Discord leak suspect charged with stealing and sharing military secrets
After his arrest yesterday, the U.S. Air National Guard airman suspected of sharing a trove of national security secrets with his Discord chat group now faces charges under the Espionage Act.
Jack Teixeira, 21, was charged Friday with the unauthorized retention and transmission of national defense information and unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents. Teixeira, an airman with the Massachusetts Air National Guard, was stationed at Otis Air National Guard Base, part of Joint Base Cape Cod.
If convicted of the two counts under the Espionage Act, Teixeira could face up to 10 years in prison.
Teixeira’s seemingly extraordinary access to classified documents and fresh details about the war in Ukraine was matter of course for his role as a cyber defense operations journeyman, according to the affidavit accompanying the criminal complaint.
That document offered some new details of the investigation into Teixeira, including how the FBI identified him. Prior to Teixeira’s arrest, The New York Times and The Washington Post both spoke with members of the Discord server, where a group of online friends bonded over an interest in guns, racist memes and gaming. The Times published Teixeira’s name shortly before his arrest Thursday.
On April 12, the FBI obtained the billing details on Teixeira’s server from Discord. Teixeira paid for the Discord server where he shared the secret documents using his real name and an address in North Dighton, Massachusetts where he would soon be arrested.
“While Discord places a premium on the privacy of our users, we believe that our platform best serves the needs of all when we collectively engage in responsible online behavior,” a Discord spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Our Terms of Service expressly prohibit using Discord for illegal or criminal purposes, which includes the sharing of documents on Discord that may be verifiably classified.”
The company noted that it has since deleted the classified content, banned the accounts involved with its distribution and warned other users who are still sharing the documents on other servers.
The airman also apparently used his government device to do a search of classified intelligence reports for the word “leak” on April 6, the same day that public reporting acknowledged the leaked documents.
While the cache of documents later bubbled up across public social media sites, they were first shared with a small group of friends through the Discord server Teixeira ran. According to the affidavit, another member of the server said that the posts began in December 2022, first appearing in text form and later as photos of sensitive documents. Those photos included current military intelligence on the operation in Ukraine, including troop movements, and documents that point to U.S. surveillance of allies like South Korea, among other sensitive topics.
The documents apparently sat on the small Discord server for months without the U.S. government’s notice before eventually making their way to more popular forums. The FBI’s investigation only began last week, after the classified information began appearing across public social networks.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.