Here’s an excerpt from a NYT story about a recent DOJ filing in the case of jailed Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira, who was busted for leaking highly classified info in online gamer chatrooms. Turns out he had a much more troubling backstory than initially known:
In an 18-page memo, released before a detention hearing scheduled for Thursday in a Massachusetts federal court, the department’s lawyers argued that Airman Teixeira needed to be detained indefinitely because he posed a “serious flight risk” and might still have information that would be of “tremendous value to hostile nation states.”
Airman Teixeira tapped into vast reservoirs of sensitive information, an amount that “far exceeds what has been publicly disclosed” so far, they wrote.
Prosecutors pointedly questioned Airman Teixeira’s overall state of mind, disclosing that he was suspended from high school in 2018 for alarming comments about the use of Molotov cocktails and other weapons, and trawled the internet for information about mass shootings. He engaged in “regular discussions about violence and murder” on the same social media platform, Discord, that he used to post classified information, the filing said, and he surrounded his bed at his parents’ house with firearms and tactical gear.
The report said Teixeira was also known for making “racial threats” and that local cops flagged him as a risk when he applied for a firearm ID in Massachusetts. So how the fuck did none of this come up before he was given top secret security clearance?
When I was a university student, I once snagged a coveted job as a seasonal worker at the local UPS facility. It paid the princely sum of $8 an hour (Teamsters!), which was WAY more than I earned as a waitress at the Pizza Hut off I-75.
I had to fill out an extensive application, and UPS conducted a background check, verified that I graduated from the high school I said I graduated from and that I was enrolled as a student as I claimed I was. They contacted my past employers (including my dad!) and character references before letting me in the building to load and unload packages from trucks.
That was my only brush with a “deep” background check, so now I’m wondering if UPS is tougher than U.S. intelligence services or whoever hands out top secret security clearances. How did this guy slip through the cracks? This incident, along with Trump absconding with boxes of top secret documents, makes me think the U.S. national security infrastructure needs a major overhaul. Maybe they should ask UPS.
Remember, he came from a “patriotic” family.
I suspect that there were some RWNJs in the chain of command above him who didn’t find a lot of that behavior to be alarming.
If I had to make a guess, I would say there are two factors:
It’s miraculous that they caught him “just” for stealing and publishing top-secret documents!
Boomers’ view of IT nerds were formed by the Revenge of the Nerds moves of the 80s. Harmless folks.
I have had to undergo background checks to get admitted to the bar and also to drive trucks loaded with hazardous materials. I don’t think Texieira would pass either, and they’re not supposed to be as rigorous as a security clearance.
Yeah, I’m thinking “bullets dodged” getting this asshole behind bars. Here’s hoping DOJ unloads their entire magazine of possible charges into him, because I do not want him walking free, basically ever.
Now Betty, about your gov-nah.
@Baud: How about a nice game of chess?
When I was in high school (1990’s), there was a neighbor kid who was a big Lineman / football player, and a sadistic bully. He would hunt down me (sometimes) and my friends (more often) to kick the shit out of us, sometimes literally kicking in the face. One summer we found squirrels and rabbits crucified to tree trunks behind our row of houses and burnt up. We all knew who did it. He was recruited to the Navy out of high school and became a fighter pilot. He’s a war hero now. We all know he’s a literal sociopath who enjoys killing and inflicting harm on others. The Navy thought they could use that part of him, and I hope they’re able to control it a little bit.
I don’t know that a propensity for violent thought or violent remarks, or racial bigotry, are disqualifying for a security clearance, and maybe even less so if he’s out and loud about it.
Did he work for a contractor?
Or, the actual government?
If the actual government and they didn’t do due diligence in a background check….that’s bad news.
Mr WereBear was not allowed to visit Canada without prior permission. And he didn’t get thrown out of high school…
I couldn’t, and should not have, get a “confidential clearance”!
@Balconesfault: Boys will ALWAYS be boys when they are RWNJ.
It’s hard to tune out the noise. His racist and violent postings probably made him unsuitable for many positions, but it’s hard to see that they would have predicted this kind of violation.
What I find kind of amazing is that affirmatively accessing so many files related to a single subject did not trigger red flags, even if he did have administrator privileges.
I have clients in the health care space that handle incredible volumes of data and they routinely investigate “suspicious” patterns in data access, and demand explanations (which usually involve relatives, ex-partners, or ongoing divorce proceedings).
@Old School: THAT’s the part that I don’t get. This guy — a state Air National Guardsman — seems to have had access to stuff WAY beyond his need to know.
It’s the Old Boys Network, old boy. Quite.
Sister Machine Gun of Quiet Harmony
Exactly. Some of those “patriotic” family members worked on the same base. Nepotism opens a lot of doors.
@rikyrah: No, he was an AF reservist assigned to an intelligence unit. Someone in the MA ANG has some splainin’ to do.
I seem to recall something about his family being military? A stepfather contractor or something? Older siblings in the service? I think that they should be looking at the family, friends, of course his chain of command and possibly even his ROTC and National Guard units. Earlier on some people here thought he was being used to get the information leaked. I thought that they meant either his superiors or family.
That he was doing that in his home is deeply troubling.
It used to be that the authorities would encourage troublemakers to enlist in the hope and expectation that it would straighten them out. Sometimes it seemed to work? Maybe people thought the armed forces was the place for this kid without thinking things through.
I don’t think everyone understands what data an IT person can get in. I know I don’t get it.
@rikyrah: He’s Airman Teixeira.
Read somewhere his immediate superiors are being investigated.
Reporters go to Trump rallies so we don’t have to.
I thought security clearances were more than participation trophies.
@rikyrah: Air National Guard is the Military. Not a contractor.
Joint Base Cape Cod (post-BRAC) is where all the eastern Mass, RI, CT National Guard (Camp Edwards) and Air National Guard do their weekends and 2-weeks active. The Coast Guard Air patrols and Space Force also operate there.
Prior to this mess, it was a big IT support spot for DIA. That function has been, ahem, removed.
The BBC says,
@trollhattan: Does Airman O’Malley and Rodriguez know about this guy?
When I was in the 9th grade (14 years old) some friends and I were on a public golf course after dark (8:30 pm) A cop stopped and shined his spot light on us, we flipped him the bird. As we were leaving 2 more cop cars showed up, and arrested us for “Obscene Language in a Public Place) we were put on juvy probation for 3 months and that was it. When I joined the Army in 1967 8 years later it showed up on my background check.
Back in the late 80’s, I got a my first job after college at a defense contractor where a Secret (not even Top Secret) clearance was required. It took nine months for my clearance to go through.
By the way, I have never been charged with leaking classified info.
@Nate Combs: him having his destructiveness channeled as a fighter pilot doesn’t trouble me, rather it’s after he retires and gets a job as a Fox news commentator or worse yet a GOP Congressional candidate in a red district that worries me.
@Jager: kid, have you ever been arrested?
I would hope so. And I can only assume if he has reasonably effective counsel that his defense is going to consist of trying mightily to pin this on the incompetence of those superiors and argue that they were so derelict in their duty to secure highly classified material that who could blame a naive 19-year old for assuming that it wasn’t that serious a violation to take the stuff home and share it with his gun-nut gamer choad friends?
Not sure if that’s a legit defense or not, but probably all he’s got at this point.
The problem is that IT admins by necessity have access to a ton of stuff. They control the horizontal; they control the vertical. What that really means is that IT staff need to be vetted to the highest standards. It also means they ought to treat anything those guys do the same way they would treat someone in charge of maintaining physical classified documents. So, for example, when they’re connecting to a TS-SCI server, they should always have to work in teams, and those teams should be shuffled.
ICYMI, DC Circuit has ruled that Pence has to testify before the 1/6 grand jury.
David 🌈 ☘The Establishment☘🌈 Koch
the military uses a highly sophisticated security screen (link)
@Roger Moore: Yes and as noted above, access should be logged and reviewed, at least on a random basis.
And it appears this had been going on for some time? Like, this is a serious systemic problem …
Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?
Here’s one way it happened:
My daughter’s husband was trained in military intelligence work. Went to Iraq twice while in his 20s, came back and got the USA to fund a college degree — the only way he was ever going to get one without going into debt.
While working on that degree, he also worked for a couple of outfits that contract background checks. He’s LIVID over this story.
We’re going to find out exactly what happened here.
@Jager: You were RA!!!!! (me too)
@Hitchhiker: I doubt I will be part of the “We” who finds out exactly what was going on. There are political and practical reasons not to make that public.
From what I read, he had run-ins with school officials, was denied a gun permit, which he did get later, but none of it rose to level of something glaring like an arrest. It’s basically stuff that wouldn’t shake out in criminal background check or would be hard to know, if you weren’t involved.
Second, IIRC, the SF-86 form everyone fills for a security clearance requires the applicant to list references they want the security service to interview. They aren’t going to cold call the assistant principal at as high school to see, if he had discipline problems.
Third, there seems to be a glaring hole in reviewing social media posts for a security clearance. I’m not sure how to solve this, because there’s probably some right to privacy issues concerning government reading social media posts.
He was IT not in a functional partition of intelligence work. IT people take care of all of the data and network. Their clearances should be tougher to get, not easier. Snowden was IT and was not assigned to a job as a security analyst, but managed the system and also stole broad intelligence information on different topics because it was on the computer system that he was managing.
@gene108: From the reporters I’ve seen tweeting out the court documents (e.g. Aric Toler of Bellingcat), when he went back for his gun permit, he cited his TS clearance, and argued that they’d looked over all his high school documentation, including the various acts that got him in trouble back them. At least, that’s the argument he made to the gun permit folks.
I’m an old, but I can’t understand how there’s a right to privacy for social media posts that are open to the world to read. I can appreciate the desire for legal constraints to regulate the government activities, and private employers too, but not a full fledged right to privacy.
@Balconesfault: Yup. The Air Force in particular is notorious for being a haven for Evangelical Christian Fascists. Some high ranking officers looked at this guy and said “yeah, he’s our kind of guy”.
I’ve said it before, but if you want a job in the Government where there are TS documents, you gotta get a TS the old fashioned way. That certainly wipes out Trump and just about all members of his Family. Probably would take out Airman Texeira too, who apparently got no investigation at all beyond: White? Reichwing? Here’s your TS, buddy.
@WaterGirl: Saw that earlier and I’m glad that you reposted it. If there is one thing, I can fault Biden for is not insisting to undo everything trump did.
He joined the military as a teenager, so maybe they should have done that before giving him access to highly classified intel.
The Kropenhagen Interpretation
@JPL: Well, not everything Trump did was bad. For example he…uh…
…went along with a couple non-controversial bipartisan measures?
@Nate Combs: Jeebus, what a psycho.
@patrick II: Based on my own experience during my so-called career in IT, it is difficult, but possible, for a systems support person to be given the necessary access to system files, but not be given access to application files that are not necessary to his/her job. My employer (who shall remain unnamed) was lazy and gave me access to everything — access that I did not want and should not have been granted. I’d bet that that lazy type of security administration is widespread — including in the military.
@Baud: Also central to the avoidance of having a social media account of my own. My presumption is once I hit “send” it’s a forever thing and I just don’t trust myself. (You call a former boss a Nazi just once….)
@Baud: The problem is that most Social Media allows for anonymous posting to some extent. Even with Twitter and Facebook, anyone can use a burner email and then set up accounts under fake names. I still have a FB account but it has no publicly available info about who I am. I have to actually text people I want to friend and say “hey, this guy is me, please accept the friend request.”
I don’t think there is an inherent right to privacy in publicly posted social media. More importantly, there’s no right to get a security clearance. If you want one, you have to let the government look through your personal information to see if you’re a security risk. They already look through a whole bunch of personal stuff; it’s not too big an ask to let them look through your social media posts, too.
@Citizen Alan: Oh, so you’re Basketball Jones III!
The military has a reputation for straightening our unruly teens (like our Blogfather), so maybe they don’t worry about high school records that much?
@rikyrah: I don’t think he was a contractor, but even if he was…Edward Snowden was a contractor, so that shouldn’t be an excuse in 2023 (it shouldn’t have been then either, but there’s no attempt to excuse it with that example).
Right, and anonymity is an important right and protects privacy. But if people post public posts under their own name, I don’t see how they can claim a privacy right.
I’m don’t know anything about the military, but he was given the clearance by someone who saw potential in him and encouraged him to groom other her psychos in online chat rooms, like organized white supremacists do, right out in the open, hiding in the violent white power blind spot of our violent white power security structure.
My laughable guess is he isn’t in a gang with a name and that’s why he started Thug Shaker Central, but the person who was recruiting him for bigger things is in a gang with a name and that guy is who gave this guy his clearance.
I have a sinking feeling that at some point not having a social media presence will be seen as a sign you have something to hide.
@Roger Moore: You may be right, especially a LinkedIn account.
Pseudonymity of social media accounts isn’t necessarily a problem. You just require the applicant to list their social media accounts. If another active account turns up during the clearance process, that’s a sign they aren’t being honest. Yes, there’s a chance you won’t find the secret account they use to post all their pro-Stalin memes, but that’s an inherent risk of the clearance process.
The Moar You Know
How did he have a clearance? Simple. They don’t check social media as part of the process. At all.
That needs to happen.
@Roger Moore: I once worked with a guy who (long ago) invented something called “entity resolution”. These days, there are companies like Palantir that do it, too. Probably lots of others. The idea is, you take piles and pile of records from many sources, cross-correlate, and discover when (e.g.) two different drivers’ licenses are associated with different credit cards, but when they take plane flights, they end up using the same frequent flyer number. That’s your indication that those two “entities” actually “resolve to the same real-world person”.
Anyway, that stuff gets used to find terrosts and criminals and such: people who want to not be identified with their real identity. But it would seem like an obvious thing to use it to find pseudonymous identities, based on, well, the various mistakes people make (e.g. the way that Elon inadvertently outed his burner Twitter account).
I would hope that the military is doing this sort of thing during their background checks: I mean, they’re doing it to all of us, all the time, in the name of the GWOT.
@gene108: Okay, maybe let them drive tanks on a base, but handing unruly teens access to top secret info that can compromise allies and sources seems unwise. I don’t understand how the civil agency in Massachusetts that handles firearm IDs vetted this dude more thoroughly than the DoD. Something seems off!
I read somewhere that they do not monitor the online presence of folks after they get their security clearance unless there is a reason.
I’m guessing that might change soon.
The Moar You Know
@Tim Curtin: the rest of your comment makes that blindingly obvious. Not how it works.
@Chetan Murthy: About twenty years ago I dated a guy who made up an identity to get a grocery loyalty card because he didn’t want to give out personal info. Then he bought groceries with a debit card. Dumbass.
That is interesting. It’s not as serious a matter, but it seems like something that could be done to look for sock puppets.
Speak english, please. :-)
@raven: RA, yep.
“You can swear at me all you want, and you can give me the finger too, but you better hope I never hear or see you do it.”
-Sgt E5 R. Manley, D3-2 Fort Leonard Wood Missouri.
(He recommended my Asst Squad leader for NCO Academy based on one line he heard while we ran an infiltration practice session. Johnson said, “Pvt. Hughes, why you bring yo mamma’s fat ass to basic god damned training” Sgt Manley broke up laughing and had to walk away to regain his composure.
@WaterGirl: Guessing Massachusetts Air National Guard.
@patrick II: agree clearances should be tougher for IT, but precisely because IT people CAN have — and abuse — access to all sorts of stuff they shouldn’t, the clearance process CAN’T be the entire solution. It’s single-point failure.
The only solution I can see is burdensome process. They should log all access themselves, as well as the system logging it. Logs should be scrutinized and compared — randomly, to reduce cost and burden somewhat — and IT people should be questioned in detail about why they accessed what they accessed — not out of a presumption of guilt, but to uncover any discrepancies. It should just be a regular part of the job: “okay, you accessed A,B, and C on server X on date D — why? who asked you to, or told you to? was there an issue? is there a ticket?” Expensive, bureaucratic, and wearisome for everyone, but the cost of NOT doing something like that is what we’re seeing now.
@eclare: @WaterGirl: ayup
@eclare: Specifically, think he was at Otis. I only know the joint having been involved in some environmental investigations there. From three time zones away.
@Betty Cracker: It’s not a civil agency, it’s a small town Chief of Police. They almost always approve, and when they don’t it’s because they know.
Your offer is acceptable. For all of you.
This would be part of a larger pattern, of people who are there to see to it that jokers like this kid are PUT in place. The thing he wasn’t meant to do was show everybody on Discord… or, not those particular people. I daresay he was meant to get info of some kind and show somebody, but the way these things are done these days is in a sort of disconnected way.
It’s a lot like Trump being put into the Presidency to be a wrecking ball. These are not Boris Badenov super-spies, not Bill Haydons. That isn’t how it’s done today. People are put in place who clear the way for other people who are more loose cannons, and still other people are there to try and get useful stuff off the loose cannons while they’re operational.
This kid was disposable. There will be others. The question is, who’s clearing the way for them, and who’s loitering around that discord server who isn’t a kid gamer. They don’t have to make every leak work, they just need to prepare conditions for them, and then go fishing for a year or six.
@WaterGirl: My above point exactly. Did he also put this kid’s superiors in place?
Further, what an amazing coincidence that this dumb-ass narcissist is suddenly interested in changing security clearances. Surely this is his own idea and something which has always been of deep and abiding interest to Donald.
@bbleh: Massachussetts – Air National Guard
that animal torture stuff is a BIG red flag…sociopath/psychopath…I’m surprised he didn’t turn out to be a serial killer, but maybe bombing satisfied some of that instinct…
Anonymous At Work
I had had questions on this to Adam about a week ago. In thinking about it more, I believe that a READ ONLY or Incidental Security Clearance system is required if you’re going to have janitors, technicians, repair-persons of all stripes in areas where “Oops, classified info left out” would endanger the workers.
Why this hasn’t happened, beyond me.
Villago Delenda Est
I understand why he needed the clearance; it’s how he got the clearance in the first place that I wonder about. When I was still in ROTC, I was asked about a fellow cadet and his political proclivities. He had a pretty firm interest in National Socialism (the agent asked me about this and I elaborated on what I knew about it) and that seemed to me, at the time (late 70s) to be something of concern.
With Twitter at least, one also needs a phone number, which needs to be a burner phone (acquired anonymously) or equivalent if one is concerned about retribution, especially from governments.
Then every step after careful anonymous account creation requires 100 percent discipline and attention to detail; one must create a compartmentalized persona just for posts, and not use any material ever expressed online by a doxxable account attached to onself. And use a hard-to-follow chain of proxies 100 percent of the time when accessing.
Not easy. Doable, though.
@Bill Arnold: The person you need for this is a woman who has had a stalker. I have a friend who uses a pseudonym for contract work, sang karaoke under the name, has no social media accounts, and is very careful about who she lets have her real name. I went out with her several times before I knew it.
Paul in KY
@Baud: Good point.
Paul in KY