Jack Teixeira: Kid Leaker? - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Jack Teixeira: Kid Leaker?
Jack Teixeira arrested in Massachusetts last week (Twitter/Fox News)

Twenty-one-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira may have joined Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning, and Reality Winner in the ranks of infamous leakers.

Teixeira has been charged with unauthorized retention and transmission of defense information in violation of the Espionage Act. He is scheduled to be in court again Wednesday. He reportedly published the secret and top-secret intelligence documents on a site called “Discord” for a group he participated in that discussed foreign policy.

There are so many questions about this case we can’t yet answer. What was his motive? Was he just showing off for the benefit of his gaming pals, or did someone pay him to leak the documents? Was he alone in his actions, or did he have help?

The big problems that have to be solved are how and why he was given access to the information he allegedly leaked, and how to prevent such leaks from happening again.

How much damage has been done by these leaks, why and where?

Why didn’t our counterintelligence people in the FBI and CIA spot this information earlier? Teixeira had been posting pictures of classified documents since January in a public chatroom. He was only discovered last month.

Perhaps most importantly, how was this kid given access to top-secret intelligence information?

Kash Patel, former deputy director of national intelligence, told Breitbart that “he does not believe ‘for a single second, this guy — a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman — ran this operation alone.’” But, as we will see, it’s entirely possible that Teixeira did act alone.

The Teixeira case is quite different from those of Snowden, Manning, and Winner. Snowden and Manning leaked secrets for ideological reasons. Winner did it, well, because she’s a loser. Teixeira allegedly did it to show off for his gaming buddies.

President Joe Biden, busy with his trip to Ireland, remarked that he wasn’t “concerned about the leak” (only “that it happened”) and that there was “nothing contemporaneous” of great importance, apparently meaning the consequences. As is usually the case, Biden is comprehensively wrong.

Teixeira’s alleged leaks encompass several categories of information:

  • Documents showing how well our intelligence agencies had penetrated Kremlin planning and intelligence;
  • Documents showing U.S. and other governments’ opinions on the Ukrainian effort to repel the Russian invasion, including items such as the strength of Ukrainian units, the possibility that Ukraine will run out of anti-aircraft missiles soon, and how Ukrainian losses were far worse than the public knew; and
  • Documents showing that we have spied on allies such as South Korea.

All three categories — as well as satellite intelligence and special access programs — were included in the information that Hillary Clinton and her staff talked about on her unsecured “Clintonmail” system when she was secretary of state.

The first category could lead to the Russians killing some or all of our Kremlin sources. Putin will have no qualms about ordering the killing of anyone even suspected of being a source for us.

The second category can affect Ukraine’s — and Russia’s — success in the coming spring offensives and counteroffensives.

The third category is the cost of doing business. Any nation not spying on their allies as well as their enemies is a chump.

Teixeira is a very young guy. He reportedly officially joined the Massachusetts ANG at the age of 19 and was soon after given a top-secret clearance. Some commentators are saying that no one so young should be trusted with top-secret information, but that’s nonsense because age is not the issue.

Snowden was 30 years old in 2013 when he fled to Moscow with a huge collection of top-secret National Security Agency documents that he had stolen. I’ve known young people in the military of Teixeira’s age who were totally trustworthy and responsible.

The big problems that have to be solved are how and why he was given access to the information he allegedly leaked, and how to prevent such leaks from happening again.

There are three parts to the answer to the problem. The first is how the U.S. system for handling secret information fails to compartmentalize information properly. The second is how people with computer “administrator” privileges in the Defense Department regularly gain access to information they have no business obtaining. The third is how military units’ readiness is measured.

Some of the documents Teixeira put up on his gaming site chatroom were reportedly “top secret, sensitive compartmented information,” or “TS/SCI” in the lingo of the Pentagon and intelligence world. Top-secret information is defined by executive order and federal regulation to be “information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.”

That sort of information is, by definition, supposed to be “compartmentalized,” so each person working on it has only a part of the information. Only a very few people are supposed to have access to the whole of the information.

According to one expert I spoke to, compartmentalization is essentially a thing of the past. Instead of having separate clearances and passwords to access each program or separate identifiable activity, the Defense Department mixes too much on its networks that can be accessed by people who definitely do not have a need to know.

People in the movies often joke about the “need to know.” But “need to know” is an archaic term. Because everything — intelligence information, special access programs, and all else — is on the Defense Department’s and/or the intelligence community’s computer networks. The issue is the need to have access.

Teixeira clearly had no need to access the intelligence and other top-secret information he allegedly leaked. So why the hell did he?

Teixeira held a rank, airman first class, equivalent to an army private first class. He was not someone who normally would be trusted with top-secret information. He was a junior Air Force “Cyber Transport Systems Journeyman,” which means he wasn’t qualified to do more than pull cables and connect or disconnect computers. But to do that work, he must have had “administrator” privileges on the Air Force computer networks.

Moreover, according to a Wall Street Journal report, “the kinds of National Guard units that Airman Teixeira was assigned to have been increasingly enlisted in all sorts of sensitive Department of Defense missions, including cyber operations, special operations and intelligence support.”

In other words, Teixeira was — unthinkingly or intentionally — given access to all sorts of highly sensitive intelligence information that should have been unreachable to him. Coupled with his “administrator” privileges on the computer networks, he could gain access to pretty much anything that interested him.

Obviously, his supervisors weren’t paying attention to his work. Worse still, our counterintelligence crews at the FBI, NSA, and CIA were asleep at the switch and didn’t discover his publishing of the intelligence information for about two months.

So, what do we do?

The solution will require that all systems carrying classified information be reprogrammed to limit “administrator” access privileges to only those programs they are supposed to get into and to reimpose real compartmentalization. This is a massive job that must, nevertheless, be accomplished.

According to the expert I spoke to, compartmentalization is a thing of the past because pretty much everything — intelligence information, “black” programs for buying new weapon systems, and all else — is somewhere on the Defense Department and/or intelligence agencies’ computer networks. And having access to one network makes it relatively easy to gain access to others. That has to change.

And that brings us to the last part of the solution, at least for the Defense Department.

“Readiness” measures a unit’s readiness to go to war. How many men and aircraft are ready to fight? How many ships and tanks are ready — today — to go to war? Military readiness may not even be measured to include cyber readiness. I have never heard of readiness being measured to include a unit’s cyber readiness. That has to change immediately.

How secure are the unit’s communications? Do people — including computer “administrators” — have access to what they need and are barred from everything else? Are the computer networks the unit uses secure from people playing around wherever they want to? Those are just a few of the things that should compose cyber readiness.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin should immediately establish a task force to implement all of these measures. The task force should include members from the intelligence community and major civilian contractors.

But that’s too much to expect from the Biden crew. The only thing we can count on is that neither Austin nor his boss, President Joe Biden, will do what it takes to secure our secrets.

READ MORE from Jed Babbin:

Biden’s Afghanistan Disinformation

Ukraine Is Not Iraq

The (Empty) Arsenal of Democracy

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