According to Politico on Friday, former Vice President Mike Pence believes “the leak endangered troops overseas and that Teixeira should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” Pence was referring to Ukraine leak suspect 21-year-old Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira.
President Joe Biden had previously promised there would be no American troops involved in this conflict.
"If there are U.S. boots on the ground in Ukraine, as these leaked documents indicate, are we closer to war with Russia than we thought?"https://t.co/ZINdMYm1F8
— reason (@reason) April 13, 2023
Remember from the outset Biden cast the US mission in Ukraine as entailing no "boots on the ground." That's now been proven conclusively false. Then again, maybe the US troops confirmed by the leaked documents to be "on the ground" in Ukraine are wearing slippers instead of boots https://t.co/IlNakjZ0Sw pic.twitter.com/IG9czUXUGt
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) April 10, 2023
So maybe this leak really does endanger U.S. troops that aren’t supposed to be in Ukraine in the first place? Or maybe it is good that Americans now know their country has sent U.S. troops to Ukraine, among other things, thanks to this leak?
Fox News’ Jacqui Heinrich reported that the small number of U.S. military personnel deployed to Ukraine are not combat troops but embassy guards or part of the Defense Attache’s office.
US troops are not fighting in Ukraine.
NSC's John Kirby tells Fox there is a small military presence at the Embassy in conjunction with the Defense Attaché's office working on accountability of material – not providing battlefield support. https://t.co/rmqXeVPaTa
— Jacqui Heinrich (@JacquiHeinrich) April 13, 2023
Perhaps. But if so, are these particular troops the ones Pence is worried about the recent leak harming? Or just Western ally troops at large?
Or going further, anytime a classified government document is ever leaked, anywhere, at any time, do the authorities just reflexively say that information endangers troops?
Yes. That’s exactly what they do.
Just ask Edward Snowden.
In early 2014, Republican Congressman Mike Rogers claimed that the whistleblower’s revelations about the U.S. government spying on citizens might hurt military members.,
“Snowden’s real acts of betrayal place America’s military men and women at greater risk,” Rogers declared. “Snowden’s actions are likely to have lethal consequences for our troops in the field.”
This is what they always say.
Pentagon Report Says Snowden's NSA Leaks Risk Lives http://t.co/llXkXkssgE
— US News Weekly (@USNewsWeekly) January 9, 2014
What lives were risked? Who had to pay with their life for Snowden’s act?
That is never said. For leakers, the establishment renders them guilty until proven innocent, which is almost impossible to do.
But sometimes it happens.
Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning
Over a decade ago, American service member Bradley Manning, later Chelsea Manning, worked with Wikileaks’ Julian Assange to share classified documents that revealed ugly secrets about America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both were accused of endangering soldiers and informants’ lives.
Yet, The Guardian reported in July 2013, “The US counter-intelligence official who led the Pentagon’s review into the fallout from the WikiLeaks disclosures of state secrets told the Bradley Manning sentencing hearing on Wednesday that no instances were ever found of any individual killed by enemy forces as a result of having been named in the releases.”
Still, six years after this court ruling, some minds were never going to change.
Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning endangered the lives of American troops in a time of war. Since Assange is used to living inside, I’m sure he’ll be prepared for federal prison. https://t.co/b8NNaNSRIf
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) April 11, 2019
When in 2018, Air Force member and NSA translator Reality Winner leaked classified documents to The Intercept about Russian interference in the 2016 election, her prosecution claimed “the defendant’s unauthorized disclosure caused exceptionally grave harm to our national security.”
The Intercept defended its source and explained in detail why the accusations against Winner that she harmed national security simply didn’t hold up.
Regardless, she was sentenced to five years in prison, the longest for any journalist’s source in history.
When whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 that cast a light on the ugly reality of what was happening in the Vietnam War, he was called “treasonous” and someone who risked harm to soldiers in the field. Henry Kissinger called Ellsberg the “most dangerous man in America” and President Richard Nixon ordered his team to “destroy” that “son of a bitch,” even adding “I don’t care how you do it.”
Later, Ellsberg was roundly praised as being an important figure in changing American minds about that war by making them privy to information the government wanted to keep secret.
Daniel Ellsberg defends national security whistleblowers like Reality Winner and Daniel Hale. "None of them have had the occasion for a fair trial, since they’re not even able to tell the court or the jury why they did what they did," says Ellsberg. https://t.co/lKZkyz9jle
— Democracy Now! (@democracynow) June 20, 2021
Did Daniel Ellsberg endanger American soldiers or national security? In retrospect it’s hard to see how he did, or how not leaking those classified documents would have been preferable.
Whether alleged leaker Jack Teixiera actually endangered lives through his actions remains to be seen. Whether he will continue to be accused of doing such by the most powerful people in the world, does not.