21 of the most consequential intelligence leaks in US history News
In April 2023, Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira was arrested and charged in connection with leaking classified US intelligence documents related to the Pentagon. On May 19, a federal judge ruled that while Teixeira is awaiting trial, which could potentially see him behind bars for decades, he remains in federal custody. Other recent reports suggest that Teixeira’s anti-government actions were motivated by a deeply racist and bigoted worldview.
The hunt for Teixeira has rekindled the American public’s awareness of intelligence leaks and sparked discussions about the breach’s digital nature. The documents, shared on a Discord server, were online for almost a month before US intelligence agencies became aware of them. This has already prompted the Biden administration to reduce the number of people who have access to classified documents and will certainly lead to further changes.
Far from being a unique phenomenon in the US, intelligence leaks have a long history. The practice of leaking information about the inner workings of government institutions or companies is commonly referred to as “whistleblowing”. Whistleblowing is defined by the Director of National Intelligence as “the lawful disclosure of information which a discloser reasonably believes indicates wrongdoing to an authorized recipient” and is rarely, if occasionally, rewarded.
The Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, recently paid a $279 million reward to a whistleblower for information that helped the agency enforce its ability to regulate the securities market. Of course, not all information leaks are considered lawful, and notwithstanding the light such leaks shed on the innermost workings of the US government, many are criminal, and result in fines and jail terms for those involved.
To provide a historical perspective on whistleblowing and intelligence leaks, Stacker has compiled 21 of the most influential intelligence leaks in US history from historical archives, government reports, and federal agencies.