Feds Arrest Suspect in Leak of Classified Docs, Justice Department Says
The Justice Department says it’s identified the leaker who posted dozens of highly classified documents online in one of the most brazen and bizarre intelligence community leaks in years.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday that the FBI arrested Jack Teixeira, an Air National Guardsman, on suspicion of unauthorized retention and removal of national defense information.
Earlier on Thursday, The New York Times claimed to have identified Teixeira as the administration in charge of running the social media chat group where the leaks were posted. The Times says Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old enlisted serviceman in the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 102nd Intelligence Wing, ran “Thug Shaker Central,” a Discord server which has roiled the U.S. national security bureaucracy. The server hosted documents about the state of the war in Ukraine, American eavesdropping on close allies, and a range of other closely held secrets.
The federal government appeared to be aware of the documents’ circulation online only last week, when the Times reported that Pentagon officials had begun an investigation after classified documents appeared on Telegram and Twitter. U.S. officials told the Times that they were looking to speak to Teixeira. The Times claimed to have linked Teixeira to the group, in part, through social media posts.
Aric Toler, a researcher for investigative news outlet Bellingcat, first discovered that the Discord “Thug Shaker Central,” a home for fans of the YouTube influencer “Oxide,” had originally hosted the leaks. One member of the server told Bellingcat that the original poster of the classified material took on a role as an administrator at the server, where users freely posted racist content and discussed conservative politics.
Many young members of the Thug Shaker Central server held the leaker, dubbed “OG,” in high regard and viewed him as a father figure, according to The Washington Post. Former members of the server told the Post that OG had posted a trove of classified documents for months and that Thug Shaker had played host not just to Americans but users from Russia and Ukraine.
OG’s posts contained photographs of printed-out classified documents including maps, slides, and global intelligence summaries. Many of the photographs showed fold marks on the documents, suggesting they had been smuggled out, while others showed hunting paraphernalia in the background.
The leaks appear to have garnered the attention of the Defense Department after someone in Thug Shaker Central posted a handful of document images outside the chat. The leaks spread to servers for another YouTube influencer fan server and Minecraft fans before reaching the far-right 4chan message board and pro-Russian telegram channels.
Reporting sourced to “signals intelligence report[s]” revealed private and presumably intercepted conversations between Ukrainian President Zelensky and his intelligence chief, Israeli intelligence leadership privately urging staff to protest the Netanyahu government’s judicial overhaul, and an apparent attempt by Egypt to skirt U.S. sanctions and arm Russia with ammunition for the war in Ukraine.
But among the most worrisome documents in the release for national security officials include maps and updates on the fighting in Ukraine. In one leaked document, intelligence officials appeared to express skepticism of Ukraine’s ability to retake captured territory this year. But even those gains may be in jeopardy following the leak of detailed maps and intelligence information on the position of Ukrainian forces in key battles like the city of Bakhmut and the status of Kyiv’s ammunition supplies.
The Defense Department has launched its own investigation into the extent of the damage caused by the leak, separate from the Justice Department’s criminal investigation, according to CNN.
Biden administration and the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense have repeatedly questioned the authenticity of the leaks, citing copies of the files subsequently edited by pro-Russian telegram users to minimize Moscow’s losses in its war in Ukraine.