Step into a U.S. military recreation hall at a base almost anywhere in the world and you’re bound to see it: young troops immersed in the world of online games, using government-funded gaming machines or their own consoles. This enthusiasm for gaming has been brought into the spotlight after Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guardsman, was charged with illegally taking and posting highly classified material in a geopolitical chat room on Discord, a social media platform that started as a hangout for gamers.
Foreign intelligence agents could use an avatar in a gaming room to win the confidence of young service members and then connect with them on other social media platforms, according to Dan Meyer, a partner at the Tully Rinckey law firm. The military has responded by creating esports teams to recruit youth, as well as issuing policies to counter extremism in the ranks.
The Defense Department also has procedures in place to protect classified information, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks recently reminded the force that “the responsibility to safeguard classified information is a lifetime requirement for each individual granted a security clearance.”
Peter W. Singer, who wrote a novel about attacks on the U.S. plotted in an online war game, expects that future espionage and plotting will likely find haven in some of these private online worlds. The vast number of sites and private chats make it virtually impossible for the Pentagon to manage, however, so the military has instead focused on training service members never to reveal classified information in the first place.
In the end, the military’s presence in the online game community is an effective way to reach and potentially recruit youth, but the privacy issues and legal limitations of monitoring these games mean that the military can only do so much to ensure classified information is kept secure. The best way to protect classified information is for service members to never reveal it in the first place.
- The enthusiasm military personnel have for gaming brings risk of classified information being leaked.
- Foreign intelligence agents could use avatars in gaming rooms to win the confidence of young service members.
- The military has responded by creating esports teams to recruit youth, as well as issuing policies to counter extremism in the ranks.
- The vast number of sites and private chats make it virtually impossible for the Pentagon to monitor for potential threats or leaks.
- The best way to protect classified information is for service members to never reveal it in the first place.