April 14, 2023

How Not to Handle Classified Material

Airman First Class Jack Teixeira has been arrested for the Pentagon leaks, and there are still a lot of questions.

Criminal leakers and others who mishandle classified information will always be heroes to some folks, and it also seems there will always be double standards and two-tiered justice for them. If he’s found guilty, what will be the punishment for accused Pentagon leaker Airman First Class Jack Douglas Teixeira?

“Pentagon Leaker Kicking Himself For Not Just Leaving Classified Documents Strewn Around His Garage,” reads the satirical headline from our friends at The Babylon Bee. Indeed, the 21-year-old Teixeira, a member of the 102nd Intelligence Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard who was arrested yesterday, probably wishes he’d just kept the classified documents he leaked on a thumb drive next to his video game console.

Joe Biden didn’t deliberately leak information that would damage U.S. national security like Teixeira did, but he did carelessly handle classified documents from his years in the Senate and as vice president. His punishment? He got elected president.

Donald Trump kept classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home, though as a former president he claims the authority to have done so. Nevertheless, his home was subject to an unprecedented raid by the FBI. A lot of things with Trump seem to be unprecedented, and that includes the glaring double standard he’s always subject to.

Hillary Clinton didn’t intentionally release classified information, but she was “grossly negligent” — or, as James Comey synonymously put it when he and the FBI circled the wagons for her, “extremely careless” — with vast troves of it on her unsecured private email server. She was certainly intentional enough to conceal her pay-to-play State Department schemes and then delete the evidence. Her punishment? She didn’t get elected president.

Okay, so how about more direct comparisons? Regular Joes who actually leaked classified material and in so doing damaged national security?

Edward Snowden, a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA), collected and dumped the goods on the government’s domestic spying operation — an operation that was certainly objectionable and later ruled unconstitutional. He fled the country and eventually ended up in Russia, where we’re sure (wink, wink) there was no collusion regarding U.S. intelligence secrets.

Reality Winner — yes, that’s her real name — likewise leaked NSA material. She was arrested, tried, and sentenced to five years behind bars and released after three.

Bradley Manning is the gender-dysphoric former U.S. Army intelligence analyst who goes by the name Chelsea. He too leaked classified material, for which he was tried and sentenced to 35 years behind bars after a dishonorable discharge. In the 11th hour of his presidency, Barack Obama commuted Manning’s sentence after only four years precisely because of his gender dysphoria.

It wasn’t exactly classified information, but the person who leaked the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision hasn’t even been found yet.

So, again we ask, what will be the punishment for Teixeira?

He leaked dozens of highly classified documents on Discord, a social media platform primarily used by gamers. The documents circulated for months before news media outlets — not the FBI or any other agency — discovered them and did most of the legwork to track down Teixeira as the culprit. The documents came from nearly every key U.S. intelligence agency and pertained to all sorts of national security secrets, the publication of which damages said national security, as well as relationships with allies. That includes information about the war in Ukraine that could endanger the lives of sources in Russia.

While Snowden, for example, was arguably a whistleblower (going about it in entirely the wrong way), it seems that Teixeira simply wanted to impress his online friends. He went by the name “OG,” which likely means “original gangster.” He also reportedly called himself “Jack the Dripper.” The Washington Post published a thorough piece about him and his Discord group, which had members in Europe — “including from Russia and Ukraine.”

It is not yet known why Teixeira, again a young Air Guard member, held the highest level of security clearances necessary to access these documents. Not to worry, though. Biden says, “There’s nothing contemporaneous that I’m aware of that is of great consequence.” That’s either nuts or a lie.

After a mass murder, certain people always demand new or tougher laws as the “solution.” So maybe a new law or two is all we really need when it comes to handling classified material.

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