Not a whistle-blower: On the 2023 Pentagon leaks  

The 2023 Pentagon leaks have fuelled insecurity between the U.S. and its allies 

April 17, 2023 12:10 am | Updated 12:58 am IST

U.S. federal authorities have arrested Jack Teixeira, 21, a member of the Air National Guard, in the case of classified information of the Pentagon that was leaked on social media in recent months, which analysts say has exposed sensitive data regarding the war efforts in Ukraine, potentially undermining Kyiv’s plans to push back the Russian invasion. The top-secret files that were first leaked on social media websites Discord and 4chan in March this year also caused a flutter for the Joe Biden administration when it revealed confidential and unflattering information about U.S. allies, including South Korea, Israel, and other nations of West Asia and Africa, and assessments of China’s developing cyber-attack capabilities. Potentially most damaging, though, were the leaker’s posts, which, reports said, genuinely contained classified information of the U.S. military, on Ukraine’s air defences being compromised owing to a shortage of missiles in February. Also possibly undermining the tactical plans and the element of surprise for Ukrainian forces were files that spoke of the embattled country’s long-planned spring counter offensive to beat back Russian forces starting on April 30 with 12 Ukrainian brigades. While no explicit propagandistic post of the leaker has been revealed yet, it is obvious that the dots join to paint a clear picture of Mr. Teixeira’s intention to discredit the war effort of Ukraine and its western allies and show up the Biden administration in a bad light amongst its global partners.

One thing is clear: Mr. Teixeira is no whistle-blower and, certainly, comparisons to Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden would be misplaced. The latest leak of U.S. federal government information lacks the moral clarity and ethical underpinning of the WikiLeaks files and the NSA global surveillance exposé that Ms. Manning and Mr. Snowden respectively shared with the world in a bid to highlight the excesses of the U.S. government and spur conversations on human rights, foreign policy and privacy in the digital age. Whistle-blowing in the latter contexts led to introspection, policy dialogue and reforms to bring about greater transparency in U.S. government actions, within limits. The 2023 Pentagon leaks have, contrarily, achieved nothing of this sort but fuelled insecurity between the U.S. and other global powers, and potentially hobbled the war strategies of the Ukrainian armed forces in their bid to fight off Russian troops attacking their country. Mr. Teixeira has, appropriately, been charged for the leaks under the U.S. Espionage Act. The critical next step for the Biden White House is now to examine how and why he got top security clearance to handle classified information, and take steps to further secure and limit the distribution of sensitive information whose release could seriously undermine U.S. national security interests.

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