Media reports following last week’s arrest of a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman for disclosing classified information were designed to send out one crucial message—Jack Texeira was not any kind of hero of free speech. Rather, outlets like The Washington Post insisted, he fits the profile of an enemy of the regime. “‘I would definitely not call him a whistleblower,’” one of Texeira’s onetime internet friends told the Post. “‘I would not call [Texeira] a whistleblower in the slightest,’ he said, resisting comparisons to Edward Snowden, who shared classified documents about government surveillance with journalists.”
Thus, once again, the Democrats have turned a national security issue into an instrument to serve party interests.
The material Texeira leaked was apparently taken from regular briefings prepared for the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, and other senior Pentagon officials. The young airman had a top-secret security clearance, but multiple sources have told me that even a TS clearance wouldn’t guarantee him access to the kinds of documents he leaked. That’s because top secret information is often further sectioned off under the classification of sensitive compartmented information (SCI), which can only be accessed by individuals who both have the appropriate clearance level and are “read in” to the particular SCI compartment. The official narrative surrounding Texeira has so many gaps that many of the former military and intelligence officials I’ve spoken with are wondering whether some in the U.S. government saw his massive criminal leak as a golden opportunity to push certain narratives into the press.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy tweeted that “The Biden administration has failed to secure classified information” and he promised to get answers. But that’s unlikely, given that the same intelligence bureaucracy that can’t store American secrets securely also routinely leaks those secrets for political and institutional advantage.
Though leaked illegally, many of the facts disclosed in the leak should not have been kept from Americans, especially information regarding the war in Ukraine. They show that the situation is much less rosy than typically portrayed; the best Kyiv can hope for in the coming year is a stalemate; the Ukrainians are, again, running out of ammunition; the U.S. distrusts information that Ukrainian leadership is providing; and despite the White House’s official statements, there are uniformed Americans on the ground in Ukraine.
Biden isn’t worried that the leaks made all that bad news public. “I’m concerned that it happened,” he said last week shortly before the arrest, “but there’s nothing contemporaneous that I’m aware of that is of great consequence.”
He has a point. The documents only add detail to what critics of his Ukraine policy have been saying since Russia first invaded in February 2022: The White House has no strategy to win its proxy war on Russia’s border. It’s wasting taxpayer money on a government riddled with corruption, and the fighters President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is putting in harm’s way have little hope of defeating the army of a country with a population more than three times its size and with a large nuclear arsenal. As for U.S. troops on the ground, that was already a given since the weapons systems Biden has sent to Ukraine require deployment of American military personnel.
It’s hard to see how the leaks could hurt Biden politically. Most Democratic voters don’t care. Some fly the Ukrainian flag on their doorstep. None are angry that he has armed and funded the enemies of the Russian leader who, according to party folklore, blocked Hillary Clinton’s heavenly ascent through the glass ceiling. How many American cities would Democrats be willing to sacrifice in a nuclear exchange just to take out Vladimir Putin is a question worth polling.
So Biden will almost surely pay no price for what one of the largest leaks in American history revealed about his reckless and rudderless proxy war that advertises American incompetence to allies and adversaries alike. Even more noteworthy, there are leaks regarding non-Ukraine issues that clearly serve White House interests—including some important ones related to Israel.
One leaked assessment from February reports that Israel conducted a large-scale drill that simulated an attack on Iran’s nuclear program. Another leaked document says that Mossad leadership encouraged members of Israel’s foreign spy service to participate in protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reforms. An official statement from the Israeli government released to the press claimed that the U.S. assessment was false. What’s not debatable, however, is that several former Mossad chiefs signed a statement opposing the reforms, and the current spy chief allowed junior officials to participate in the protests provided they not identify themselves as members of the organization. But, according to the Israeli government, the agency and its “senior personnel have not engaged in the issue of the demonstrations at all.”
According to the press, evidence that the Biden administration is spying on the Netanyahu government may further complicate a tense relationship. But that obscures the real issue. U.S. intelligence services regularly collect intelligence on Israel and both parties know it. During the negotiations leading to the Iran nuclear deal nearly a decade ago, Obama administration officials admitted that they were spying on Netanyahu aides to discover their plans to disrupt the agreement with Tehran. In reality, the White House was targeting the communications of Israeli officials in order to listen to their conversations with U.S. lawmakers and pro-Israel activists. This is known as reverse targeting, a workaround employed by U.S. intelligence officers to spy on Americans, which is illegal. The Obama team pulled out all the brakes to win the 44th president’s signature foreign policy initiative.
The recently leaked classified reports about Israel advance a similar objective—to restore the Iran deal and deter Netanyahu from attacking Iranian nuclear facilities. In the lead-up to the 2015 agreement, Obama officials regularly leaked news of Israeli attacks on Hezbollah and Syrian military positions and weapons convoys to publicize missions that Jerusalem wanted to keep quiet lest the public humiliation compel Israel’s enemies to retaliate. The purpose in leaking those attacks was to limit Israeli action and prove Obama’s bona fides by showing the Iranians he could keep his Israeli mutt on a leash. Release of a classified document detailing Israeli drills to take out Iranian nuclear facilities serves the same ends, even if it wasn’t leaked for that purpose.
The other leak is even more destructive. It shows that the efforts of the Israeli spy chiefs who back the protests are aligned with those of the Biden administration, which sees the protests as a vehicle to topple Bibi. Should Netanyahu survive the coup and plot action against Iran, he now has reason to fear his foreign intelligence service will box him in to appease the White House.
The fact that the Israel leaks dovetail so neatly with Biden administration priorities is among the reasons why the story about the leaks seems so odd, and at the same time so familiar.
When the press first became aware of the leaks last month, reporters quoted U.S. officials claiming that the disclosures were part of a Russian intelligence operation. According to media reports, some documents were altered when they were moved from one website to another, and because one version shows reduced Russian casualty numbers and higher counts for the Ukrainians, Biden deputies said it was Moscow that doctored them.
After years of blaming Russia for Clinton’s 2016 defeat and attributing damning revelations of Democratic Party corruption to Russian disinformation, it comes as no surprise that even with Texeira in custody, Biden officials and the media are still pushing the Russia angle. (One breathless report relates that the airman posted a video of himself shooting a vintage Soviet pistol.)
Law enforcement authorities and the media coordinated efforts before Texeira’s arrest to set the narrative in which to understand his alleged crime. Like The Washington Post report cited above, The New York Times published a pre-arrest account sourced to an underage gamer, apparently also the FBI’s source, who met Texeira online and came to idolize him. Both reports are designed to dispel any potential ambiguities about the leaker’s motivation, as if the bureau had instructed the reporters to press the point. “What Airman Teixeira was not,” the source told the Times, “was a whistle-blower in the vein of Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, whose outrage over perceived injustices led them to break the law and reveal closely held government secrets.”
Perhaps the biggest question of all is, how did the leaks go undetected for so long? The Justice Department’s complaint filed against Texeira says he started posting material in December. According to The New York Times, he started in October. As the Twitter files, court filings, and independent investigations have shown, U.S. intelligence services swarm social media platforms, including chatrooms that are frequented by the group that the Biden administration’s national security apparatus has designated the gravest threat to the country—conservative white males, aka “white nationalists” or “domestic terrorists,” take your pick. So how did it take U.S. spy agencies nearly half a year to discover a historic leak of classified intelligence occurring in real time on right-wing websites?
Maybe it didn’t take that long. Maybe they had been watching for a while. In any event, the administration is already using the leak to justify more internet surveillance, censorship, and propaganda. The Restrict Act, which Sen. Rand Paul has criticized as a “Patriot Act for the internet,” is evidence lawmakers from both parties are eager to fall in line and pass legislation further curtailing their constituents’ liberties.
The other sure thing is that the political faction Biden heads will see Texeira’s crime as an opportunity to target its political opponents. And this is why the FBI coordinated with the press to set the narrative. White, Christian, working-class, a gun enthusiast who makes jokes about minorities: Texeira is one of them, a deplorable, an insurrectionist.
And so the campaign of purges that began when a presidential candidate was denounced and investigated as a Russian agent and metastasized when his supporters were jailed as seditionists has a new data point. Never mind about Joe Biden’s dangerous proxy war, or that one of the largest security breaches in American history took place on his watch. What matters is not the leaks themselves or the information they disclosed but the 21-year-old who we have now been instructed to understand is not a whistleblower like the left’s heroes but is instead a racist gun nut. He’s a stand-in for one half of the country, people who call themselves Americans but must in fact be seen as traitors—who deserve everything that’s about to come to them.
Lee Smith is the author of The Permanent Coup: How Enemies Foreign and Domestic Targeted the American President (2020).