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Classified US Documents - Leaked and Lost

Edward Murrow

18 Apr 2023

The story of leaked documents, hoaxes, scandals and whistelblowers

The US intelligence community has once again been rocked by a leak of highly sensitive documents, with 21-year-old Jack Teixeira being charged by the US government for allegedly leaking documents on to the internet. Teixeira, an employee of the Massachusetts Air National Guard's intelligence wing, reportedly posted the documents on a private group on the social media platform Discord, which were later leaked onto the wider internet.

The documents contained intelligence on US allies like South Korea and Israel, as well as recent conditions in Ukraine, and come at a sensitive time in Ukraine's ongoing conflict with Russia. This latest leak is just one in a long line of unexpected disclosures of classified US documents.

Some leaks, like the release of the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg in 1971, have been hailed as heroic and changed the course of US history. Other leakers, like Chelsea Manning and Reality Winner, landed themselves in prison for years. The release of the Pentagon Papers is perhaps the most famous and impactful leak of classified documents in US history. Ellsberg, an analyst at the RAND Corporation, leaked a report commissioned by the US military about the Vietnam War that revealed the extent to which the US government had kept details from the public. The New York Times used the documents to publish a blockbuster expose on the scope of America's actions in Vietnam. Ellsberg was initially charged with espionage but a judge dismissed the charges in 1973. He is now considered one of the most important government whistleblowers in US history.

Edward Snowden's 2013 leak of intelligence documents to the Guardian and the Washington Post showed that the US government was illegally collecting citizens' phone data. The trove of documents revealed the inner workings of the secretive National Security Agency and shed significant light on the data collection actions taken by governments around the world. The US government charged Snowden with espionage and theft of government property, and he eventually gained asylum in Russia, where he now lives in exile.

In 2010, Chelsea Manning, then a soldier and analyst in the US Army, began sharing thousands of classified documents with Wikileaks, revealing details about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as diplomatic cables. Manning was ultimately sentenced to 35 years in prison, which was commuted by President Barack Obama in 2017. Reality Winner, a former Air Force member and NSA translator, was arrested and charged in 2017 for providing a classified report to news website The Intercept about Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election. Winner spent four years in prison and was released on probation in 2021.

These leaks demonstrate the impact that whistleblowers and leakers can have on US history and government transparency, but also the risks they face in terms of legal consequences.


As a journalist, it's hard to deny the importance of whistleblowers and leaks in uncovering government wrongdoing and holding those in power accountable. However, it's equally important to recognize when these leaks are being used for political gain or to spread disinformation. Unfortunately, we are currently seeing an alarming trend of government leaks to the media with little to no accountability or verification of the information being disseminated.

One recent example of this is the leak of classified documents regarding the situation in Ukraine. While some of the information may be accurate, there are concerns that the documents may have been altered or even intentionally falsified in an attempt to mislead foreign governments. Yet, despite these concerns, major media outlets have reported on the leaked documents as fact, without verifying their authenticity or the motives behind their release.

Another recent example is the leak of private tax information from several wealthy individuals, including Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk. While the information may be of public interest, the manner in which it was obtained and released raises serious questions about privacy and the rule of law. Yet, instead of investigating the source of the leak and holding those responsible accountable, media outlets have focused solely on the content of the leaked documents.

Perhaps the most egregious example of government leaks in recent years is the Russiagate scandal. For months, leaks from within the government were used to paint a picture of a Trump campaign colluding with the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election. Yet, when the Mueller report was finally released, it found no evidence of collusion or any criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia. Despite this, the media continued to report on the leaked information as if it were fact, damaging the reputations of innocent individuals and furthering a false narrative. It's clear that we need to do better when it comes to leaks and government accountability.

Instead of blindly accepting leaked information, media outlets should be verifying the authenticity and motives behind the leaks, and holding those responsible for unauthorized releases accountable. At the same time, we need to recognize the importance of whistleblowers in uncovering government wrongdoing, and ensure that those who come forward with valuable information are protected from retaliation. Only then can we ensure that leaks are used for their intended purpose, rather than as a tool for political manipulation and disinformation.


This is why the Anonymous Publishing House exists, to provide whistleblowers the safety to share their story without fear. The latest in this series, The Sargo Incident is a great example of this and we encourage you all to follow the rabbit down the hole.

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