Crime

Air national guardsman arrested in classified documents leak

The young man authorities believe is behind the leak of classified documents was arrested in Massachusetts on Thursday.

Air national guardsman arrested in classified documents leak
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A 21-year-old was arrested in connection with the leak of classified military documents. 

The Department of Justice said Jack Teixeira was taken into custody in the Boston area on Thursday. 

"Teixeira is an employee of the United States Air Force National Guard," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

Teixeira is facing charges of unauthorized removal, retention, and transmission of classified national defense information, according to Garland. 

Planning documents detailing U.S. and NATO military support in Ukraine originally appeared on the messaging platform Discord. The Washington Post interviewed a member of a chat group where the leaks were shown. 

“He’s a smart person. He knew what he was doing when he posted these documents, of course. These weren’t accidental leaks of any kind,” the person, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the Post.

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Scripps News first reported that the leaker posted classified documents online to impress his mainly teenage gamer friends. 

"The guy who was posting these on this small Discord channel, he was doing it to update his buddies on Discord, a few dozen friends on there, and they posted it in a channel called "Bear versus Pig," is what the name of channel was. Bears is Russian, pig is Ukrainian," said Aric Toler, Director of Research & Training at Bellingcat.

Toler, who with Bellingcat partners with Sripps News, revealed the suspected leaker’s identity in a New York Times article.

"The person who's been leaking all these documents was posting it into this channel, just kind of updating his buddies around like, ‘Hey, this is going on, here are some documents I got to take a look,'" Toler said. "He didn't want to be Edward Snowden. He's not a hacker. Whatever. He just was trying to maybe, like, impress his friends, I guess, by showing him these documents."

Toler told us the leaker was part of a racist, fringe, far right community… but he wasn’t linked to Russian intelligence. He also said that the person who first re-posted the classified documents, which led to a spread across social media, didn’t understand the gravity of what he was sharing.  

"I talked to some of his friends, they didn't think that these documents are real, they thought they were fake or they thought he was just kind of like trolling them with a lot of these documents," Toler said. "They kind of had doubts that he was sharing real stuff. That's one of the reasons why one of the guys from the server posted them onto a different one. He thought he was trolling the other server when he was posting these fake documents. He didn't realize they were real. And when news broke, when The New York Times wrote a story about this, the Pentagon and the Justice Department investigation, they were like, 'wait, those are real?'"

Discord said on Wednesday that it was cooperating with the bureau but declined to define the extent of its cooperation. 

Although the documents came to light in the past week, the Netherlands-based investigative journalism group Bellingcat, a Scripps News partner, has reported that it has found evidence that some of the files had been posted on Discord as far back as January. Scripps News has not independently verified that information. 

The Pentagon said on Thursday that it is working around the clock to understand the scope, scale and impact of leaks.