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All to Know About the Alleged Pentagon Leaks

Thursday, the FBI arrested Jack Douglas Teixeira, who is accused of leaking information from the Pentagon. This ended the first part of a story that is still going on and has many unanswered questions, such as whether the classified papers Teixeira posted online are real or not and how he got them.

As of Friday, this is what we know about the case.

Who is the “leaker?”

Jack Douglas Teixeira, who lives in North Dighton, Massachusetts, and is 21 years old, is being held as a suspect. Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Thursday that he had been detained as part of "an investigation into alleged unauthorized removal, retention, and transmission of classified national defense information."

Pentagon leak suspect shared racist memes, antisemitic ideas | Fortune
Jack Douglas Teixeira

FBI officials took Teixeira into custody without any trouble at his mother's house. The FBI said that its agents were well-armed because they thought Teixeira had more than one gun.

"Since the end of last week, the FBI has been aggressively following up on investigative leads," the FBI said after the arrest. "Today's arrest shows that we will continue to find, pursue, and hold accountable those who betray our country's trust and put our national security at risk."

Teixeira is an Airman First Class in the Massachusetts Air National Guard. He is part of the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base, which is part of Joint Base Cape Cod in the town of Bourne in eastern Massachusetts, about 50 miles from where Teixeira's family lives. His stepfather worked in the same unit until he retired.

The 102nd information Wing's job is to provide "worldwide precision intelligence and command and control along with trained and experienced airmen for expeditionary combat support and homeland security." The people who work there process info from reconnaissance planes and drones, among other things.

According to the BBC, Teixeira joined the Air Force in 2019 and is currently a Cyber Transport Systems journeyman, which means he works on the world communications network for the Air Force. He was on active duty when he reportedly leaked secret information, which could make his punishment worse. He is likely to spend at least ten years in jail.

Teixeira would have had to pass a background check to get the job, since it requires access to classified information. However, most people who have looked into the case don't understand how Teixeira got his hands on papers that were so highly classified.

The UK Daily Mail reported on Friday that an FBI agent's sworn statement said that Teixeira "had held a top secret security clearance since 2021 and that he also had sensitive compartmented access to other highly classified programs."

The suspect's mother has worked for non-profit groups that help soldiers. Every year on soldiers Day, she posts pictures of the family. His dad just got out of the military after 34 years of service. Teixeira's mother posted on Facebook about how proud she was of her son's progress in the Air National Guard. In June 2021, when he finished tech school, she shared a picture of a patriotic balloon tied to the family mailbox as a way to welcome him home.

Neighbors told the BBC that Jack Teixeira was a "good kid who didn't cause trouble." They also said that he had "a good head on his shoulders" and was excited to join the service.

What did he allegedly do?

Teixeira is said to be a gamer who made a group called "Thug Shaker Central" on Discord, a platform for video, voice, and text, during the lockdowns caused by the pandemic of 2020.

Gamers often use Discord to talk to each other while playing games, but it also has chat groups and forums where pictures and videos can be shared along with written messages. It is easy to set up and use; you can even use it in a web browser without running any software, and basic accounts are free.

Friends that the Washington Post talked to said that Teixeira made Thug Shaker Central under the user name "OG," which was one of several accounts he used to talk about guns, Catholicism, libertarian politics, and games. As is the case with many people, his outspoken online image was said to be very different from how he behaved in person.

Teixeira's Discord group was small, and new people could only join if they were invited. At its height, it had about 30 members, including a few teenage boys. They liked making jokes that were not politically correct, and the name of the group came from a gay pornography video. They also liked pushing each other to say even more offensive things. In the discussion, people said some very racist things. The majority of what the group shared, according to the Washington Post, was "memes, offensive jokes, and idle chitchat."

Some of them made up fake names for themselves. One member who lived in Kentucky said he was a Russian navy officer. This was one of the first things that led people to think that Teixeira's group was made or joined by foreign intelligence agents. Members who talked to the Washington Post said they were just a group of rowdy teens looking for online friends during lockdowns. A lot of steam was let off, but some members also talked seriously about the war in Ukraine and prayed together online.

Shortly after the Russian attack of Ukraine started in 2022, Teixeira started putting information on the forum that he said was secret. At first, he just typed up what he said he saw on these papers, but later he added pictures of the originals. Other people in the group say that he turned to taking pictures of the documents when he got tired of having to retype them and when he realized that the other people in the group didn't understand the military and intelligence jargon.

Teixeira is accused of leaking more than 100 supposedly secret papers, many of which were about the war in Ukraine. Reports say that he often used these papers to show that all of the governments involved in the conflict are lying to their people about how the war is going. He is also said to have posted things about other news stories that were talked about in the Thug Shaker Central forum, such as foreign involvement in U.S. elections, U.S. interference in foreign governments, and the Chinese spy balloon saga.

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Why did he allegedly post classified documents?

Teixeira's friends told reporters that he doesn't see himself as a "whistleblower" like Edward Snowden. Snowden was an NSA contractor who said he leaked secret information to protect privacy rights and show that the government was spying too much.

Instead, it seems that Teixeira posted these papers because he wanted to impress and teach other members of his Discord group, especially the younger members, whom he saw as his proteges. Reports say that the blogger, whose name is Teixeira, stepped up his actions when he didn't think other people were paying enough attention to his ideas and the information he was sharing.

"He is very smart. When he put up these papers, he knew what he was doing, of course. A teenage member of Thug Shaker Central told the Washington Post that these leaks were not made by chance.

Someone else said of the shared papers, "He got angry, and he said more than once that if you guys don't interact with them, I'll stop sending them."

One of his friends said that Teixeira wanted his Discord group to "keep kids up to date on real-world problems."

The person who leaked told other people in the group they couldn't talk about what he was writing, and they kept their word, which is surprising when you think about it. Some of them told the media that it took them a while to believe that the secret information he posted was real and not something he made up to make himself look important.

Several members of the group told the media that their platform was full of "irony" and sarcasm, so it was hard to figure out exactly what Teixeira meant. He seems to have made himself out to be a fierce libertarian individualist, a "anti-war Christian" who didn't trust the U.S. government and had a lot of problems with the way it treated Ukraine.

One forum member said that Teixeira regretted joining the military because he realized it was "run by the elite politicians" and warned to "kick [his] ass if I thought about joining."

How did he get caught?

The rule of silence on Thug Shaker Central was very strong until last month, when some members started sharing "OG's" posts and classified documents in other Discord groups, seemingly to impress other users or win arguments with them.

This made the media pay attention to the supposed document leak, which led to a few big headlines and a big search by the media for the original leaker. The open-source investigation website Bellingcat said on Sunday that the New York Times (NYT) started looking into the story after five documents linked to the invasion of Ukraine were shared in Russian channels on the messaging app Telegram.

Some of Teixeira's documents were also posted on the notoriously rowdy 4chan system. One poster used a classified document to win a small fight with the message, "Source this dick, at least my piece of paper is more credible than hearsay."

Bellingcat found another leak of secret information in a fight between Minecraft players on March 4 that ended with one of them saying, "Here, have some leaked documents." Ten papers about the war in Ukraine were shown in the pictures that went with the article. Some of the documents were clearly marked "Top Secret."

The general tone of the most embarrassing national security breach since Edward Snowden is perfectly captured by these angry comments from 4chan and Discord users.

Bellingcat also found papers on a Discord channel for a popular YouTuber from the Philippines. The investigators thought that these were "bizarre" places for such potentially explosive information to be shared, so they kept looking for the original source of the papers until they found the Thug Shaker Central group. The Washington Post then spent about a week trying to find Teixeira.

The Associated Press (AP) says that Teixeira knew he was in trouble after last week's NYT story about his papers. He then got on a video call with other members of Thug Shaker Central to apologize for what might happen to them.

"Basically, what he said was, 'I'm sorry, guys. I prayed every day that this wouldn't happen.'" "I prayed and prayed, and now it's up to God to decide what to do," another member of the group told the AP.

How did he get so much sensitive information?

This is probably the most important question that is still open about Teixeira. How did a young, low-ranking member of the Air National Guard get access to the papers if they are not all fakes?

When Teixeira started sharing pictures of the secret information, Bellingcat noticed that the pictures looked like they were taken with a camera and were not scans or images made by a machine. Some of the photos look like they were changed digitally when they were passed along by other users, especially the Russians on Telegram, but it wasn't clear if any of the original copies made by Teixeira were changed or fakes.

"When asked how such a young service member could have had access to highly sensitive documents, Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said that it was typical for the military to give very young service members high and sometimes grave levels of responsibility, including high levels of security clearance," the AP reported on Thursday.

"From a very young age, we give our members a lot of duty. Ryder said, "Think about a young combat platoon sergeant and the trust and duty we put in those people to lead troops into battle.

The National Guard said, "National security is our top priority, and any attempt to hurt it hurts our values and hurts trust among our members, the public, allies, and partners."

The New York Times said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was "struggling" to explain why his department didn't know about the leaks until they were all over the Internet and caught the attention of reporters.

"Well, they were in the web somewhere. We don't know where it was or who had access at that time. At this point, we just don't know," Austin said. While Austin was talking, the NYT pointed out in a snarky way that more classified papers were being found online by media outlets.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff took action last Friday to put in place "procedures to limit the distribution of highly sensitive briefing documents and to limit attendance at meetings where briefing books with paper copies of the documents were available," according to the New York Times.

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