With Arrest Of Extremist Leaker, The Pentagon Must Now Clean Up Its Act
The big story that popped over the past two days is the Washington Post’s exclusive interview with a teenager who helped share the Pentagon’s top-secret briefing documents in a right-wing gun-worshiping chatroom on Discord, an internet platform regularly used by gamers. The following phrase, describing the members of the group and their apparent motives, will go down in history, as facts continue to emerge in this story: “United by their mutual love of guns, military gear and God…”
Other causes apparently motivated the group of 25 or so young men: antisemitism, racism, misogyny and hatred of the government. In its interview with its teenage source, the Washington Post does not mention that the group may also be incels, but it’s far from unreasonable to assume that will be next.
The leader of the informal clubhouse of crazies, arrested yesterday afternoon, goes by the moniker “OG.” The Washington Post doesn’t bother to point it out, but “OG” in popular culture commonly stands for Original Gangster, a term used by street gangs in Los Angeles, New York, and elsewhere, as well as rappers, for decades. A group of racist white boys and young men referring to their leader with a nickname first put in use by Black gangs and rappers has to be right up there in the stratosphere of hypocrisies and ironies.
As I wrote the above paragraph, the Post identified the leaker as Airman First Class Jack Teixeira, a technology support staffer for the Air National Guard on Cape Cod. The Post reported that in a recent Facebook post, the 102nd Intelligence Wing of the Air National Guard recently congratulated a member of the unit by that name for his promotion to Airman First Class.
The earlier Washington Post story goes into detail describing how the secret Pentagon documents made their way first onto Discord, and from there onto Telegram – a platform used extensively by the Russian military and intelligence services – and thence onto Twitter and other social media websites.
“OG,” whom we now know to be 21-year-old Teixeira, was described by the under-18 member of the group, whom the Post interviewed with the permission of his parents, in this way: “He’s fit. He’s strong. He’s armed. He’s trained. Just about everything you can expect out of some sort of crazy movie.”
Such teenage-gushery seems to accurately characterize how the Discord group of 25 or so young members thought of themselves. We don’t know much about Teixeira yet, but it already seems that the group was comprised of young right-wing gun nuts and white supremacists. According to the Post, the group had at least one member who was Russian, and one Ukrainian.
Before the Post reported the name and unit of “OG,” I had prepared a description of how the secret documents could have escaped from a military base. Here is what I wrote:
The fact that the leaker was able to photograph the briefing slides and pages from briefing books intended for the Joint Chiefs of Staff indicates that the “secure facility” wasn’t likely a so-called SCIF, or “Secure Compartmented Information Facility,” a kind of enclosed lockbox that can be entered only by individuals with high security clearances who must log in and out of the facility. It’s far more likely that the “secure facility” may have been a military intelligence office where top-secret documents might be distributed so they can be seen by general officers. That such documents escaped from any military command, even a National Guard unit, must be giving the Pentagon fits as they try to backtrack how the documents were stolen and what was done with them afterwards.
Even more interesting than the identity of the leaker is his apparent association with right-wing elements outside of the military. The Post reported that it had seen 300 secret documents supplied by the teenage source it interviewed, as well as a video showing “the man who the member said is OG stand[ing] at a shooting range, wearing safety glasses and ear coverings and holding a large rifle. He yells a series of racial and antisemitic slurs into the camera, then fires several rounds at a target.”
This is pure, unadulterated right-wing militia stuff. No member of such a group, much less an online forum calling itself “Thug Shaker Central,” should have ever made it into any branch of the military. And once again, the apparent white supremacist online group shows its hypocrisy with its use of “thug” in its name, another term closely associated with Black gangs and rappers.
Military investigators for the Pentagon will get to the bottom of how a young right-wing extremist was able to get into the military and obtain a job where he was close enough to top secret documents that he could copy them and put them out using his right-wing platform on Discord. But the damage is done.
Secrets that show how the U.S. has deeply penetrated the Russian intelligence services, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of both Ukrainian and Russian military units, including the status of supplies of various kinds of ammunition for both armies, have now been made public. The Pentagon is not going to be able to put that genie back in its bottle, and from this point on, all they can do is damage control by exercising campaigns of subterfuge and disinformation to confuse the Russians about what’s real and what isn’t among the documents that made it onto Twitter and other online platforms.
The whole thing is a clusterfuck of heretofore unknown proportions. But it lets the Pentagon know a few things they had better get straight going forward.
One, the Pentagon must figure out a way to control its distribution of secret materials including briefing books and slides more tightly. They need to impose a deeper “need-to-know” criteria on such documents. The problem with the current distribution of this material is that while it may be encrypted as it is transmitted from the Pentagon to lower commands, once it gets there it is decoded and printed out as hard copies or stored on computers in decoded form.
Perhaps the distribution of such secrets to in-person head-to-head briefings should be imposed, rather than electronically transmitting classified slides and briefing books. If that means human beings must travel from the Pentagon out to other commands in the Army, Navy, and Air Force to share the secrets face-to-face, then perhaps that is what must happen.
Two, the Pentagon must take a very hard look at its recruiting practices and the processes being used to vet recruits once they agree to enlist, but before they sign enlistment papers and are sent for training in the military services. It is obviously unacceptable that this character calling himself “OG” ever wore an Air Force uniform, much less gained access to top secret facilities within a unit called the 102nd Intelligence Wing. It’s as if the Department of Justice allowed a member of a Mafia family into one of its operations surveilling organized crime. That “OG” used racist and antisemitic language and allowed himself to be recorded on a video tells you all you need to know about how he felt no threat to his career in the military by sharing his racist and antisemitic ideas with others in that manner.
Three, the Pentagon and the FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency need some new tools to surveil online platforms like Discord and Telegram with an eye toward what sort of material is getting on them, and who are the people using them.
Four, all the military services including their National Guard units must make it clear to all active-duty members currently serving that any and all activity with extremist groups, either online or in person (such as using civilian shooting ranges and right-wing meeting places) is cause for immediate dismissal. If any extremist activity by active-duty members of the military violates the Uniform Code of Military Justice, punishment will follow, along with confinement in the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
The Pentagon should immediately institute so-called “fear of God” awareness within all the services regarding association with any extremist groups or espousal of racist, antisemitic, or misogynist language and views. The military has an advantage not enjoyed by civilian corporations, governments, or other associations. Serving your country in the military is a privilege, not a right, and that privilege can be withdrawn if any member of the military violates rules and regulations governing the behavior of those serving. Dismissal from the service can involve an administrative hearing, but it usually doesn’t get to that point. If members of the military are espousing racist, antisemitic, misogynist, or white supremacist beliefs, the units in which they serve can force them out simply by making their lives so miserable that they resign voluntarily.
It's a tall order the Pentagon faces, but unless they want more secrets to escape their control and more embarrassment that they’ve let fringe lunatics into their ranks, the military had better straighten up and fly right, most especially the Air Force National Guard.
Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.
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