Lambert and I have discussed that this is an oddly quiet news period, as shown by the number of stories appearing in the RSS feeds of major US and foreign press outlets, despite being in the midst of a restructuring of the global order and other rows.1 However, the remarkable specter of the Washington Post getting ahead of investigators in hot pursuit of the biggest leaker since Edwards Snowden tripped our bullshit detectors.
As writers, we were both triggered by the writing and exposition style of the Washington Post story providing an extraordinary amount of detail about the presumed leaker and gamer called OG in his Discord circle, which Lambert took to stand for the gamer designation “Old Guy.” According to the Post, OG was the head of a small tribe of gamer teens. OG has supposedly been providing detailed written summaries of material he was reading due to his access to classified documents. When he didn’t get the engagement he wanted, he resorted to posting the documents themselves.
As we learned today after he was arrested, OG is 21 year old Air National Guardsman Jake Teixeira who worked at an installation at the Joint Base at Cape Cod.
The Post story was more Michael Lewis than journalism: too much like a screenplay treatment, few of the customary qualifiers about certainty of information, and far too many signs of official help, like the Post claiming it had seen 300 documents, yet not even providing any description their scope or even dates, or how it got to not just one but two members of OG’s group who recognized OG was in trouble yet were so willing to go into tell-all mode.
Of course, a story explaining how something highly embarrassing to the government being very slickly and quickly produced does not mean it’s not true. But it does suggest its tires should be kicked awfully hard.
Former CIA analyst Larry Johnson has found a smoking gun: it’s simply not possible for anyone with access to secure military systems to have gotten one of the documents, a CIA product that would reside only on entirely different systems. The entire interview is worth a listen and here are the key quotesL
Starting at 0:55:
It’s a lie, it’s a fabrication. This first surfaced with Bellingcat. Bellingcat is a front for British intelligence. That’s where the story first surfaced. Washington Post then picks it up and the Guardian then picks it up, on the same day. So this is a coordinated media strategy, this is a disinformation campaign. The documents are real. I’m not saying the documents are fabrications. But this cover story has been manufactured to explain how these documents came to be produced.
It just falls apart, it simply falls apart based on one document in that mix, which is listed as CIA Operations Center Report, Top Secret. I worked in the CIA Operations Center. I helped prepare those reports. That’s an internal CIA document. No one on a US military base anywhere in the world will have access to this kind of document.
Johnson later points out (at 4:00) that another document was DoJ/FBI/FISA, which again would never be accessible through DoD facilities (their SCIFs). Johnson stresses later that contacts with recent and current knowledge confirm there is no way this type of document could have gone over to the military.
Johnson explains (at 14:00) that even some of the DoD documents required clearances restricted only to about 2% of the military, meaning it was highly unlikely Teixeia had access to them.
He contends that the information that was leaked has to have come at a level over the CIA, specifically, the Director of National Intelligence because it is the one place that collects information from the CIA, FBI, NSA, and military.
At 10:18, Napolitano plays a video clip from the Post of an interview with one of OG/Teixeira’s gamer friends. Johnson explains why sees it as conconcted.
Douglas Macgregor was not quite as skeptical as Johnson, but (not recognizing that some of the documents could never be obtained via a SCIF) thought it was highly unlikely, but not totally impossible, that a young Guardsman could have been given access to classified records above his clearance levels. But Macgregor like Johnson dismissed the Post’s video interview.
It immediately sounds very suspicious. There’s several red flags. First of all, the man is unusually articulate. This is not a stupid man. And he comes across as having almost been rehearsed. The things that he says, he ticks them off one after the other, and then he does something particularly suspicious, he characterizes him as “another right-winger” who didn’t like something or was complaining about something. This may come as a shock to most of your viewers, but almost no one who volunteers to fight in the armed forces of the United States of America is a left-winger. So that’s an absurd statement. But that raises the question in my mind if that man was not rehearsed and sending that message for a specific purpose.
Separately, there is the unseemly spectacle of members of the press baying for the blood of a whistleblower, whether by accident or design. As Glenn Greenwald pointed out, it make clear that the media has become a partner of the security state:
Corporate journalists went to the Pentagon today to angrily demand they find ways to clamp down on secrets and ensure that no more leaks can happen. One specifically demanded they monitor Discord.
Congrats to the "journalists" for getting less transparency and more monitoring: https://t.co/G9lLtcpHUG
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 14, 2023
It’s hard to know what to make of a world when Tucker Carlson makes more sense than pretty much anyone else with a big media platform. But recall Paul Krugman was terrific when he was in the opposition, and went to hell when he felt his job was to defend Team Dem:
Glenn Greenwald @ggreenwald blasts corporate media for their reaction to the classified document leak:
“They love leaks when the CIA and Homeland Security tell them to leak…” pic.twitter.com/ko2HcsXLp4
— The Post Millennial (@TPostMillennial) April 14, 2023
Having said that, The Intercept’s Nikita Mazurov decries reporters as stooges in Why Did Journalists Help the Justice Department Identify a Leaker? Key bits:
In the fallout from the Pentagon document leaks, a troubling trend has emerged: Journalists seem to be eagerly volunteering their efforts to help the Pentagon and Justice Department facilitate an investigation into the source of the leaks, with no discussion of the ethical ramifications. If the individual — whose identity has been published by journalists, and who has now been arrested by federal authorities — had shared precisely the same classified materials with reporters, regardless of his motivations, he would be tirelessly defended as a source….
NPR senior editor and correspondent Geoff Brumfiel on Monday combed through artifacts visible in the periphery of the photos of the leaks, as well as collating findings others have discovered, itemizing and explaining each one. Though Brumfiel claimed that his roundup was “largely pointless,” he was effectively performing free labor for the Justice
Department, and his posts may corroborate the identity of a suspect. For instance, it may be possible for investigators to analyze a suspect’s credit card purchase history to see if he at some point ordered the objects in question. Brumfiel did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication….
Brumfiel is by no means alone in his social media vigilantism. Jake Godin, a visual investigations journalist at Scripps News, has likewise engaged in the Twitter pastime of volunteering his time to help the Justice Department…
On Wednesday, the Washington Post disclosed further information about the peripheral contents of “previously unreported images,” as well as a variety of additional information about the alleged leaker and his underage associates. The Post states that the leaker “may have endangered his young followers by allowing them to see and possess classified information, exposing them to potential federal crimes.” Given this risk, the Post was extremely cavalier in its depiction of one of those teenagers, publishing video with only rudimentary pixelation accompanied by his unaltered voice. The Post notes that the interviewee asked them not to obscure his voice, but one wonders whether he also asked for close-up shots of his laptop, clearly showing missing keys, to be included. In other words, the Post appears to be acknowledging the danger the interviewee faces while also choosing to readily present evidence that could help investigators confirm his identity.
Even though this ought to be a developing story, every effort is being made to put it in a tidy box and shut the lid. We’ll see what transpires.
Update 3:00 PM: Micheal Tracey provides further support for Larry Johnson’s view:
Some of the leaked documents are marked EXDIS which is at least nominally supposed to be used only for the most "highly sensitive traffic" between the White House and the State Department. This probably was not envisioned to include the Massachusetts Air National Guard pic.twitter.com/HHTymF1tOV
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) April 14, 2023
1 Another sign of how weird things are media-wise is the lack of follow-through on supposedly important stories. For instance, the suit by Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg against House Judiciary Committee Chief to quash not just the subpoenas his committee had already issued to his office and a former member of his team, but any future subpoenas. I skimmed the filing and thought I might say something, then figured it might make more sense to wait a day to see what the usual suspects served up. Guess what? Not only have I yet to come across any op-eds, I have yet to see even a tweet from constitutional lawyers Lawrence Tribe and Jonathan Turley.