The first charge alone, “unauthorized removal and retention…,” carries a prison term of up to 10 years - as well as fines - for anyone who "copies, takes, makes or obtains or attempts to copy, take, make or obtain" a variety of government documents.
If this sounds familiar, it is. Donald John Trump, who is accused of doing essentially the same thing (we don’t yet know if he also transmitted national defense information—he did that at least once directly from the Oval Office…to Russians!), in contrast gets to run around free, raging and ranting about his imaginary grievances and victimhood. The Mar-a-Lago documents case, which on its face appears to be a slam-dunk, is under what seems like eternal investigation.
We should now discard the much hackneyed phrase: “no man is above the law.” Trump clearly occupies an exalted, albeit completely unwarranted, position somewhere in the justice wild blue yonder, far above the law.
The Teixeira case also brings to light several troubling features of both the U.S. classification regime and our intelligence system:
First, how did Teixeira get past the extensive background checks that are a prerequisite to being granted a Top Secret clearance? When he went through this vetting process in 2019, he already had a history of racist and anti-Semitic utterances on social media.
Second, many of the secrets the young airman leaked on social media call into question why they required classification. The revelation, for example, that there is infighting among Russian military and political officials regarding the Ukraine invasion has been widely publicized by many news outlets. Many of his exposés are stuff you can learn simply by reading newspapers and watching the nightly news.
Third, why does the Massachusetts Air National Guard need to know this stuff? The vast majority of its members are, after all, merely weekend warriors. A 21-year old equivalent of an Army PFC doesn’t come close to meeting the “need-to-know” threshold.
Fourth, why did it take eight months and a New York Times story to discover that the very same website used by the military as a recruiting medium was home to these leaks? What happened on 9/11 should have been more than enough of a wake-up call for our disconnected intelligence community to get its act together.
Fifth, do we really need 1.7 million people with Top Secret clearances? That humungous number virtually guarantees that there will be numerous security risks.
What all this means is this:
- Our classification regime is a hot mess and needs to be cleaned up immediately. A government that stamps “confidential,” “secret” or “top secret” on too many documents loses sight of the information that really needs to be kept secret. That means declassifying a ton of information that is not worthy of classification, drastically reducing the number of people cleared to see classified information, and instituting a monitoring system that can quickly identify security breaches.
- If it is this clear-cut to quickly arrest Airman Jack, then Special Counsel Jack Smith should stop dithering around with the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation and bring Donald Trump to justice without any additional delay.
April 23, 2023