Editorial: Pentagon takes a leak

The top story in the capitalist media is the arrest of a 21-year-old member of the Air National Guard in Massachusetts over the leak of some 100 “classified” state documents. They were purportedly shared to a chat for gamers on the Discord social media platform and later shared by Russians on Telegram. Airman 1st Class Jack Teixeira has been charged with violating the Espionage Act and faces 10 years in prison for one charge, but more charges could follow.

Teixeira is in no way akin to Daniel Ellsberg, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden or Julian Assange, who took great personal risks to blow the whistle on the war crimes of U.S. imperialism. He has displayed white-supremacist and anti-Semitic tendencies. If the allegations are true, Teixeira might only have been showing off to fellow gamers what he thought he could get away with — removing classified “intelligence” reports, setting them on a kitchen countertop and photographing them to post on Discord.

The Espionage Act was passed by Congress in 1917, soon after the U.S. entered World War I. It has been used only occasionally to charge individuals, primarily those accused of spying for the former Soviet Union. The most famous case, and the only one where the death penalty was imposed, was against Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. These two members of the Communist Party USA were falsely accused of passing on the formula for the atomic bomb to the USSR.

Espionage per se — euphemistically referred to as “intelligence gathering” when it’s done by the capitalist state — is not a crime to the U.S. government, which maintains a massive domestic and international spy apparatus, which includes the FBI and the CIA. From COINTELPRO to the overthrow of democratically elected governments around the world, these “legitimate” government bodies engage in far worse acts than mere espionage. The full cost of these operations, which the working class funds through taxes, is not even public information.

Chairman Fred Hampton, Chicago Black Panther Party leader, murdered in 1969 in COINTELPRO-instigated police raid. For over a century the FBI has engaged in spying and much worse against Black revolutionaries and other progressives. (Photo: Zinn Education Project)

Espionage only violates the 1917 Act when it is allegedly carried out on behalf of an “enemy.” But in this case the “enemy” is an online gaming chat group, Thug Shaker Central. The New York Times, the head mouthpiece of big business, was the first to investigate these leaks. The paper then handed its findings over to the federal government. Why?

Whose interests are involved?

The main questions being asked by the media seem focused on how “someone so young and emotionally insecure, and with racist and anti-establishment views, could have been allowed access to a site containing highly classified intelligence.” (theguardian.com, April 13)

That’s not a problem for working-class and oppressed people. We welcome the rare leak that exposes the machinations of the Pentagon, whose “classified” plans, shrouded in secrecy, are made well in advance and closely guarded under the guise of “national security.” Our class interests are diametrically opposed to those of the capitalist state, which is, as Karl Marx and V.I. Lenin observed, an instrument of bourgeois class rule.

But the leaks could be of interest if they reveal a growing divide between competing factions in the ruling class, one that labor can use to its advantage in its fight against capital. Is there a breakdown in class unity around supporting Ukraine in the U.S.-NATO proxy war against Russia? Some of the leaked documents are said to paint a pessimistic picture of the prospects for a Ukraine victory. But apparently the Ukraine government welcomes this as an argument for additional military assistance from NATO members.

The media finds the leaks “embarrassing,” because some documents show the U.S. spies on its “friends” — good friends, including Israel, South Korea and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — probably to make sure these friends aren’t forgetting who their boss is.

There are many moving parts to this latest, highly publicized development, and the antiwar movement should be in no rush to draw conclusions. The movement can’t be pulled into taking sides with this or that faction of the ruling class. The whole capitalist system is the enemy of peace and social and economic justice.

Abolish the Pentagon death machine! Abolish the FBI, the CIA and the whole repressive state apparatus!

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