WASHINGTON — U.S. authorities have arrested a 21-year-old information technology specialist called Jack Teixeira in connection with the disclosure of highly classified military documents about the Ukraine war and other top national security issues.
The leak is believed to have started on a social media site called Discord, where Teixeira posted for years. Here’s a look at the security breach that the Pentagon has called a “ very serious risk to national security.”
WHO IS JACK TEIXEIRA?
Jack Teixeira is an airman first class in the Massachusetts Air National Guard. He is detailed to an Air Force intelligence unit, according to Facebook posts from the 102nd Intelligence Wing based at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts.
His specialty in the Air National Guard is as a “cyber transport systems specialist,” which is essentially an IT specialist responsible for military communications networks, including their cabling and hubs.
WHAT CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS WERE LEAKED?
The documents appear to detail U.S. and NATO aid to Ukraine and U.S. intelligence assessments regarding U.S. allies that could strain ties with those nations.
Some show real-time details from February and March of Ukraine’s and Russia’s battlefield positions and precise numbers of battlefield gear lost and newly flowing into Ukraine from its allies.
They also reveal just how close Ukraine’s vital air defense systems are to running out of missiles — with stocks expected to be exhausted as soon as late this month or May, absent significant resupply. That would open Ukraine’s skies to more of the Russian air and artillery strikes that already have devastated cities and infrastructure.
There are no clear answers on how many documents were leaked. The Associated Press has viewed approximately 50 documents; some estimates put the total number in the hundreds.
Senior officials in President Joe Biden's administration say they are working to stop the flow of classified information onto social media and websites and head off any lasting damage to relationships with allies and strategic partners.
The U.S. intelligence agencies — funded at $90 billion annually — have sweeping powers to tap electronic communications, run spies and monitor with satellites. The results of those powers are rarely seen in public, even in limited form.
WHAT IS DISCORD?
Discord is a social media platform popular with people playing online games. The Discord site hosts real-time voice, video and text chats for groups and describes itself as a place “where you can belong to a school club, a gaming group, or a worldwide art community.”
Teixeira is believed to have posted on the site for years about guns, games and his favorite memes. Some who chatted with him said he also posted about closely guarded U.S. secrets. Accounts of those in the online private chat group where the documents were disclosed have depicted Teixeira as motivated more by bravado than ideology.
Discord users skew young — about 38% of its web users and nearly half of its Android app users are between the ages of 18 and 24, according to digital intelligence platform Similarweb. They are roughly 75% male, the research group says.
HOW DID TEIXEIRA HAVE ACCESS TO THE LEAKED DOCUMENTS?
A defense official told the AP that Teixeira would have had a higher level of security clearance as a cyber transport systems specialist because he would have been responsible for accessing military communications networks and ensuring their protection.
WHAT IS THE PENALTY FOR LEAKING CLASSIFIED INFORMATION?
The penalty Teixeira would face if he is convicted is unclear at this stage.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said he'll be charged with removing or transmitting classified national defense information, a crime under the Espionage Act. Any sentence would depend on how many counts a defendant is convicted of and whether they are served consecutively or concurrently.
It was not immediately clear if Teixeira has a lawyer who can speak on his behalf, and a phone message left at a number believed to belong to his mother was not returned.
Audrey Mcavoy, The Associated Press