As I write this, Politico reports that the US Federal Bureau of Investigation has made an arrest in the matter of “classified” government documents found circulating on social media after allegedly being posted on an Internet game chat server over a period of weeks or months.
The New York Times reports that the likely arrestee is one Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.
Given my past writings on government abuse of the “classification” system, you may be surprised to learn that in this particular instance I support prison time.
Not for Teixeira, though, even if he does turn out to be the person who released the documents.
The people who belong in jail are the people who classified those documents in the first place, and the case looks pretty airtight to me.
At least some of the released documents were market “top secret,” a classification which reflects the claim that their release would result in “grave” damage to the national security of the United States.
The documents were released. Amount of damage to the national security of the United States? Zip. Zero. Nada.
The US hasn’t been bombed. The US hasn’t been invaded. No US ships have been sunk, nor have any US aircraft been shot down, nor have any US troops been put in harm’s way. Not surprising, since the US has never considered its national security threatened enough to merit a declaration of war even once in more than 80 years now.
The documents may be politically embarrassing, but not only is that not a legitimate reason for classifying information, it’s specifically prohibited by law as a reason for classifying information.
Those documents should never have been classified in the first place. And the people who classified them KNEW that. If they were of any importance, they wouldn’t have been shown to random 21-year-old members of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, especially in such an insecure manner that those personnel could hand-copy and/or photograph them, walk out with them, and share them with a bunch of gamer friends.
While I’m against the whole concept of “classified information” on principle (if you want to keep secrets from taxpayers, give up that taxpayer funding), it’s even worse when every lieutenant colonel in the armed forces stamps “top secret” on their DoorDash lunch orders, then run around chicken-littleing about “national security” when word gets out. Lock’em up.
Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism, publisher of Rational Review News Digest, and moderator of Antiwar.com’s commenting/discussion community.