclosures of classified military information and controlled unclassified information has significantly weakened our government's ability to conduct business and protect the nation," officials wrote in a sternly worded explanation for the new training.

The reasons that these disclosures happen are "many and varied," they stated in the message.

"They are also immaterial," officials wrote, "since it is illegal, immoral, and a violation of the oath we have taken to protect classified information, as well as the oath we take to protect the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic."

The message recommends that unit commanders show troops a video clip of an Aug. 4 press conference in which U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says leaks of classified information to media outlets have "exploded," citing reports of private conversations President Donald Trump had with foreign leaders that made their way into the press.

"We are taking a stand," he said at the conference. "This culture of leaking must stop."

In a statement, William Potts, manager of Information and Personnel for the Marine Corps, said commanding officers will have the opportunity to develop a training program using Sessions' remarks and other materials from the Defense Security Service's Center for Development of Security Excellence.

The training, he said, will apply to all personnel who hold a security clearance or have access to classified or sensitive information.

The Marine message also cites an unreported Sept. 19 memo from Mattis ordering all Defense Department entities and agencies to conduct their own training on stopping unauthorized disclosures before the end of the month.

In an Oct. 3 memo first reported by Military Times, Mattis called on all Pentagon personnel to maintain vigilance about information leaks and report on colleagues who break the rules.

"All hands must be alert to prevent unauthorized disclosure of non-public information for any reason, whether by implied acknowledgment or intentional release," he wrote in the memo.

"Misconduct cannot be tolerated and suspected or confirmed disclosure must be reported at once," he said.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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