During an exclusive interview with Breitbart News on Friday, Patel, who previously served as the chief of staff at the Pentagon and the deputy director of National Intelligence, raised doubts about the changing story surrounding the Pentagon leaks. He specifically questioned the claim that a 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guard reservist acted independently in leaking classified military information, according to Breitbart News.
Patel, who is also a former federal prosecutor, told the news outlet he does not believe “for a single second, this guy — a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman — ran this operation alone.”
According to Patel, it is unlikely that the suspected leaker, Airman Jack Teixeira, would have been able to access the confidential information without someone from within the Department of Defense (DOD) or the intelligence community providing it to him, directing him to release it, or handing it over to him.
"It's just not possible," he said.
He added that although Teixeira worked in information technology (IT), that still would not have allowed him access to the highly classified information.
“You can be the biggest IT person in DOD, and you are still compartmented off of the actual information. Almost never does an IT person need to know, as we say, the substance of the intelligence. Their job is to provide the secure information systems around it to protect any disclosures,” he said.
“This is crazy sensitive stuff,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of people who have a Top Secret/SCI clearance don’t have access to this information. And me, as the former deputy DNI and chief of staff of the DOD and publisher of the [Presidential Daily Brief], with the highest security classification, knows that, literally, there is not a lot of people in the U.S. that have access to this kind of intel. It’s done for a reason. So this doesn’t happen.”
Patel explained that although the Joint Chief of Staff's daily brief, produced by its Directorate of Intelligence (J2), is distributed to thousands of individuals, there is additional underlying information that is kept confidential and is only shared with a select group of people who have been authorized to access it.
“The underlying intel — that’s very sensitive because it exposes how we got it, who we got it from, when we got it, and whether we can get it again, how is that delivered,” he told Breitbart.
Patel also said that the manner in which the classified information was put out suggests Teixeira did not act alone.
“Whether he’s in IT or not, is irrelevant. The way it was produced, the way it was put out there — pages, printed photographs taken, published online — that is a methodical way of releasing classified information illegally,” he said.
“I think he’s definitely working with other people in DOD or the intel space to get this information out. This is an Assange-style operation. This kid — no offense to him — at 21 years old, cannot put out this five-months, unlawful disclosure of sensitive intelligence,” he added.
Meanwhile, Larry Johnson, a former CIA intelligence officer and ex-State Department official, suggested to Sputnik that the Pentagon "leak" may have been a deliberate ploy to either oust US President Joe Biden or to expand the US government's authority to regulate online content.
“It’s not normal. It’s not typical. It’s not easy, particularly for a member of the National Guard [to gain this level of clearance],” Johnson, who provided training to the US Military’s Special Operations task force for 24 years, told the Russian outlet. “So, this is very unusual and strange. The thing that captures my attention is that the individual was part of the Air Force unit that’s involved with information warfare. At that age and at that low rank, the possibilities that he would have unlimited access to highly classified material is just extremely unlikely.”