In a surprising turn of events, a 21-year-old Air National Guardsman named Jack Teixeira was arrested by federal investigators on Thursday, accused of releasing highly sensitive documents online containing intelligence that could damage U.S.-ally relations and reveal weaknesses in the Ukrainian military amid its ongoing war with Russia.
The documents were posted — pictured crumpled up, as if hastily taken — in a chat on the Discord room where Teixeira was the administrator. Discord is a social platform in which users can find communities with shared interests and is popular among younger audiences and gamers. In Teixeira’s Discord channel, Thug Shaker General, about 20 young men and teenagers bond over different topics, including video games, international politics, guns, and racist memes.
As Teixeira was arrested in North Dighton, Massachusetts, the FBI searched his home for other illicitly held documents. Those that he leaked contained information including South Korea’s uncertain position on supplying Ukraine with ammunition, maps of Ukrainian air defenses, conversations between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his top military official, and statements about the Israeli intelligence agency as it advocated for intelligence officials and citizens to “protest against divisive judicial reforms proposed by the government.” One of the documents seemed to be doctored in favor of Russia, minimizing its casualties in Ukraine. Some of the documents were barely over a month old.
On Monday, when National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby was asked if the threat to national security had been contained, he replied, “We don’t know. We truly don’t know.”
Teixeira is a part of the 102nd Intelligence Wing of the military, trained as a “cyber transport systems journeyman,” a supportive position in the Air Force communications system. Neighbors stated that they sometimes hear him firing weapons in the woods behind his house, and his mother said that he recently changed his phone number after working a few night shifts at the base in Cape Cod.
On Friday, Teixeira was arraigned in a federal court in Boston, according to a Justice Department official, for alleged crimes under the Espionage Act.
As a junior enlisted airman, many are concerned as to how and why he had access to such important documents and how long he had been sharing them with this online group. Months ago, another user in the chat who goes by “O.G.” uploaded hundreds of pages worth of intelligence briefings. “O.G.” lectured the users on the importance of staying informed about world events, then returned back to the original topic of video games. A Discord spokesperson stated that “in regards to the apparent breach of classified material, we are cooperating with law enforcement.”
This fallout of the breach is providing many with perspective on just how secure their information is and the fragile potential of its infringement.
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