Hunting the Military Extremist: How Disturbed Is the U.S. Military?

Conor here: This post might be a bit naive on the whole Teixeira affair, but the larger issues would seem to be relevant.

By Nan Levinson. Her most recent book is War Is Not a Game: The New Antiwar Soldiers and the Movement They Built. She taught journalism and fiction writing at Tufts University. Originally published at TomsDispatch.

In April, when Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guardsman with a top-secret clearance, was arrested for posting a trove of classified documents about the Russia-Ukraine war online, the question most often asked was: How did such a young, inexperienced, low-level technician have access to such sensitive material? What I wanted to know was: How did he ever get accepted into the Air Force in the first place?

Teixeira seems to have leaked that secret information for online bragging rights rather than ideological reasons, so his transgression probably wouldn’t have fallen under the military’s newly reinforced regulations on extremist activities. After he was indicted, however, perturbing details about his behavior emerged, including his online searches for violent extremist events, an outsized interest in guns, and social media posts that an FBI affidavit called “troubling” and I’d call creepy.

Ideological zealotry is disruptive wherever it takes root, even if it never erupts into violence, but it’s particularly chilling inside the military. After all, service members have access to weapons and the training to use them. Even more significant, a kind of quid pro quo exists between the military and civilians. Trust is paramount within the military and every service member is supposed to abide by a code of ethics, as well as by the Constitution, to which all of them swear an oath.

In theory, a democratic civil society invests its military with the authority to use force in its name in exchange for the principled conduct of its members. Military service is supposed to be a higher calling and soldiers better (or at least better behaving) people. So when active-duty personnel or veterans use violence against the system they’re sworn to protect, the sting of betrayal is especially sharp.


In a photo of Teixeira in a neat dress uniform that accompanied media reports, he’s a bright-eyed kid with stick-out ears and a sweet half-smile. He looks young and promising, the kind of guy people offer thanks to when they see him in uniform at an airport. In reality, however, everything else about him was a red flag.

The Washington Post found videos and chat logs that suggested he was getting ready for a race war. Former classmates told CNN that he had been obsessed with guns and war. He was suspended from high school for comments he made about Molotov cocktails. His first application for a gun license was denied, but he kept trying and was eventually approved, over time amassing a trove of handguns, rifles, shotguns, high-capacity weapons, and a gas mask, which he kept in a gun locker about two feet from his bed.

Granted, some of this activity didn’t begin until he enlisted in 2019 and no one’s advocating that military recruiters make bedroom checks. Still, recruits are supposed to go through a careful vetting process. Family, friends, teachers, and classmates may be interviewed to assess a recruit’s character and fitness. Such background checks are designed to detect things like racist tattoos, drug use, gang affiliation, or arrest records, but are inevitably limited in what they can discover about young people without much life experience, including the teenage gamers the Air Force woos for their up-to-the-minute technical skills who may not prove to be the most level-headed crew — people, in fact, like Jack Teixeira.

In his case in particular, the vetting of service members for handling the top-secret or sensitive-compartmentalized-information security clearances he received in 2022 is supposed to be particularly thorough. I was first faced with this reality when a government agent showed up at my door, flashed a badge, and asked me about a neighbor applying for a clearance. He inquired all too casually about whether I had noticed anything telling, like lots of liquor bottles in his trash. (That left me wondering how many people check their neighbor’s garbage.)

Teixeira’s posts of classified material taken from the computers of the intelligence unit at the Cape Cod air base where he was stationed first appeared on Thug Shaker Central, a small, obscure chat group which appealed largely to teenage boys through adolescent humor, a fetishistic love of guns, and extreme bigotry. It was hosted on the gamer-centric platform Discord. At first, he posted transcribed documents, then began photographing hundreds more in his parents’ kitchen and started uploading copies of them filled with secret materials on the U.S., its allies, and its enemies. Someone at Thug Shaker began sharing those posts more widely and they made their way to Russian Telegram channels, Twitter, and beyond — and Teixeira was in big trouble.

Since he seems to have made no effort to hide who he was, no one could call him the world’s smartest criminal. He made it all too easy for the FBI to track him down. By then, Air Force officials had already admonished him for making suspicious searches of classified intelligence networks, but allowed him to stay in his job. That’s where the Justice Department charged him with the retention and transmission of classified information under the Espionage Act of 1917, which had already caught in its maw journalists, dissidents, whistleblowers (including Daniel Ellsberg, who, to the end of his life, wanted to challenge the act in court on First Amendment grounds), and most recently, another hoarder of classified documents, former President Donald Trump.

In June, Teixeira pleaded not guilty on six counts, each carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Probably just as happy to let the civilians handle it, the Air Force removed the intelligence division from his unit, but it hasn’t yet brought charges against him.

Meanwhile, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered a policy and procedure review to assess how bad Pentagon security really was. The results, made public on July 5th, gave the military a passing grade but, with a firm grasp of the obvious, recommended more careful monitoring of the online activities of personnel with security clearances.

Small Numbers, Outsized Impact

Rhetoric and regulations addressing extremism in the military date back to at least 1969 and have been tinkered with since, usually in response to hard-to-ignore events like the murder of 13 people at Fort Hood by Army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan in 2009. In reaction to the material Chelsea Manning (who was anything but an extremist) leaked to WikiLeaks to reveal human-rights abuses connected to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Department of Defense created a counter-insider threat program around 2014. Six years later, the Army revised its policies for the first time to face the potential role of social media in extremist activities.

Tracking and reporting on extremism in the military has not been without controversy, which tended to be of the let’s-not-air-our-dirty-laundry-in-public variety. In 1986 when, for instance, the Southern Poverty Law Center informed the Department of Defense (DoD) that active-duty Marines were participating in the Ku Klux Klan, the Pentagon responded that the “DoD does not prohibit personnel from joining such organizations as the Ku Klux Klan.” (It still doesn’t name or ban specific organizations in its regulations.) And when, in 2009, a Department of Homeland Security assessment warned of right-wing extremists recruiting veterans, conservative politicians and veterans groups killed the report which, they claimed, was insulting to veterans.

Then came the invasion of the Capitol on January 6, 2021. A striking number of participants proved to have military connections or histories — 13.4% to 17.5% of those charged, depending on who’s counting — and the Pentagon could no longer ignore the problem. Defense Secretary Austin ordered an unprecedented, day-long stand-down to educate all military personnel on extremist activity and then created the Countering Extremist Activity Working Group, or CEAWG, to come up with a plan for dealing with that anything-but-new reality.

It’s not possible to pin down the true scope of the phenomenon, but the Center for Strategic and International Studies found active-duty and reserve personnel were linked to 7 of the 110 terrorist attacks and plots the FBI investigated in 2020. That same year, the New York Times estimated that active-duty military personnel and veterans accounted for at least 25% of antigovernment militias. In 2022, the Anti-Defamation League identified 117 active-duty service personnel and 11 reservists on a leaked membership list from the Oath Keepers, the far-right antigovernment militia prominently involved in January 6th events. CEAWG, on the other hand, claimed that, in 2021, there were fewer than 100 substantiated cases of military personnel involved in officially prohibited extremist activity in the past year.

While such reckonings suggest that just a small number of service members are actively involved in extremist violence, even a relative few should be concerning for obvious reasons.

Report, Revise, Reconsider

Opportunities to identify and prevent extremism arise at three junctures: during recruitment, throughout the active-duty years, and in the discharge process when those transitioning back to civilian life may be especially susceptible to promises of camaraderie and ready action from extremist groups. As 2021 ended, the Pentagon’s working group reported that it had addressed such vulnerabilities by standardizing questionnaires, clarifying definitions, and — that old bureaucratic fallback — commissioning a new study.

The revised rules included a long list of banned “extremist activities” and a long definition of what constitutes “active participation.” In addition to the obvious — violence, plans to overthrow the government, and the leaking of sensitive information — prohibited acts include liking, sharing, or retweeting online content that supports extremist activities or encouraging DoD personnel to disobey lawful orders with the intention of disrupting military activities.

Active participation includes organizing, leading, or simply attending a meeting of an extremist group and distributing its literature on or off base. Commanders may declare places off-limits where “counseling, encouraging, or inciting Service members to refuse to perform duty or to desert” occurs. That also sounds like it could apply to gatherings of antiwar groups like Veterans for Peace, where supporting war resisters is part of their mission. And therein lies the rub.

As in the past, the updates focus on activity, rather than speech, which is a good thing, but figuring out how to suppress extremism without turning into the thought police is challenging, particularly in light of the prominence of social media and the impossibility of monitoring everyone’s online activity. The result: regulations that are both too vague and too restrictive and a recipe for implementing the rules unfairly.

In military culture, reporting is often equated with snitching and retaliation is common. Since it’s not practicable to draw bright lines between what’s allowed and what isn’t, that determination rests ultimately (and sometimes ominously) with commanders. The regulations urge them to balance First Amendment rights with “good order and discipline and national security.” In reality, however, such decisions too often fall prey to bias, distrust, self-interest, racial disparities, and a history of bad faith.

Then there’s the issue of paying for the extra work the rules require. The only relevant funding seems to be a puny $13.5 million for the insider-threat program. Meanwhile, the Pentagon budget that recently exited the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee makes it a “conservative priority” to defund the position of Deputy Inspector General for Diversity and Inclusion and Extremism in the Military. So anti-extremism may prove but one more victim of anti-diversity and, even without that, if money is a measure of commitment, the military’s commitment to fighting extremism is looking lukewarm at best.

Consistently Inconsistent

Recently, the Center for New American Security, a D.C.-based think tank, damned the military’s efforts to address domestic violent extremism historically as being all too often “reactionary, sporadic, and inconsistent” when it comes to recognizing the problem to be solved, or even admitting there is one. Though harsh, it’s not an unfair assessment.

The National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), a Department of Homeland Security research center at the University of Maryland, analyzed an extensive database of extremist activity in the U.S. called PIRUS and found that 628 Americans with military backgrounds were involved in such criminal activity from 1990 to March 2023. Almost all of them were male veterans, with Marines showing up in disproportionately large numbers (as they did among the January 6th arrestees). A slight majority of the cases considered involved violence and a large majority involved white supremacist militias. And here’s an intriguing fact that probably won’t surprise anyone who’s followed the U.S. military’s dismal war record in this century: extremists with a military background were less successful in carrying out violent attacks than those without it.

Indeed, the extremist threat appears to be growing. A chart in a research brief looking at PIRUS data shows little blips for extremist cases in most years until the past six, including not only the (hopefully) unrepeatable 2021, but the years on either side of it.

Activities that rise to the level of criminal conduct, however, tell only part of the story.

The RAND Corporation interviewed a large, demographically representative sample of veterans — mostly older, white, middle-class men who joined the military before 9/11 — to assess sympathy for extremist organizations and ideas. The researchers found no evidence that veterans support violent extremist groups or their ideologies more than the rest of the American public does.

If you find that reassuring, however, think again. After all, according to the 2022 Yahoo! News/YouGov poll Rand used for comparison, a little more than a third of the U.S. population agrees with the Great Replacement Theory that “[a] group of people in this country are trying to replace native-born Americans with immigrants and people of color who share their political views.” Am I supposed to be comforted because only about 5% fewer veterans think that?

Then there’s the finding that almost 18% of the veterans surveyed who agree with one of four cited extremist ideologies also support violence as a means of political change. That finding is scary, too, because extremist groups can take advantage of such veterans’ support for political violence to recruit them for their often all-too-violent purposes.

All of this leaves me very uneasy, both about what is being done and what should or even could be done. I worry about how much more extreme and violent this country has become in this century of failed wars. And I worry about anti-extremism policies sliding into prosecuting — and persecuting — people for disfavored beliefs, while immediate danger glides in from some unexpected source — like a 21-year-old techie, who, for reasons no one anticipated, pulled off one hell of a breach of national security right under the military’s nose.

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  1. Lexx

    ‘He inquired all too casually about whether I had noticed anything telling, like lots of liquor bottles in his trash. (That left me wondering how many people check their neighbor’s garbage.)’

    Check? Like open the lid and paw past the Amazon cardboard for the empties hiding at the bottom? It’s out on the curb on ‘recycle day’… it would be hard to miss!.. and you can tell yourself, ‘Well, maybe they hosted a party last weekend’… but every week? I’ve seen bins around here overflowing every week with hard liquor, wine, and beer bottles. There’s some consistent hard drinkin’ goin’ on behind those closed doors.

    They have the option of course of taking the bottles to a recycle center and hiding their consumption from the prying eyes of all those morning walkers. But they don’t see anything wrong with their behavior; they’re practically daring a neighbor to say something to their faces. ‘Yes, I am trying to corner the market on scotch… so?! What’s it to you?’ And they have a point but they have to know their neighbors notice, and of course, gossip.

    Also, shopping carts at Costco, and now in Colorado, grocery stores as well. Generally customers exit a liquor store with a few bottles or a few cases. At Costco they load up and avoid eye contact regarding the contents of their carts. Is it any of our business? Nope, but still…

    1. chris

      It’s also a funny statement about social distance too, right? Doesn’t she know her neighbors? Has she never been asked to take out their trash when they were away on vacation? Has she never been to a party at their house? Never paid their kids to mow her lawn? She has no social connections at all with them to have an idea of what might be in their garbage? The story doesn’t say whether she knocked on the person’s door after she had the visit from the clearance investigators. I’ve always made it a point to reach out to the person to let them know I spoke with peope so they have some idea that the process they applied to is progressing. Did she do that? Did she share a common moment with a person who was applying for a new position and might have been a little nervous because of all the extra steps to go through when it involves a security clearance? These are the people she lives next to?

      And she wonders why soldiers and others might feel alienated in our society…

      1. Lexx

        In countries as crowded and highly wired as ours are becoming, denying the information our senses take in has become a time-honored but challenging defense. ‘I didn’t see/didn’t hear/wasn’t there/couldn’t smell, taste, or touch/didn’t understand/can’t recall/don’t have access to/wasn’t sane at the time… and I’m “innocent” in my ignorance unless you can prove otherwise’.

        The will to ignorance and perception of innocence maintains those defensive walls of social distance and safety. We live among strangers on purpose, where we choose to not know.

  2. chris

    This seems to be a beat that Ms. Levinson has been on for a long time.

    About her one ending point, that some decent percentage of soldiers believe violence is a tool for political change…well, of course. Especially anyone who’s served in the last 40 years when the US government has used violence to enact political change according to its desires in other countries. While at the same time meaningful political change at home has been impossible. She’s surprised that the people we use as instruments of that policy abroad have the opinion that it’s useful when they’re in the US?

    Her writing at the Nation includes articles about reinstating a national draft. In my opinion, that’s about all that could help us with some of these issues. But it would likely create others too. And it wouldn’t solve the fundamental issue Ms. Levinson alludes to in her brief snippet on Replacement Theory (which you could argue some in government are trying to practice…) which is that I don’t trust people like her. Further, I don’t want to find a common basis for discussion with people like her anymore. The journos who claim the sound of an AR-15 going off gave them PTSD, the international investigative reporters who say they can smell chlorine gas residue on a backpack, the people who will rail against the tyranny of two genders but can’t do anything useful to help someone who’s suffering, the well to do who will put any flag in their front yard but won’t help their neighbors on the street, the Tankies who went to all the right schools to get all the wrong answers, I don’t want to engage with them at all. I wish they’d move to a different country and stop messing up the one I live in. I just want peace. These people refuse to give us peace. I hope that if people from their world saw things differently then they would act differently. But what the history I know says is that when you give people with authoritarian leanings a taste of power, or training to acquire power, they have no problem using violence to accomplish their goals. Absent a threat that really does unify everyone in the country I don’t think building common bonds across backgrounds, education levels, geography, or language, will help the US anymore. We’re too far gone.

      1. Hayek's Heelbiter

        The root cause of the basis of this article and EVERY other social ill afflicting the U.S., from falling life expectancy to drug dealing in the slums and why women throw up their hands, exclaiming there are no decent men out there (despite the fact available decent guys are legion). What women actually mean is that there are not enough high status men earning MORE than they do. Why? Because all the decent paying guy jobs have moved to China!
        Well, DUH.
        All these ailments are SYMPTOMS. Solutions for these crises are inevitably piecemeal, aimed at SUPPRESSION, not cure. It’s like topically treating a rash caused by an underlying cancer while ignoring the metastasizing tumor actually causing the rash.
        The only person who seems to have noticed that all these issues have a single underlying cause is Scott Gallowayl But he, too, is reluctant to fully connect the dots, perhaps because he is a Professor of Marketing at Stern Business School. As such such, he should have known it is not the Eisenhower Tax Rate, but the MARGINAL Tax Rate that is 91% and stop promulgating the neoliberal legend.

    1. Greg

      “Violence as a tool of political change” is a working definition of the purpose of a military, at least as far as a long line of experts on military action are concerned.

      I would be very concerned if no-one in the military understood that.

  3. Arkady Bogdanov

    A couple of things. Regarding Teixeira’s trove of firearms- I saw the photo of them in his bedroom- none of them were real- they were toys/airsoft, with the florescent orange tips clearly visible. I think Larry Johnson later pointed this out as well, but the media continued to run with descriptions of him as a gun hoarder.

    Second- when I was in the military in the early 90’s, almost every infantry platoon had several white nationalists/outright Nazis. Nobody liked them, but you had had no choice but to deal with them. It’s possible they are in the military in greater numbers now, but I kind of doubt it. Likely this problem has always existed, but it’s now become fashionable to talk about it. Militaries in and of themselves are nationalist, so we should not be surprised that nationalists of various stripes are disproportionately misrepresented in the military. Also, I do not see military leadership being concerned about this (except for show) as individuals like this are the true believers. If you are going to invade and subjugate a foreign nation, which has been the US military’s stock-in-trade the last several decades, these are the individuals who are going to be the most highly motivated to carry out such a mission, and this is so blatantly obvious, officers cannot honestly claim to not be aware of it, so the only conclusion you can draw is that these nationalist extremists are quietly welcomed.

    1. Feral Finster

      Judging from your name, I don’t know whether you in the US military, but what you write corresponds with what I am told about the US military.

      A guy I know (former infantry enlisted) tells me that there are three types of enlisted: drunks, Bible thumpers and gym/gun/race nuts, with some blurring between the latter two categories.

      He was a drunk. I’ve never been in the military, any military, so your mileage may vary.

      1. scott s.

        Well, my experience as retired Navy is that occupational specialty (rating for USN-types) draws vastly different people depending on requirements. Back in VN days we got folks who enlisted USN to avoid the draft. So that made up a somewhat self-selected group.

        As far as Teixeira, in my time we had “pre-Walker” and “post-Walker” due to the fall-out from the Walker spy ring. This was much more serious as it involved handing crypto material to the soviets.

        As far as extremism, today with diversity/equity police everywhere not sure it’s the biggest issue on the military’s plate.

  4. EssCetera

    So for 60 years we won’t see him as he’ll be in “prison”, meanwhile he’ll be enjoying his siestas somewhere nice, his superiors reporting that he’s performed his role admirably, that nobody other than a few bloggers and commenters suspect a ruse, possibly the Russians as well but time will tell, and for the most part nobody seems to be wondering how compartmentalized secrets somehow weren’t compartmentalized, how operational procedures appear to have failed.

  5. Dida

    This author is sadly delusional. She starts with invoking the theory of the principled military, does not notice that reality contradicts her theory at every step, and here we are reading a text about some alternate reality of the noble American soldier, as if evil empires can be sustained with noble soldiers.

    In theory, a democratic civil society invests its military with the authority to use force in its name in exchange for the principled conduct of its members.

    What democratic civil society? The one which spends half of its budget on war, and where decisions to bomb various states into the Stone Age are not voted by Congress? The one where 330 million people could not find anyone better to rule over them than a senile old man with a history of corruption and fraud?

    Military service is supposed to be a higher calling and soldiers better (or at least better behaving) people. So when active-duty personnel or veterans use violence against the system they’re sworn to protect…

    Is supposed to be: again the theory. But on planet Earth, military service in America has the purpose of maintaining the US empire through force, this is its higher calling. And imperial calling by definition feeds on cruelty and war crimes, therefore it needs and builds sociopaths in the force, not better behaving people.

    Finally, I would say that criticism based on such deeply faulty premises only serves to reinforce the status quo and normalize the fake reality which Americans inhabit.

    1. Carolinian

      Thank you. Given that our military complex is so deeply unethical why would one assume that individual soldiers are moral heroes (although the Duffel Blog gives hope). And if one is afraid of the US military then a giant downsizing and rejection of arbitrary foreign warmaking would seem to be the obvious solution.

      As for reinstating the draft, let them start with employees of The Nation. I used to enjoy reading it but that was a long time ago.

      1. Dida

        Given that our military complex is so deeply unethical why would one assume that individual soldiers are moral heroes… American soldiers and secret agents are moral heroes by default: it’s called The Hollywood Effect.

        I used to enjoy reading it but that was a long time ago. I used to enjoy the Guardian, go figure… some 15 years ago they were the first mainstream media to champion the Palestinian cause, and their Comment section was exceptional. But I have to say that the war in Ukraine produced a lot of horrible surprises when it comes to the leftish media: Counterpunch, Brave New Europe, Jacobin… The kindest thing one could say is that they might be afraid of cancellation.

        And I experienced quite a bit of disappointment with many leftish intellectuals, who act as if a loyalty oath is required of them. In a YouTube interview immediately after the invasion of Ukraine, Noam Chomsky compared it with Hitler’s invasion of Poland – Putin was obviously a war criminal. Sure, NATO was already at Moscow’s door but ‘there were other options’. What were those famous options, Chomsky didn’t specify – probably because they didn’t exist.

        Even Wolfgang Streeck called Putin a warlord in a recent Sidecar post! It boggles the mind; first I don’t remember Streeck calling Obama a warlord for the destruction of Libya and Syria, and secondly it is quite ridiculous, because Putin has proven himself over the decades to be an excellent administrator, not a warlord, and besides he is quite legalist as a politician. But who cares about historical truth or balance. OK, I have to stop here, I went on a tangent pretty bad.

        1. Carolinian

          In their most recent talk Kirn is telling Taibbi about his surprise at the Ukraine offensive failure given the “coverage” and Taibbi agrees and it’s clear that for both coverage means they get their news from MSM outlets like the NYT and Post (while expressing sarcastic skepticism) and maybe cable TV.. I suspect that’s true for most of our educated elites, on all sides and that they’d rather ferret what nuggets of truth they can out of the remains of the journalism they grew up with rather than venture into the wilds of the internet where a somewhat greater investment of time is needed to gain reliable information.

          Meanwhile those of us who hang around blogs like this one know perfectly well that Ukraine is losing the war, is never going to get those territories back and only had a tenuous claim to possess them in the first place–being a country that has only existed since 1991. We’ve always known that there are certain topics where the traditional news is not to be trusted, and maybe that also comes from being old enough to remember when the “best and the brightest” lied to us the first time. Back then there was the so called alternative press but it struggled and had nothing like the power and reach of the internet. TPTB got control of television so there wouldn’t be another “television war” with messy reality inspiring dissent. But they are struggling to control the internet in an information war that is likely only going to increase.

          1. Dida

            Carolinian, I’m not sold on the benefits of getting my information about today’s geopolitical earthquakes from mostly unqualified amateurs, who are seriously limited in capacity not only expertise, simply by not having an institutional machine behind them… I would have expected better from advanced capitalism (I’m in nostalgic mode right now, probably because of the beautiful sunset in front of my balcony).

            But I’m going to stop my digressions here, or the mods will kick me out.

            1. Carolinian

              Don’t think I read many amateurs including, or most especially, our esteemed moderators. Some of us are here because we see this as a serious site.

              Which isn’t to say we commenters don’t get to be amateurs although we may be experts in something.

              But I don’t much believe in credentialism. Basically you take all comers and filter out the ones whose “news” turns out to be BS. This does take some effort but some of us have time on our hands. Of course increasingly old line journalists like Taibbi and Patrick Lawrence and Hersh are on blogs. Don’t think the MSM is winning.

            2. semper loquitur

              If you read the blog long enough, you’ll come to see that the “institutional machine” you favor is actually the reason why “mostly unqualified amateurs” are doing a better job than the MSM, and a whole lot of other institutions for that matter, in analyzing the events of the day and communicating that information.


    2. elkern

      Also, wasn’t FOX “News” the semi-official channel of US Occupation Forces in Iraq, etc?

      (Interesting “coincidence” – I followed the CNAS link in the OP, and I was only slightly surprised to find that one of their Board Members is James Murdoch – yes, *that* Murdoch family):

  6. ejf

    Well, Ms Levinson did give us two links:
    Both from the “A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence” at the University of Maryland. Great. That means the data’s GOTTA be good. Can’t go wrong.
    There’s even a 2023 “U.S. Military Training Assistance to Ukraine: Impact Assessment.” I gotta look at this one. It appears to cover “pre-war” through the fall of ’22.
    These type of projects illustrate how the Empire thinks.

  7. Steven A

    “How did such a young, inexperienced, low-level technician have access to such sensitive material?”

    Air Force veteran here, served 8 years as an intelligence operations specialist in five different locations. During technical school I was notified my that first duty assignment would be in a reconnaissance technical wing that processed several categories of sensitive intelligence. I had to submit paperwork for what was called an Expanded Background Investigation to allow me access to the type of information that Airman Texeira had access to. I was 19 years old.

    A better question would be, “how did he manage to get the material outside of his work area?” I worked in vaults that had guards at the door. They check everything going in and out of the vault, including briefcases, purses, trash cans, work folders, etc. This is very likely the very first question the Air Force asked, or should have asked, in its investigation of Texeira.

    I was once interviewed by an agent of the Defense Investigation Service who was running a background check on a colleague who listed me as a character reference. Some of the questions he asked involved attitudes toward minorities. I am not sure if thses were standard questions;* I had the impression that another interviewee may have indicated a problem in this area. I did relate an instance when the colleage expressed an opinion that the Ku Klux Klan “served a useful purpose.” He was granted the clearance a few weeks later.

    He also asked about alcohol consumption, which was a standard question.

    1. elkern

      Thx; good perspective. The tighter security you experienced sounds appropriate, and the lax security that let Texiera get away with swiping docs is appalling. I see two likely explanations: (1) your unit was managed properly, his was not, and (2) times have changed, AF Intel Security has gotten really stupid. Both could be true; and I would expect a general decline in security to start with some sloppy units.

      Approx how long ago was your experience with this?

      1. Steven A

        My service ran from 1967 to 1975. It included two tours carrying a spear in support our unsuccessful expansion of empire to Southeast Asia.

      2. ChrisPacific

        The point about how it should have been difficult or impossible for him to remove the printouts doesn’t seem to have come up much in the coverage. I just did a search and it does get mentioned, but seemingly always by independent experts or security professionals (to somebody in that kind of role, it’s a glaring omission). There is little or no mention of it in the government accounts or the big media stories, and even the think tanks like the Atlantic don’t seem to bring it up.

        I suspect it’s convenient for a lot of people to have Teixeira take all of the blame.

    2. EssCetera

      I was never in the military, am in the private sector, and I’ve been to meetings where we’ve had to sign NDA’s, deposit our phones before entering, paper handouts were listed, tracked, and each paper copy had a tracking number, numbers were associated with people, and all copies were accounted for before and after, our emails and social media use subsequently monitored, our laptops on an isolated network not connected to the internet and I carry around an RSA keygen on my keychain because my password changes every minute. And the meetings weren’t even about anything remotely as important as national security, just ordinary corporate stuff.

      And for security clearance here in Canada they not only screen/interview friends and family but also every past employers, as well as your neighbours and landlords at every address you’ve ever had, and it goes without saying your social media is checked as well.

      So, to put it mildly, I think this Texeira leak thing is utter bullsh*t, I’m not buying it.

  8. flora

    And, um, er, they wonder why enlistments are down? (And it ain’t cause the potential enlistees are bad peoples. They just don’t want to be called bad peoples.)

    1. TimH

      I wouldn’t enlist, for the simple reason that ‘the enemy’ that gets killed is some unlucky kid in a different uniform.

    2. rowlf

      The US made a lot of veterans in the last three decades. After a while the veterans realize they were lied to to do what they did. That doesn’t sit well.

      I got to see my father, a decorated Vietnam veteran, create a lot of blue air when Robert McNamara offered his mea culpa on television. My father never wanted me to join the military after his service.

  9. Col 'Sandy' Volestrangler (ret)

    The whole thing glows. The point about ‘up to date technical skills’ does ring true, however. I attended a CIA jobs event once in University and it seemed like they’d take anyone who could code without looking too closely. I imagine any foreign power from Israel to China who wanted to infiltrate the CIA technical department would have found their task much easier at this time.

  10. JCC

    As someone who has held a TS Clearance (with various subsets of added “compartment” acronyms) on and off since the early eighties, in the US Army as an enlisted Non-Com and in both the US Army and US Navy as a DoD civilian employee and private contractor, I see an awful lot of uneducated wailing and gnashing of teeth in this editorial.

    The Teixeira situation always seemed a little fishy to me although in all honesty I know little about how the Air Force handles things like SCIF-type security. Maybe it sucks as bad as the Teixiera story we’ve all been told has made it appear to be, although I seriously doubt it. It sounds to me that, possibly, this particular AF Unit was sloppy as hell and that this kid just wanted some bragging rights… that is if anything the Public has been spoon-fed has any truth to it.

    Getting the sort of info out of a secured area that he was able to get out wouldn’t be impossible, but generally unlikely, at least relative to all the areas I’ve worked in from South Korea to Iraq to multiple postings here in the US as an enlisted person and a civilian contractor. It sounds like a sloppily run outfit to me.

    As for her whinging about “bad people” in the Military, of course there are. Always have been and always will be… from enlisted ranks to Generals and Admirals. But this article seems to be telling the story that the Marines, at the very least, and probably all the rest of the Branches are made up of hundreds of little extremist AZOV Nationalist Groups no matter which direction you choose to look.

    And I’m not buying it.

    Are there racists, nationalists, and/or ultra-right religious proselytizers in the Military? Yes, and all kinds, Black, White, Latino, I’ve heard a lot of them actually speak out loud about these sorts of things, as many as 10 to 15 of them over 23 years of working inside many different units across all Branches of the service. And think about it, most are barely out of childhood and as they mature, most grow out of it.

    And the vast majority of service people I worked with walk away from this sort of talk

    As for Clearance vetting, I also have more than a little experience with that. It is as thorough as it can be given the legal constraints the Military operates under. Every clearance within the lower ranks and working stiff civilians has to be re-authorized every 3 years or so, more often if there is a change or upgrade. And the interviewers dig deep. Every time I went through a re-authorization, I would get calls, letters, or emails within a few weeks from friends, relatives, even the mayor and a judge of my hometown on one occasion, asking me if I was in some sort of trouble. It seems they got interviewed, asked some pretty personal questions about me, and were concerned if everything was OK.

    The US Military is a Big Institution, it needs a lot of employees (particularly considering all the war-mongers in D.C. and Corporate America that cannot rest for more than a minute before launching another war or two) and they cannot watch everyone, every night and day. For you parents with more than 3 or 4 children reading this, I’m sure you know how difficult it is to keep track of kids and what they’re up to. Imagine trying to keep track of 900,000 or more.

    There is a solution, of course, as long as the US taxpayer is willing to double the amount of military personnel and assign a watcher to each individual.

    Either that, or start scaling back the size of the Empire that always resorts to warfare before diplomacy.

  11. skippy

    Meh … Falcon and Snow man incidence …

    From personal experience, both military and private, this stuff happens when the O/E classes get sloppy. Heaps of both are actually substandard and demand for bodies has a bad habit of lowering standards so a warm body can fill the roll.

    Hence why I preferred elite units to the other option because the fail rates were so high to get in, not to mention volunteer, don’t like it and your gone, your stuff is gone, in less than 30 min.

    Private – military contract = no such animal. Pensioners revolt et al and dominate views about civilians being clueless meat bags living in Disney Land preclude such romantic notions. Then again the entire military is a huge segmented and compartmentalized operation, from top to bottom, and depending on MOS can be like night and day. I don’t really know where to start. Differences of O class depending on schools attended, West Point or Citadel per se, family background, region of it, early attendance at bolo badge schools, vs 90 day wonders/ROTC collage butter bars, so its a mixed bag. Enlisted is a hollywood cattle call of all and sundry all thrown together and wheeee it gets interesting at the start. Yet in my days 70s early 80s racists were sorted in boot camp, not by Drill Sargent’s, but the enlisted. Someone say something racist and get put on their backside and the Drill Sargent’s would not blink and eye. That does not mean when some ethnic Military Observation Day came, be it Hispanic or African American things happened and it would get frisky after hours. The point being that afterwards everyone knew the golden rule about having each others back, smack talk was a way of bleeding of environmental biases.

    I still ponder my fate had I signed that paper, put under my eyes, sound proof room back in the day at the central state enlistment facility, poof and your gone ….

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