Airman Suspected of Discord Leaks Has History of ‘Violent’ and ‘Racist’ Comments

On April 26 and 27 2023, alarming new allegations about Jack Teixeira — the 21-year-old airman suspected of leaking classified information on Discord — appeared in the news and on social media:

Teixeira — a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard — was identified in April 2023 as the individual suspected of leaking classified information via Discord, a chat app often used by gamers.

Fact Check

Claim: Jack Teixeira leaked classified information

Description: Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old airman, is suspected of leaking classified information via Discord, a chat app often used by gamers. His leaks, which started as early as October 2022, have potentially compromised U.S. intelligence gathering and damaged relations with allies.

Rating: True

Rating Explanation: The claim is based on multiple news reports and allegations made by federal prosecutors, who have charged Teixeira with unauthorized disclosures of classified national defense information.

A Wikipedia entry summarized the initial news reports about Teixeira and the alleged leaks:

In early April 2023, Teixeira was alleged by media to have regularly shared classified information in a chat group called “Thug Shaker Central” on the online chat service Discord, beginning at least by October 2022, both transcribed from documents he read and from printouts removed from his office on base. Chatroom members reportedly talked about and played video games together; according to The New York Times, Teixeira was identified as the chatroom administrator. Reports of the chat group size vary, between about two dozen and about fifty members.

On February 28, 2023, a chat group member is alleged to have posted dozens of pictures of classified documents to another Discord server. From there, someone else allege[d] they posted images found on that server to a Discord server associated with the Minecraft video game. After classified documents began appearing on Russian-language Telegram channels, The New York Times first reported on the leak. On April 21 [2023], The New York Times reported that a Discord account with similar characteristics as the online profile of Teixeira had shared written summaries of classified information and likely shared photographs of documents to a Discord chat group with about 600 members from about February 2022 until about March 2023.

On April 13 2023, published “FBI arrests 21-year-old Air Force guardsman in Pentagon leak case,” reporting:

“The FBI is continuing to conduct authorized law enforcement activity at the residence,” the [FBI] said. “Since late last week [in April 2023] the FBI has aggressively pursued investigative leads, and today’s arrest exemplifies our continued commitment to identifying, pursuing, and holding accountable those who betray our country’s trust and put our national security at risk.”

The leaked documents posted to social media, some of which have been obtained by CNN, included detailed intelligence assessments of allies and adversaries alike, including on the state of the war in Ukraine and the challenges Kyiv and Moscow face as the war appears stuck in a stalemate.

Multiple US officials told CNN that Teixeira is believed to be the leader of the group where a trove of classified documents had been posted … Teixeira was under surveillance for at least a couple of days prior to his arrest by the FBI on [April 13 2023], according to a US government source familiar with the case.

On the day that Teixeira was arrested, the New York Times published details about the Discord chat at the center of the story. In “The Airman Who Gave Gamers a Real Taste of War,” the Times described chat memes as “sometimes racist” in their coverage, indicated the leaks possibly began in October 2022, and broadly indicated the leaks endangered operations in Ukraine:

It was Airman Teixeira, a member of the Massachusetts National Guard, his friends in the group said, who somehow obtained the classified documents and posted them to the group. From there, they eventually spilled into the open, potentially compromising U.S. intelligence gathering and damaging relations with allies.

In interviews, members of Thug Shaker Central said their group had started out as a place where young men and teenage boys could gather amid the isolation of the pandemic to bond over their love of guns, share memes — sometimes racist ones — and play war-themed video games.

But Airman Teixeira, who one member of the group called O.G. and was also its unofficial leader, wanted to teach the young acolytes who gravitated to him about actual war, members said.

And so, beginning in at least October [2022], Airman Teixeira, who was attached to the Guard’s intelligence unit, began sharing descriptions of classified information, group members and law enforcement officials said, eventually uploading hundreds of pages of documents, including detailed battlefield maps from Ukraine and confidential assessments of Russia’s war machine.

His goal, group members said, was both to inform and impress.

On April 21 2023, Times reporter Malachy Browne tweeted that a “second chat group” existed, adding that the leaks began within 48 hours of Russia invading Ukraine in February 2022. Browne’s tweet and reporting expanded the timeline of the alleged leaking in contrast with initial reports:

On April 27 2023, documents “filed overnight” by prosecutors in the case against Teixeira were reviewed by news outlets and social media users:

On April 26 2023, federal prosecutors filed a supplemental motion [PDF], indicating Teixeira had been “charged with unauthorized disclosures of classified national defense information in violation of the Espionage Act, 18 U.S.C. § 793(b) and (d), and the Act prohibiting Unauthorized Removal or Retention of Classified Documents or Material, 18 U.S.C. § 1924.” In it, prosecutors alleged that Teixeira represented a flight risk, adding:

… the Defendant’s own obstructive and deceptive acts to date compound his risk of flight and dangerousness, have undermined any counterarguments he could offer in response, and give rise to “a serious risk that such person will obstruct or attempt to obstruct justice.” 18 U.S.C. § 3142 (f)(2)(B). Not only does the Defendant stand charged with having betrayed his oath and his country but—when those actions began to surface—he appears to have taken a series of obstructive steps intended to thwart the government’s ability to ascertain the full scope of what he has obtained and the universe of unauthorized users with whom he shared these materials.

A section of the filing was labeled “The Defendant’s Personal History,” and it read in part:

The Defendant is twenty-one years old. The Defendant graduated from high school in 2019 and does not have a college degree. In March 2018, while still in high school, the Defendant was suspended when a classmate overheard him make remarks about weapons, including Molotov cocktails, guns at the school, and racial threats. In the pretrial services interview, the Defendant attributed those remarks to a reference to a video game … (Dighton Police Reports, redacted and filed separately under seal).

In 2018, while still a teenager, the Defendant applied for a firearms identification card (“FID”). His application was denied due to the concerns of the local police department over the Defendant’s remarks at his high school. The Defendant remained undeterred and applied again in 2019 and 2020. In his 2020 application, the Defendant cited his position of trust in the United States government as a reason he could be trusted to possess a firearm.

The Defendant’s primary residence is with his mother and stepfather in North Dighton, Massachusetts. The Defendant kept his gun locker approximately two feet from his bed. See Attachment G, (Search photos of Defendant’s room). In the gun locker were multiple weapons, including handguns, bolt-action rifles, shotguns, an AK-style high-capacity weapon, and a gas mask. FBI special agents also found ammunition and tactical pouches on his dresser and what appeared to be a silencer-style accessory in his desk drawer … A review of records received from a social media platform also indicate that the Defendant regularly made comments about violence and murder.

In that section, prosecutors provided examples of statements reportedly made by Teixeira:

• In November 2022, the Defendant stated that if he had his way, he would “kill a [expletive] ton of people” because it would be “culling the weak minded.”

• In February 2023, the Defendant told a user that he was tempted to make a specific type of minivan into an “assassination van.”

• Also in February 2023, the Defendant sought advice from another user about what type of rifle would be easy to operate from the back of an SUV. He describes how he would conduct the shooting in a “crowded urban or suburban environment.”

• In March 2023, the Defendant described SUVs and crossovers as “mobile gun trucks” and “[o]ff-road and good assassination vehicles.”

Another section of the filing described Teixeira’s potential value to hostile nations and adversarial governments:

The Defendant is facing mounting inculpatory evidence, potentially years of incarceration, and the loss of his livelihood. These facts alone are enough to incentivize a criminal defendant to flee. But in a case involving sensitive national defense information, these facts also make the Defendant an attractive candidate for recruitment by a foreign government that would seek to procure, disseminate, and use classified information to its benefit and to the detriment of the United States. Indeed, it has already been widely reported that adversaries of the United States have commented on the information the Defendant posted online. Those same adversaries have every incentive to contact the Defendant, to seek additional information he may have physical access to or knowledge of, and to provide him with the means to help him flee the country in return for that information.

The Defendant’s limited means support this concern that he would be susceptible to payment and recruitment by an adversary. As noted in the Pretrial Services Report, prior to arrest, the Defendant’s net worth was approximately $19,000—approximately half of which appears to be tied to the value of his guns. If the Defendant is convicted of multiple felonies, the Defendant’s ability to find gainful employment after any period of incarceration would be limited. Even if the Defendant’s passport is taken away, if an adversary or even an ideological supporter provided the means and the opportunity to evade the reach of U.S. law, there is nothing to suggest that—like others before him—the Defendant would not accept the opportunity to flee.

That section concluded as follows:

The Defendant’s risk of flight is further supported by the very nature of his betrayal. When the Defendant joined the U.S. Air National Guard, the Defendant took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. The Defendant signed multiple non-disclosure agreements with the Air Force. But neither solemn vow nor binding contract was enough to stop the Defendant from serving his own interests. For these reasons, the Government respectfully submits that any conditions imposed by this Court would similarly fail. Put simply, a preponderance of the evidence reflects a serious risk of flight. On this basis alone, the Defendant should be detained.

As of April 27 2023, the motion requesting Airman Teixeira be remanded was pending. In a hearing on that date, federal prosecutor Nadine Pelligrini argued that the “information [the government] provided is not speculation, it is not hyperbole, nor is it based on a caricature,” adding the filing was “directly based on the words and the actions of this defendant.” The New York Times noted that the “next major step is likely to be the filing of a grand jury indictment … including a more specific accounting of the charges he will face.”

Article Sources +