How did 21-year-old Jack Teixeira get his hands on Pentagon documents?
How did 21-year-old low-ranking National Guardsman Jack Teixeira who lived with his mother get his hands on top secret Pentagon documents?
- Teixeira was arrested on Thursday at his family home in Dighton, Massachusetts
- US agencies are probing how the 21-year-old airman accessed top secret files
The FBI on Thursday arrested Jack Douglas Teixeira, a 21-year-old member of the U.S. Air National Guard suspected of leaking online hundreds of top secret Pentagon documents that embarrassed Washington with allies around the world.
Federal agents in an armored car and military gear swooped in on the gun nut as he read a book in the garden of his mother’s home in Dighton, Massachusetts, about 50 miles south of Boston.
The arrest comes a week after the leaks first became widely known, setting Washington on edge about the damage they may have caused. The episode embarrassed the U.S. by revealing its spying on allies and purported Ukrainian military vulnerabilities.
The leak of documents, posted largely on social media sites, was believed to be the most serious security breach since more than 700,000 documents, videos and diplomatic cables appeared on the WikiLeaks website in 2010.
But how did Teixeira – a lowly airman with less than four years of military service – manage to first get access to and subsequently leak highly classified U.S. DoD and military secrets?
An undated picture shows Jack Douglas Teixeira, a 21-year-old member of the U.S. Air National Guard
FBI agents arrest Jack Teixeira, an employee of the U.S. Air Force National Guard, in connection with an investigation into the leaks online of classified U.S. documents
The entrance to Joint Base Cape Cod, where the suspect in a US intelligence leak, Jack Douglas Teixeira, served as an Air National Guardsman
Jack Teixeira is reported to be the leader of an online gaming chat group where the files leaked in recent months
As an airman 1st class, 21-year-old Teixeira held one of the lowest petty officer ranks in the U.S. Air Force.
READ MORE: ‘Only God can decide what happens from now on’ – National Guard member who leaked classified US documents made panicked final call to gamer pals before his arrest
But his role as a Cyber Transport Systems Journeyman (CTSJ) and IT specialist meant he could have been granted a higher security clearance in spite of his entry-level rank.
The Air Force’s description of Teixeira’s job reads: ‘[CTSJs] enhance our capabilities and provide us with the best and most secure systems so we can stay ahead of the curve in everything we do’.
Though officials have not yet confirmed whether Teixeira was in possession of a high level security clearance, his job description suggests he was likely working closely with U.S. military IT and communications systems.
Furthermore, Teixeira was a member of the 102nd Intelligence Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard at Joint Base Cape Cod – a unit tasked with providing ‘worldwide precision intelligence and command and control along with trained and experienced Airmen for expeditionary combat support and homeland security’, according to its mission statement.
The scope of 102nd’s provision of intelligence is unclear, and the National Guard is generally tasked with domestic, rather than foreign security.
But National Guard Units have been deployed to NATO-allied countries in Europe to provide training and support to Ukrainian territorial defence units in the face of the Russian invasion and it is likely that the 102nd could have been providing, or at least distributing, intelligence on the war in Ukraine as well as US spying operations.
Teixeira’s role as an IT specialist in such an intelligence unit may well have afforded him access to all manner of sensitive documents.
Teixeira is pictured reading on his mother’s porch moments before his arrest
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
Representative Mike Turner of Ohio, who heads the intelligence committee as well as a member of the armed services committee, is demanding answers on why it took several months to find Teixeira
READ MORE: Who is Jack Teixeira?
Representative Mike Turner, the Republican chairman on the House Intelligence Committee, is now demanding to know why it took the intelligence community months to track down Teixeira even when the airman was freely posting sensitive documents on social media platform Discord, popular with gamers.
‘Leaking classified information jeopardizes our national security, negatively impacts our relationship with our allies, and places the safety of U.S. military and intelligence personnel at grave risk,’ said Turner.
‘While we seek to learn the extent of classified information released and how to mitigate the fallout, the House Intelligence Committee will examine why this happened, why it went unnoticed for weeks, and how to prevent future leaks.’
Teixeira gained considerable prestige among a tight-knit group of gamers, all of whom were privy to the information he shared on the Discord server ‘Thug Shaker Central’.
The airman, who went by the screen name ‘OG’ on the social media platform, was ‘respected’ by the other members on the server, one member told the New York Times, given his access to secret documents and his willingness to share them.
‘He was the man, the myth. And he was the legend. Everyone respected this guy.’
But Representative Turner this week said Teixeira’s willful disregard for national security was simply ‘dangerous’.
‘This is a crime. This is espionage, and this involves real people,’ he declared.
‘This could hurt real people and real people could be killed and lose their lives over leaks of classified information. To make this all the way down to where it seems almost like a game to these individuals is certainly very chilling.’
He argued the leaks were dangerous because the Discord rooms Teixeira was allegedly using could’ve allowed foreign actors, some who might be ‘kids,’ according to Turner.
‘What do we need to do to make sure our classified information is held more closely? How do we find these people before they do this? Before classified documents are compromised,’ he wondered.
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