April 14, 2023

Leaked Documents

The FBI on Thursday arrested Jack Douglas Teixeira, a 21-year-old member of the U.S. Air National Guard, over the leaks online of classified documents that embarrassed Washington with allies around the world…

“Although the leak only garnered widespread attention after an April 6 story in the New York Times, journalists have found evidence that the documents – or at least some of them – had been floating around on social media as far back as March or even January. Bellingcat, the Washington Post and The New York Times have traced the documents' earliest appearance to a defunct server on the instant messaging site Discord.” Reuters

The documents contain “U.S. assessments of the war in Ukraine dating to February and March, including territorial gains and ammunition shortages” and “also outline U.S. efforts to spy on its allies, Israel and South Korea.” Axios

Both sides criticize the Biden administration and urge additional measures to prevent leaks:

“Perhaps the U.S. government classifies too much information. Paradoxically, though, it then grants overly broad access within the government to the information that it has classified. Despite Teixeira’s junior position, The Washington Post reported, he had access to the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System, a computer network for top-secret Defense Department information. Investigations after the 9/11 attacks revealed a siloing of information within separate agencies and led to efforts to promote more sharing, but the Pentagon might have overcorrected…

“The National Guard, to be sure, is an essential part of America’s defense capabilities. It protects our homeland and can be called into federal service by the president. But, under normal circumstances, it works to address state public-safety needs… It stretches any notion of homeland defense to think a low-level state Air Guard member should have access to materials about a war that the United States is not actively fighting and that poses no domestic risk.”
Juliette Kayyem, The Atlantic

“When President Joe Biden came into office, he promised to elevate experience and empower career officials. That did not happen. Instead, the upper ranks of the Defense and State Departments, along with the National Security Council, were packed with political appointees and other non-Foreign Service staff… [Political appointees] seldom stick around long enough (in many cases less than two years) to understand the classification system, let alone do anything to improve how it operates…

“And even if they get how it works, it can take too much time beyond that to address such systematic issues. Systemic changes also often trigger institutional resistance, and political appointees might not have the deep relationships and institutional knowledge to get changes made in the first place. Finally, there are few incentives or rewards on offer for those who achieve an important administrative advance… Biden came into office promising to rebuild and restore confidence in our beleaguered national security bureaucracy. He can and must do more.”
Brett Bruen, CNN

“It is bad that this assessment leaked; it is bad that this assessment of Ukraine’s abilities in the spring offensive are so modest or grim; it is bad that apparently lots of foreign-policy experts have doubts about the administration’s approach but are afraid to say so publicly; and it is bad that Biden’s public assessment of the war in Ukraine is the same rosy-eyed, unrealistic optimism that characterized his assessment of Afghanistan, inflation, migrants crossing the border, and the Chinese spy balloon…

“The president is always telling us that things are going great and that we have nothing to worry about, and a little later, we learn that the truth is the opposite… Publicly, many nations of the world are denouncing the Russian invasion. Secretly, apparently a lot of regimes are eager to cut a deal with Putin. In Kyiv, Biden boasted that, ‘Russia’s economy is now a backwater, isolated and struggling.’ That’s not really the case, and it’s unclear whether the president is just spinning or whether he’s being accurately briefed — or whether he just sees and hears what he wants to see and hear.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

How can we improve security in today’s chat-room world? Foreign intelligence already use these chat rooms for recruitment, according to the Post’s report today. Those who hold security clearances are required to report contacts with foreign nationals, or at least they were when I had a clearance, but it was a lot more rare and unusual to have such contacts — even in 1997, when my last clearance ended. Gaming rooms and Discord servers bring users into contact with people all over the world — it’s a selling point — which makes reporting requirements a lot more complicated…

“And that doesn’t even cover this case. OG wasn’t making contact with foreign operatives, or at least that doesn’t seem to be his motivation. He just wanted to impress strangers and recruit them into his cult of personality and used US secrets as the quasi-gnostic Truth to achieve that goal. How do we guard against that? We’d better figure it out, quickly.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

“The US national security institutions have put a major emphasis on integrating advanced technologies, like artificial intelligence, into their arsenals. They’ve also invested heavily in recruiting young and mid-career tech talent from unlikely spaces. In practice, that means that the CIA regularly hosts events at tech forums like South by Southwest, and the National Security Agency posts memes about World Introvert Day… But at their core, none of these institutions has grappled with the shape of internet culture

“The culture of edgelords posting memes and gaming forums escalating into a national security threat may seem new to intelligence leaders, but in 2023 the prospect of an online dude wreaking havoc should probably already be on their radar… The edgelord culture privileges those who post stuff that provokes. Wasn’t it only a matter of time before that shocking content would be state secrets?”

Jonathan Guyer, Vox

From the Right

“Fourteen American special forces troops on the ground in Ukraine doesn’t sound like a lot. (And it’s not, really.) But the number doesn’t matter in the larger scheme of things…

“The whole idea of a proxy war is that you get someone else to do the fighting and dying for you while you pay the bills. But the moment one American soldier kills a Russian soldier, we’re no longer engaged in a proxy war. It’s a real war, and Russia could claim that as justification for taking more drastic measures…

“An even worse scenario might be if the Russians overwhelm a unit including American fighters and take one of our soldiers as a prisoner. At that point, we would have a hostage situation on our hands and Putin could parade the soldier in front of the media’s cameras with proof that the United States is ‘at war’ with his country. We really seem to be playing with fire here.”

Jazz Shaw, Hot Air

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