What we know about Jack Teixeira—and the Discord group where he allegedly leaked Ukraine war secrets


Federal agents arrested a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts National Guard named Jack Teixeira at a home in a small southeastern Massachusetts town on Thursday for allegedly leaking highly sensitive documents about the war in Ukraine, apparently stemming from interactions he had in a Discord group with a like-minded group of teenagers who claimed he just wanted to keep them informed about world events.

This photo illustration created Thursday shows the Discord logo and Jack Teixeira reflected in an image of the Pentagon in Washington. FBI agents arrested a young national guardsman suspected of being behind a major leak of sensitive US government secrets—including about the Ukraine war. (Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

Key Facts

Teixeira—who was arrested “without incident” in the town of Dighton—graduated in 2020 from Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School, which serves two small towns near Providence, Rhode Island, the school superintendent told local news outlet WBZ.

He was an enlisted member of the 102nd Intelligence Wing, joining the Massachusetts Air National Guard in 2019 according to CNN, and he was promoted to airman first class in July, according to a post on the unit’s Facebook page.

It is not clear what level of security clearance Teixeira had, but CNN reported Thursday he served in information technology as a “Cyber Transport Systems Journeyman”—his mother told the New York Times he recently worked night shifts at a base on Cape Cod.

The Times discovered Teixeira served as the leader of a group called Thug Shaker Central on Discord, a popular social messaging app for gamers, where the primarily teen cohort reportedly bonded during Covid lockdowns over their Christian faith, love of guns and crude humor—including racist memes.

The group of about 20-30 young people knew of Teixeira as “OG,” and was well-aware he had access to sensitive information from his line of work, according to the Washington Post.

The group’s leader, later identified as Teixeira, reportedly spent months regularly dropping annotated discussions of classified documents into Discord before shifting tactics last year after members of the group started losing interest—instead taking pictures of records and uploading them.

Members of the Discord group told the Post and the Times that Teixeira wasn’t trying to advance Russian or Ukrainian interests through sharing the intelligence, but he had a deep distrust for the government and wanted to make them aware of behind-the-scenes developments, while the leaks were also “a little bit of showing off to friends.”

It’s not clear if Teixeira has an attorney—he could not be reached for comment.

Surprising Fact

The information allegedly leaked by Teixeira was supposed to stay in the Discord group, which one member told the Post was like a “a tightknit family,” even though about half its members were based outside the U.S. and included both Russians and Ukrainians. But on February 28, a teenage member of Thug Shaker Central posted images of the documents on another Discord server, which then migrated to yet another Discord server in early March, according to the Post. The images eventually made their way to Russian Telegram channels, and by last week, they were widely shared on mainstream social media platforms like Twitter. A day before the Times published a story about the leaks, Teixeira messaged the Discord group in a “frantic” state on April 5, a member told the Post, and Thug Shaker Central later shut down, though members told the Post he remained in communication with them on a different server even as a manhunt was underway.

What We Don’t Know

Authorities have not outlined the charges Teixeira faces, but the Times reported he could be indicted for violating the Espionage Act. At a maximum, prosecutors could seek individual charges for every document he leaked, which could each reportedly come with a 10-year prison sentence.

Key Background

Top officials have downplayed the significance of the leak, with an aide for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently calling it nothing more than “dust in the eyes,” while President Joe Biden said Thursday he’s not aware of any information “that is of great consequence.” But the leaks have still roiled the Pentagon, which has provided billions of dollars worth of weapons to Ukraine and has worked closely with Ukrainian leadership on military strategy. The classified records reportedly included plans for a Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russia, information about weapons systems and an assessment of the key eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, which has been blasted to ruins in fierce fighting. The leaks did not, however, appear to include any detailed battle plans.

This story was first published on forbes.com

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