The true enormity of the real-life consequences that will result from the leaking of sensitive national security secrets by Air Guardsman Jack Teixeira hit me hard the other day, when I received an email from an old friend who served with distinction in the military, in the intelligence services, as a key staffer on Capitol Hill and in the executive branch of our government.
For starters, we must realize that whatever is leaked to social media is being absorbed, scrutinized and analyzed by our enemies and, yes, our allies. Giving our enemies access to our imagery and code-breaking capabilities puts all Americans at risk. Those who are already at risk on the battlefield, of course, will be at greater risk. So, too, will our undercover operatives — “spies” — in hostile countries be in greater danger than ever.
Those at most immediate risk are intelligence sources — human beings — in enemy countries who have provided the United States with invaluable intelligence and information. Having served on the House Intelligence Committee for over nine years, I saw firsthand how deeply embedded some of these sources are in enemy governments, supplying us with the most sensitive and vital information to avert attacks against us or our interests. Studying the information contained in the leaked documents, these governments will be able to do a reverse analysis, and determine who our sources are and subject them and their families to brutal torture and death.
This will be a human catastrophe and an intelligence disaster. Not only will we no longer receive valuable intelligence data from those who are tortured and killed, but this could also lead to other sources being disclosed and neutralized. Equally consequential, it will dissuade others from cooperating with the United States. Similarly, our allies will be reluctant to share intelligence with us, fearful that it will be leaked, with serious consequences for their sources and security.
Leaking national security secrets shouldn’t be part of a left-vs.-right debate. It was indefensible and stupid for Republican U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to say Teixeira was being criticized for being “white, male, Christian, and anti-war,” and wrong for Donald Trump Jr. to describe Teixeira as a “hero.” Similarly, it is wrong for people on the left, like the writer Glenn Greenwald, to argue that Teixeira performed some sort of public service by making life-or-death information available online for America’s adversaries.
Peter King is a former congressman, and a former chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security.