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Monday, February 26, 2024

This disturbing thing about Pentagon leaks should scare the hell out of us

How did highly classified reports concerning the war against Ukraine make their way onto the World Wide Web? According to an arrest statement from the FBI, it’s because an Air National Guardsman named Jack Teixeira posted them online to impress friends.

That should scare the hell out of every American and all our allies. This is an intelligence debacle of the first order.

It’s a mess, one made messier by the fact that the documents apparently floated around the Internet for months before the U.S. government even noticed.

While we wait to hear what Teixeira thought he was doing, let’s consider what all the leaked intelligence tells us about the progress of war in Ukraine. For now, we can put off analyzing the other issues the documents delved into (like the trailer teasing the next Jason Bourne movie).

What those documents reveal about the war is, well, not as much as you might expect. This gets to the nature of intelligence reports and summaries.


Classified leak suspect faces judge on multiple charges Video

In the movies, intelligence operators supply blinding flashes of truth that propel the plot forward. In real life, strategic intelligence is often ambiguous, contradictory, or just wrong. Think back to the famously wrong assessments of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction programs.

Intelligence can be accurate, but outdated. That could well be the case with some of these documents.

Intelligence can also be malleable. These documents lack a chain-of-custody. They may be subtly doctored or outright manufactured. We don’t know what might have been added, left out or changed from the instant they were leaked. It is still unclear how they proliferated and came to everyone’s attention.

In short, any who believes that, by reading these now public documents, they can infer exactly what is going on in Ukraine is making a wild leap of faith. It remains to be seen what can be confirmed.

The real question is: How much damage has been done? That, too, remains to be seen. What most freaks out the intelligence community is fear that the information leaked might compromise and endanger valuable sources or enable our foes to identify the methods used to collect it. This could seriously hamper future intelligence collection operations.

Rep. Stewart calls out 'broken' system for safeguarding classified info Video

After a major leak like this, one of the first steps taken—beyond trying to figure out how this happened—is to assess the potential damage risks and then act to mitigate the damage done. These efforts are usually highly classified, so unless that is leaked too, the public may hear very little about what’s been done.

If all this seems terribly frustrating, it should. The U.S. government, simply put, ought to do a better job keeping its secrets. Intelligence operations are a constant war of action and counteraction between opposing sides. Only an idiot would assume they would never suffer a damaging intel leak. Good intelligence operations fight like hell to make sure it won’t happen.

This leak is well beyond an embarrassment. It undermines our friends’ and allies’ confidence in the competence of our Defense Department. It may lead to operational failures and might even get people killed.

This should serve as a harsh reminder to the Pentagon that our national security is Job One. Some people think the armed forces should be used to fight global warming, or advance DEI, or manufacture excuses for the failures of the Afghan withdrawal. But national defense is not about advancing political agendas.

Further, the nature of these leaks are particularly disturbing. This was not an adversary coming after us. This was one of us doing something incredibly reckless.


Dad of Pentagon leak suspect Jack Teixeira leaves Boston court Video


To be honest, this is exactly the kind of selfish, self-absorbed, immature behavior we can expect from certain members of Generation Z. That said, we don’t expect young people that join the military to act that way, or think the military is there to empower or encourage that kind of behavior.

Again, it goes back to asking what the heck is the military doing recruiting and retaining people like Jack Teixeira, or Chelsea Manning, another notorious leaker in uniform, or hiring contractors like the infamous Edward Snowden?

Defense officials can beat their chests all they want, saying how seriously they take this incident and how seriously they take the task of defending America’s interests. But when you look at the state of today’s Pentagon, it’s hard not to ask: Do we really believe them?


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