US Air National Guardsman, 21, arrested in connection with Pentagon documents leak

The US Pentagon has been rocked by a major leaking of classified information online, and now a 21-year-old national guardsman has been identified as the suspected leaker.
John Loeffler
Jack Teixeira, the alleged leaker of Pentagon documents
Jack Teixeira, the alleged leaker of Pentagon documents

US Air National Guard

A 21-year-old US Air national guardsman has been arrested in connection with a major leak of classified material from the US Department of Defense that has roiled international relations this week.

Jack Teixeira was arrested by FBI agents at his home in North Dighton, Massachusetts, on Thursday. At the moment, very little else is known about the case against Teixeira, who is presumed innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law. US Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Thursday that Teixeira was being held "in connection with an investigation into alleged unauthorized removal, retention, and transmission of classified national defense information."

Teixeira, who was arrested in the driveway of his home clad in red shorts and an olive T-shirt by heavily armed agents in body armor, works in the intelligence section of the National Guard. Critically, he is also the leader of the chat group Thug Shaker Central where the leaked documents were first disseminated, according to a Guardian report. That group, made up of 20 to 30 teens and young men was mostly a clearing house for gun appreciation, "racist memes", and video gaming before it became the center of an international intelligence scandal.

Given the nature of the documents leaked, it had been suspected that the leaker was a military insider, and given Teixeira's connection to the chat group from whence the documents spread like a wildfire to other corners of the internet, the swiftness of Teixeira's arrest should hardly come as a surprise.

At least 300 documents in that chat were seen by the New York Times, though this represents a fraction of the number of documents that have may been exposed. Given the sensitivity of many of the documents, like those around the Russian Invasion of Ukraine and Western intelligence agencies' knowledge of the conflict, it's highly likely that the damage from the revelations to the US government will only grow with time.

According to members of the chat group who spoke to reporters and investigative journalism outlets like Bellingcat, the documents weren't shared with an apparent political goal, as is often the case with military intelligence leakers like Chelsea Manning. Instead, members claim, the documents were shared in an effort to impress members of the group.

How was a 21-year-old National Guardsman able to access so much classified material?

US Air National Guardsman, 21, arrested in connection with Pentagon documents leak
Jack Teixeira being arrested in Massechusetts

Leaving aside the alleged motive for the leak, the question of how a 21-year-old National Guardsman could access and spirit away so much intelligence data has not been answered.

Among the revelations from the leaks are US spying on close allies and Ukrainian officials, detailed intelligence about the state of the Russian military, and military vulnerabilities and preparations by the Ukrainian military ahead of its expected spring offensive against occupying Russian forces.

Needless to say, this is some highly sensitive information, and the US military is now conducting a security review to determine how the leaker was able to access so much info and post about it to a group chat for several weeks without arousing suspicion.

According to one of the group members who spoke to journalists about the leaker, known to the group as OG, the leaker worked at an unnamed military base and had access to a trove of classified material as a function of their work.

One member of the chat group told the Washington Post that OG "seemed very confused and lost as to what to do... He’s fully aware of what’s happening and what the consequences may be,” the group member said. “He’s just not sure on how to go about solving this situation … He seems pretty distraught about it."

In the final message OG sent to the group, OG says "keep low and delete any information that could possibly relate to him,"

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