Dr. Larry Burriss: Justice Department in their search for Massachusetts Air National Guard member Jack Teixeira

Jack Teixeira
Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira, right, appears in U.S. District Court in Boston, Friday, April 14, 2023. He is accused in the leak of highly classified military documents as prosecutors unsealed charges and revealed how billing records and interviews with social media comrades helped pinpoint Teixeira. (Margaret Small via AP)

By Dr. Larry Burriss


“Did they or didn’t they,” that is the question.
More specifically, the question is, did “The New York Times” actively help the Justice Department in their search for Massachusetts Air National Guard member Jack Teixeira (((Tuh-share-uh)))?
Along the same lines, I’m not sure what to call this young airman who gave highly classified government documents to his computer gaming group.
He isn’t a spy, because he wasn’t relaying the information to the enemy, with the intent of harming the United States, which is what spies, both foreign and domestic do. He isn’t a whistle blower, since he wasn’t trying to expose government fraud, waste or abuse.


Instead, it appears he was simply trying to impress his friends.
But in doing so he missed one of the fundamental features of cyberspace: one of his friends decided to send the information on to someone else, until it eventually ended up back in the hands of the government, which launched an investigation.
Which goes to prove the old adage, three people can keep a secret, but only if two of them are dead.
Now, let’s be very clear here: Teixeira (((Tuh-share-uh))) certainly did violate the Espionage Act, he did violate his non-disclosure agreement, and his actions have probably seriously damaged the United States.
As for the actual crime itself, well, the Act doesn’t really address the results of his actions, which is what would be needed for some serious jail time.
But back to “The New York Times.”
Both the paper and the government were running parallel investigations, which ended with both parties being at the suspect’s house at the same time. Reporters were there working on the story; agents were there to make an arrest.
In fact, the arrest came sooner than they actually wanted, because they were afraid the reporters would scare the airman off.
In many ways, both spies and reporters do the same thing: they gather, then give away, information someone else wants to keep secret.
And it’s the government’s job to keep those secrets secure, as best it can.
I’m Larry Burriss.

MTSU Dr. Larry Burriss
Larry Burriss, a professor in Middle Tennessee State University’s College of Mass Communication and president of the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame, welcomes the crowd before the induction ceremonies at the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters conference in Murfreesboro for the Tennessee Journalism Hall of Fame. (MTSU photo by Andrew Oppmann)