President Joe Biden announced Friday that he has ordered that access to classified material be further restricted after a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard allegedly leaked hundreds of photos of classified U.S. military intelligence on an online server.
“I commend the rapid action taken by law enforcement to investigate and respond to the recent dissemination of classified U.S. government documents,” Biden said in a statement. “While we are still determining the validity of those documents, I have directed our military and intelligence community to take steps to further secure and limit distribution of sensitive information, and our national security team is closely coordinating with our partners and allies.”
Jack Teixeira was arrested by FBI agents in Massachusetts on Thursday and was charged in federal court on the following two counts:
- Unauthorized retention and transmission of national defense information
- Unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material
“Since late last week the FBI has aggressively pursued investigative leads, and today’s arrest exemplifies our continued commitment to identifying, pursuing, and holding accountable those who betray our country’s trust and put our national security at risk,” the FBI said in a statement.
Teixeira was reportedly responsible for military communications networks as an IT specialist, according to Axios, which allowed him to obtain a higher level security clearance.
Teixeira was a member of a private Discord server where the classified material was posted. It was called “Thug Shaker Central” and was comprised of a couple dozen like-minded men and boys, according to The New York Times.
A member of the group told The Washington Post that the alleged leaker, referred to as “OG,” expressed anti-government sentiment but they did not believe he was trying to help any foreign power, and they think he was trying to show off.
“If you had classified documents, you’d want to flex at least a little bit, like hey, I’m the big guy,” one member said, later adding, “I would definitely not call him a whistleblower. I would not call OG a whistleblower in the slightest.”
The documents that were leaked contained information about battlefield conditions in Ukraine, information on foreign adversary’s weapons systems, assessments on how deeply U.S. intelligence had penetrated into the Russian military, information on Egypt planning to sell weapons to Russia, and much more.
OG’s continued leaking of classified material eventually leaked out of the discord server after one of the members started sharing the images on February 28 with another Discord server affiliated with a YouTuber that has nearly a quarter of a million subscribers. Several days later, on March 4, more of the images started to appear on a different Discord server dedicated to the Minecraft video game.
However, the leak would still not be detected by U.S. authorities for another month when classified documents started appearing on Russian Telegram channels and 4chan, before making their way onto Twitter.
OG reportedly panicked after learning that the images had been leaked and asked members to “keep low and delete any information that could possibly relate to him,” according to a member of the group.