Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira, 21, arrested in US intel leaks
It’s the game geek leak.
Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira was arrested at his mother’s house Thursday after being implicated in the disclosure of dozens of sensitive US intelligence documents to an online community devoted to video games and guns — the biggest national security breach in at least 10 years.
Law enforcement officers swarmed the home in North Dighton, Mass. about 20 miles east of Providence, RI, hours after multiple reports sketched out Teixeira’s key role in a Discord channel called “Thug Shaker Central,” where the files first popped up earlier this year.
News helicopter footage showed Teixeira, clad in red basketball shorts and a gray t-shirt, surrendering to camo-clad FBI agents. He was scheduled to make an initial appearance in Boston federal court Friday, where Attorney General Merrick Garland said the airman would face charges connected to “alleged unauthorized removal, retention, and transmission of classified national defense information.”
Air Force records listed Teixeira’s occupation as a Cyber Transport Systems Journeyman, responsible for the upkeep of hardware for military communications networks, including cabling and hubs.
While an anonymous defense official told the Associated Press Teixeira would have had a higher level of security clearance in that role due to his responsibility for ensuring network protection, questions are sure to be asked about how such a young service member — not even an intelligence analyst — could have access to such sensitive information.
Teixeira, who joined the military in September 2019 and whose promotion to Airman 1st Class was announced this past July by the Air National Guard’s 102nd Intelligence Wing, is believed to be a major figure in the “Thug Shaker Central” Discord channel — which the Washington Post reported was populated by about two dozen hard-core fans of a YouTube content creator known as Oxide.
Following The Post’s latest coverage on the US intelligence leaks scandal
Oxide, an Army soldier who reportedly started making videos of game clips as a teenager before transitioning to reviews and showcases of weapons, ammo and body armor, told the Washington Post he banned several users from his main Discord — including the denizens of “Thug Shaker Central” — more than a year ago for “annoying” habits, including posting racist comments as well as a meme video taken from a gay porn film that gave the splinter group its name.
After their initial appearance on “Thug Shaker Central,” the classified pages gained wider circulation after they were posted on a second Discord channel linked to YouTuber “wow_mao” on Feb. 28.
They then spread even quicker when a member of that channel posted some of the documents to a bigger channel called “Minecraft Earth Map” on March 4.
Sensitive information relating to the war in Ukraine — including potential vulnerabilities in that country’s air defense capabilities and details of Kyiv’s military positions — as well as events in Israel and South Korea was included in the leaks, triggering international concern.
US officials were alerted last week when some of the Ukraine-related documents surfaced on Russian Telegram channels.
The Washington Post reported that Teixeira was known to his fellow Discord channel members by the handle “jackthedripper,” though some also referred to him in interviews as “OG.”
One member of the channel insisted to the New York Times the leaker wasn’t a whistleblower and that he hadn’t meant for the sensitive materials to end up anywhere other than their group chat.
<br>Here’s what we know about Jack Teixeira and the leaked docs:
Who is Teixeira?
A 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guardsman, an enlisted member of the 102nd Intelligence Wing located at Joint Base Cape Cod.
Why was he arrested?
The arrest came after the Teixeira was identified as a person of interest in the case, which was opened last week when some of the shared documents were discovered on Russian Telegram channels.
Reports indicate Teixeira was a prominent figure in The “Thug Shakers Central” Discord group, where the documents initially appeared.
What information is in the leaked documents?
The classified documents from the Department of Defense contained key information about America’s espionage efforts against Russia, as well as details about Ukraine’s military planning.
How were the documents leaked?
The classified pages were disseminated on the small Discord channel, Thug Shaker Central, linked to fans of the YouTuber Oxide.
Learn more about the leaks and the channel Thug Shaker Central
“This guy was a Christian, anti-war, just wanted to inform some of his friends about what’s going on,” one member told the paper.
“We have some people in our group who are in Ukraine. We like fighting games, we like war games.”
But another member told the Washington Post: “He’s a smart person. He knew what he was doing when he posted these documents, of course. These weren’t accidental leaks of any kind.”
At least one of the members said the leaker had access to the intelligence materials through his work, though none of them would identify him by name.
Discord denizens pointed to how the leaker took images of the classified documents to share in their chat – and that some of the furniture in the background matched items visible in his video chats.
Separately, the Times reported that details of the interior of Teixeira’s childhood home in pictures posted to social media appeared to match items in the background of some of the photographed secret documents.
How could a young, low-ranking troop have gotten access to so many critical secrets?
There are several possible explanations:
- The Pentagon regularly issues security clearances to troops as young as 18
- Cyber transport systems journeymen can require higher clearance levels
- His unit may have required access to foreign intelligence
- The Pentagon has previously activated National Guard units to support Ukraine war efforts
Images of the classified documents reviewed by The Post indicated they were copies of briefing slides that had been photographed on a desk or table before being shared online.
In at least two photographs, a brochure with apparent information about a rifle scope can be seen in the background.
Teixeira’s arrest came just hours after President Biden told reporters in Ireland that federal investigators were “getting close” to uncovering the leaker’s identity – and insisted he wasn’t overly concerned about the breach.
“There’s a full-blown investigation going on, as you know, with the intelligence community and the Justice Department, and they’re getting close but I don’t have an answer,” Biden told reporters in Dublin.
“I’m not concerned about the leak, I’m concerned that it happened but there is nothing contemporaneous that I’m aware of that is of great consequence.”
With Post wires