The Washington Post and New York Times have extensive coverage of a very substantial and concerning security breach committed by a 21-year-old member of the intelligence wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard named Jack Teixeira. His mother says he has been working “overnight shifts at a base on Cape Cod.” Mr. Teixeira posted highly sensitive documents in a small, private Discord channel consisting of mostly younger gaming and gun enthusiasts. This group bonded during the worst of the pandemic.
The man behind a massive leak of U.S. government secrets that has exposed spying on allies, revealed the grim prospects for Ukraine’s war with Russia and ignited diplomatic fires for the White House is a young, charismatic gun enthusiast who shared highly classified documents with a group of far-flung acquaintances searching for companionship amid the isolation of the pandemic.
United by their mutual love of guns, military gear and God, the group of roughly two dozen mostly men and boys — formed an invitation-only clubhouse in 2020 on Discord, an online platform popular with gamers.
The details are depressing. The group had a real taste for racist and anti-Semitic memes. They were also international in character, which will provide for at least one easy conviction of Teixeira since much of the intelligence he shared was marked as Not Releasable to Foreign Nationals (NOFORN).
Despite being only 21, Teixeira was the clear leader of the group. His nickname was O.G., and he had administrative duties. His motive, according to other members, was a combination of wanting to educate his friends and a desire to impress them with his access. His position on the Ukraine-Russia war was neutral, and he never intended the information to leak and become public.
Unfortunately, one member took some of the documents and put them on a public forum where the Russians discovered them.
Now, I don’t want to disparage young men in their early twenties, but they’re not known for their maturity and sound judgment. It’s really not surprising that things like this will crop up when you consider the broad depth of our intelligence apparatus and the age of some of our intelligence officers. It’s natural to want to share what you know, and also to have influence and prestige within your peer group. This incident exposed a security weakness and steps will have to be made to limit the risk in the future.
Now, let’s move on to our disgraced ex-president. The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith is asking questions about Trump’s propensity to share highly sensitive documents with journalists, aides, political donors and complete randos. The latest focus is a particular map he was apparently waving around on his plane.
Federal investigators are asking witnesses whether former President Donald J. Trump showed off to aides and visitors a map he took with him when he left office that contains sensitive intelligence information, four people with knowledge of the matter said.
The map has been just one focus of the broad Justice Department investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of classified documents after he departed the White House.
I cannot see any substantial difference between Trump and Teixeira. The crimes are the same, and so are the motives. But Trump isn’t a 21-year old young man trying to impress teenagers in a private forum. With four years of experience in the White House, he should know exactly why his behavior is criminal and dangerous.
But Trump has not matured as he has aged. Whatever sentence Teixeira receives should also apply to Trump, with perhaps less leniency.