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Front Page Talking Points

FOR THE WEEK OF MAY 08, 2023

Military leak charges against young airman prompt review of who has top-secret access and why

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1.gifSummarize an article on the Ukraine war from this week.

2.gifShare a quote from other U.S. government coverage and tell why you pick it.

3.gifHow do newspapers differ from social chat groups in terms of reliability?

Military secrets are in a whole different league than school gossip or family info parents don't want you to spread. It's a crime to violate certain government secrecy, such as by releasing classified documents on a chat group. That's what a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard allegedly did. Jack Teixeira, arrested at his parents' home south of Boston by FBI agents, is accused of putting dozens of secret Pentagon documents online. Some are about the Ukraine war and others show U.S. snooping into the Russian military. He faces two criminal counts that involve taking and transmitting national defense information, and could get up to 15 years in prison if convicted. He's in federal custody to await trial.

Though he was a low-level information technology specialist with the title of Cyber Defense Operations Journeyman at an Air Force base on Cape Cod, Mass., Teixeira (pronounced teh-SHARE-ah) had top-secret security clearance. That apparently allowed access to something called the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System. He allegedly copied restricted information by hand and in photos, then shared it since last October in a small private chatroom about guns and military gear on the Discord app and another on 4Chan that's for gamers. A few users spread them further, triggering an investigation in April after a small number of classified documents surfaced on Twitter and Telegram, another social platform.

The New York Times says his posts actually began in February 2022, soon after the invasion of Ukraine, when "a user profile matching that of Airman Jack Teixeira began posting secret intelligence on the Russian war effort on a previously undisclosed chat group on Discord." The young airman apparently didn't leak for patriotism, principle or money. Rather, his motive seems to have been clout – impressing fellow members of a gaming discussion group. "He's a kid who wants to show off," says Professor Charles Stevenson at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Baltimore.

President Joe Biden recently directed military and intelligence officials "to take steps to further secure and limit distribution of sensitive information." A Pentagon spokesman said it's tightening access to classified information, including by updating distribution lists and reviewing which personnel required what kind of sensitive material. Congressional hearings into the embarrassment are expected.

FBI says: "Today's arrest exemplifies our continued commitment to identifying, pursuing and holding accountable those who betray our country’s trust and put our national security at risk." – April 13 statement

Security expert says: "There's a disturbing pattern of leaks by 20-something contractors or members of the military — not longtime employees of the C.I.A. or the National Security Agency. Perhaps the vulnerability is greater in the military, whose recruiting is less selective. . . . Maybe the problems are more prevalent among members of Generation Z and millennials — especially those obsessed with online gaming — as they might be more disaffected, less inclined to follow rules and more interested in building clout on social media." – Glenn Gerstell, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

Professor says: "It sounds as if it was too easy for too many people to get a high-security clearance and then have access to things they did not need to know." -- Charles Stevenson, foreign policy scholar at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2024

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Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.

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