Pentagon classified documents leaker obsessed with God, guns and games

Pentagon classified documents ‘leaker’ seemed determined to serve his country… but when he was off duty he showed himself to be a loner obsessed with God, guns and gaming

  • Jack Teixeira allegedly, 21,  shared dark conspiracies about the U.S. government 
  • He was seized at his mother’s home, North Dighton, Massachusetts, on Thursday

On duty, he was the military son of proud patriotic parents who seemed determined to serve his country. Off duty, he ran a private online chat group called Thug Shaker Central where teenagers bantered about guns, God and gaming.

But it was also where young Air Force reservist Jack Teixeira allegedly shared dark conspiracies about the U.S. government with his impressionable friends.

He backed up his arguments by leaking hundreds of highly classified Pentagon documents. Because, astonishingly, this ‘entry-level’ 21-year-old National Guardsman had reportedly been given access to the highest tier of top-secret government information.

On Thursday he was seized at his mother’s home in North Dighton, Massachusetts, by heavily armed law enforcement agents, who arrived in an armoured car after reports that Teixeira was a gun enthusiast and keen hunter with a fearsome collection of firearms.

His arrest followed an intensive investigation into how incredibly sensitive information ended up being leaked on a discussion forum for online gamers.

 Jack Teixeira (pictured), 21, was seized at his mother’s home in North Dighton, Massachusetts, by heavily armed law enforcement agents on Thursday

His arrest followed an intensive investigation into how incredibly sensitive information ended up being leaked on a discussion forum for online gamers

It has since emerged that Teixeira only finished high school in 2020, having enlisted a year earlier in the Massachusetts Air National Guard, a reserve component of the U.S. Air Force, where he joined a unit called the 102nd Intelligence Wing in October 2021.

After being promoted last July to Airman First Class, still a very junior rank, Teixeira was deployed to Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. There, he served as a ‘Cyber Transport Systems journeyman’ and was assigned to manage problems with the Air Force’s computer system and global communications network.

The revelation that he had released details of everything — from the progress of the Ukraine war to the presence of UK special forces on the ground and how the U.S. was spying on its allies — raises questions as to why such a junior ‘enlisted man’ had access to an array of critical secrets that might help America’s enemies and compromise its allies.

Of course, even more embarrassingly for the U.S., precisely the same question was asked in 2010 when Private Bradley Manning, a low-grade intelligence analyst, was able to pass whistleblowing website Wikileaks nearly 750,000 classified or sensitive documents about the Iraq and Afghan wars.

Teixeira is from a military family with decades of service behind them. Growing up in North Dighton, south of Boston, he had a fascination with guns and the military from an early age. At school, he would carry around a large military textbook about tanks, submarines and planes. Sometimes he wore camouflage, which alarmed some of his classmates.

‘A lot of people were wary of him,’ Brooke Cleathero, who attended middle school and high school with Teixeira, told CNN. ‘He was more of a loner, and having a fascination with war and guns made him off-putting to a lot of people.’

His stepfather rose to become a master sergeant in the 102nd Intelligence Wing, the same unit Teixeira would join, and retired in 2019 after a 34-year career.

His mother, Dawn, worked for years for military veterans’ charities, and every year posted online photos of her family on Veterans Day, some of them showing her son with the family’s two dogs, and driving all-terrain vehicles.

Relatives of Jack Teixeira fought their way through a media scrum after seeing the 21-year-old make a brief appearance before judges to hear the charges against him

Suspect held: Teixeira’s father leaves a Boston court after Jack was arrested and charged

By the time he joined the National Guard, Teixeira had moved much of his socialising online, where he found young people who were more understanding of him than his former schoolmates, sharing his obsessions with military equipment, violent video games and war.

In 2020, he set up an online discussion group on Discord, a social media site popular among gamers. The 25 or so members of invitation-only group Thug Shaker Central — all young men and teenage boys — mainly discussed ‘shoot-’em-up’ online games.

The leak is the most embarrassing – and perhaps the most damaging – for the US since the WikiLeaks scandal in 2013 when National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden passed on confidential documents 

About half of the group members were not in the U.S. and some reportedly even lived in Ukraine and Russia.

Teixeira posted online under pseudonyms such as ‘jackthedripper’ and ‘TheExcaliburEffect’ but was generally known as ‘OG’.

It seems his online friends developed radically divergent impressions of the charismatic young man who became their leader and occasional mentor.

One, who later met Teixeira in person, told The Washington Post he was a ‘pretty normal guy’ offline, albeit with a ‘slight temper’. Another said he was a devout Catholic who was patriotic and libertarian, with an interest in guns and ‘doubts about America’s future’.

Group members occasionally prayed together and sometimes swapped offensive jokes and even Nazi iconography.

The Post said it was shown a video of Teixeira in a shooting range, shouting racist and anti-Semitic slurs before firing a rifle.

Younger members, in particular, were deeply impressed by Teixeira, particularly his inside knowledge of international affairs.

‘He’s fit. He’s strong. He’s armed. He’s trained,’ said one teenager in the group. ‘Just about everything you can expect out of some sort of crazy movie.’

But one thing he was not, insisted a 17-year-old online friend calling himself Vakhi, was a whistleblower in the mould of Manning or National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, who claimed to be exposing government wrongdoing.

‘This guy was a Christian, anti-war, just wanted to inform some of his friends about what’s going on,’ he told The New York Times.

According to Vakhi, Teixeira also liked to shoot in the real world. A good marksman, he exchanged gun equipment with fellow gamers.

Police outside the Boston courtroom where Teixeira appeared earlier on Friday to face two charges for leaking classified US intelligence documents

However, light-hearted chats about guns and games weren’t enough for him, say online pals. He wanted to educate them about world affairs and even ‘secretive government operations’.

Fellow group users say he had a dark view of the government, particularly law enforcement bodies and the intelligence community, which he portrayed as sinister forces that abused their powers and hid unpleasant secrets.

He allegedly claimed, for instance, that the government knew in advance that a white supremacist intended to go on a shooting rampage that left ten black people dead at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in May last year.

It was last year that he started to post long, convoluted daily memos about international affairs. Upset that his friends weren’t taking the information seriously, he started providing almost-verbatim transcripts of intelligence documents he indicated he’d brought home from his job at a military base.

He reportedly told his friends he spent some of his days in a secure facility that banned mobile phones and other electronic devices to prevent employees recording secret information housed on government computer networks.

Group members say he annotated some of the hand-typed documents, explaining the meaning of some of the intelligence jargon such as ‘NOFORN’, which is short for information that cannot be shared with foreign nationals.

Jack Teixeira faced two felony charges at the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse, in Boston, Massachusetts, on April 14, 2023.  A member of the US Air Force National Guard, the 21-year-old was arrested on suspicion of leaking a trove of sensitive US government secrets.

This document appears to show the state of Ukraine’s air defenses in February and in May, when it is anticipated they’ll be badly depleted

Experts say some of the information was so secret it would have been made available only to people who had undergone months of background checks.

From October to March this year, said Vakhi, Teixeira posted about 250 documents to the chat group, including detailed tactical maps from the Ukraine war that were marked ‘TOP SECRET’.

When he tired of transcribing documents, Teixeira switched to taking home actual copies and photographing them in his house before posting the photos online. Investigators matched some details that also appeared in the photos, such as hunting magazines and glimpses of furniture, with objects in Teixeira’s family home.

Many of the group members didn’t realise the documents were genuine and ignored them — but a few, impressed, said they understood the information couldn’t go beyond their tight-knit group.

Late in February, a younger member of the group began posting dozens of the photos on another part of the Discord platform that was accessible to far more people.

They continued to spread online and within days could be seen by thousands of users.

Shortly before his arrest, Teixeira — sounding as if he was in a speeding car — joined a call with group members to say the game was up and he was about to be caught.

‘Guys, it’s been good — I love you all,’ he reportedly told them. ‘I never wanted it to get like this. I prayed to God that this would never happen . . . only God can decide what happens from now on.’

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