scroll to top arrow or icon

{{ subpage.title }}

Undated photo posted by Jack Teixeira\'s mother on Veterans Day Nov 11, 2021 on her Facebook page.

Photos: Facebook via EYEPRESS Images via Reuters Connect

What We're Watching: Pentagon leaker suspect arrested, Gershkovich swap chatter, Uruguay’s free trade ambitions

And the suspected leaker is ...

On Thursday afternoon, the FBI arrested a suspect in the most damaging US intel leak in a decade, identifying him as Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard. Teixeira was reportedly the leader of an online gaming chat group, where he had been allegedly sharing classified files for three years. If convicted of violating the US Espionage Act, he could spend the rest of his life behind bars. Teixeira will appear in a Boston court on Friday.

We know that the chat group was made up of mostly male twentysomethings that loved guns, racist online memes, and, of course, video games. We don’t know what motivated the leaks, what other classified material the leaker had, or whether any of the docs were divulged to a foreign intelligence agency.

Arresting a suspect, though, is just the beginning of damage control for the Pentagon and the Biden administration. Although the content of the leaks surprised few within the broader intel community, many might not have realized the extent to which the US spies on its allies.

Uncle Sam obviously would’ve preferred to have intercepted the message this scandal sends to America’s enemies: US intel is not 100% secure.

Read moreShow less

Reporter for U.S. newspaper The Wall Street Journal Evan Gershkovich, detained on suspicion of espionage, leaves a court building in Moscow, Russia March 30, 2023.

REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

What We’re Watching: Moscow’s muscle flex, Bolsonaro’s return, Lasso losing his grip

Russia nabs US journalist

A Wall Street Journal reporter apprehended by Russia’s notorious Federal Security Bureau in the city of Yekaterinburg Thursday has appeared in court in the Russian capital on espionage charges, which the Journal has dismissed as bogus.

Evan Gershkovich, who works out of the Moscow bureau for the New-York based outlet and earlier this week penned a bombshell feature on how sanctions are hurting the Russian economy, was on a reporting trip when he was seen being escorted into an FSB van in scenes reminiscent of the Soviet era. Indeed, he’s the first US journalist to have been arrested by Russian authorities since Ronald Reagan was in the White House. The Committee to Protect Journalists has demanded his immediate and unconditional release.

The Kremlin claims that the 31-year-old reporter was “collecting state secrets” on behalf of the US government. But many analysts say this is likely an attempt by President Vladimir Putin to flex his muscles and gain some leverage amid reports that Russia is stalling in Ukraine, with one US general claiming that ongoing fighting in Bakhmut is a “slaughter-fest” for Moscow.

Putin may be looking to secure some sort of trade deal with the US, like he did last fall when Washington agreed to swap WNBA star Brittney Griner, held in a Russian prison, for Viktor Bout, a Russian citizen and notorious arms dealer held in US custody since 2008. But Griner was held for the lesser offense of possessing a small amount of weed oil. Espionage is a whole other ballgame.

We’ll also be watching to see whether US media outlets now respond by pulling reporters out of Russia. After all, the US State Department has urged all US citizens to leave the country fearing a situation just like this.

Read moreShow less
Russia won Brittney Griner prisoner swap, Putin still losing
- YouTube

Russia won Brittney Griner prisoner swap, Putin still losing

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, there. Ian Bremmer here. A Quick Take, wanted to opine for just a couple of minutes on Brittney Griner, who is back in the United States a free woman, and we're of course, happy to be able to announce that. But what do we think about this deal and what it means going forward?

Of course, we're happy whenever an American citizen is released when they've been unjustly held, in this case, essentially hostage for 10 months by an authoritarian Russian government with no rule of law. Yes, she had committed a crime. She brought in some hashish that she was vaping with, and that was a very stupid act in Russia. But the idea that she was going to get nine years in jail for it, no, absolutely not. This was, of course, the Russians making a point with an American celebrity and wanting to juice that orange for as much as they possibly could. And they did.

Read moreShow less

Viktor Bout is escorted by Thai police as he arrives at a criminal court in Bangkok in 2010.

REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Meet the Merchant of Death

WNBA star Brittney Griner has now landed in the United States after Russia agreed to free her from a nine-year prison term for drug possession in exchange for Viktor Bout, a Russian citizen and notorious arms dealer known as the "Merchant of Death." Who is he, and why is he worth so much to Moscow that Vladimir Putin agreed to trade such a prized bargaining chip as Griner to get him back?

Read moreShow less

US basketball player Brittney Griner sits inside a defendants' cage before the court's verdict in Khimki outside Moscow, Russia.

REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina

Griner freed, but in exchange for Merchant of Death — who won?

Russia freed WNBA star Brittney Griner on Thursday in a direct prisoner swap with convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. Big win for US President Joe Biden, but also for President Vladimir Putin. Who got the shorter end of the stick? On the one hand, the Biden administration could hardly afford the bad optics of allowing a prominent Black female athlete to be locked up in a Russian penal colony for nine years. Still, the US president can say he kept his promise to Griner's family to do everything in his power to get her out of Russia. On the other hand, Putin traded someone who got busted for just carrying a CBD vial in her luggage for someone who deserved to be called the "Merchant of Death." What's more, the Kremlin got Bout without having to give up Paul Whelan, a former US marine who's been behind bars in Russia since 2018 for alleged spying. Also, there are plenty of Americans locked up under awful conditions in other countries around the world.

What do you think? Let us know here.

Subscribe to our free newsletter, GZERO Daily