Following his arrest yesterday, the US Air National Guard pilot 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 unauthorized retention and transmission of national defense information and unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents. Teixeira, an aviator in the Massachusetts Air National Guard, was stationed at Otis Air National Guard Base, part of Joint Base Cape Cod.
If Teixeira is convicted of the two counts under the Espionage Act, he could face up to 10 years in prison.
Teixeira’s seemingly extraordinary access to classified documents and new details about the war in Ukraine was a natural fit for his role as a cyber-defense operations companion, according to the affidavit accompanying the indictment.
That document contained some new details of the Teixeira investigation, including how the FBI had identified him. Prior to Teixeira’s arrest, The New York Times And The Washington Post both spoke to 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 information on Teixeira’s server from Discord. Teixeira paid for the Discord server where he shared the classified documents with his real name and an address in North Dighton, Massachusetts, where he would soon be arrested.
“While Discord values the privacy of our users, we believe our platform best meets the needs of everyone when we collectively behave responsibly online,” a Discord spokesperson told businessupdates.org. “Our Terms of Service expressly prohibit the use of Discord for illegal or criminal purposes, including sharing documents on Discord that may be verifiably classified.”
The company noted that it has since removed the classified content, banned the accounts involved in its distribution, and warned other users who continue to share the documents on other servers.
The flier also apparently used his government apparatus to search classified intelligence reports for the word “leak” on April 6, the same day public reports acknowledged the leaked documents.
As the cache of documents later bubbled up on public social media sites, they were first shared with a small group of friends via the Discord server Teixeira was running. According to the affidavit, another member of the server said the messages began in December 2022, first in text form and later as photos of sensitive documents. Those photos contain current military intelligence about the operation in Ukraine, including troop movements, and documents pointing to it US surveillance of allies like South Koreaamong other sensitive topics.
The documents apparently sat on the tiny Discord server for months with no notice from the US government before finally making their way to more popular forums. The FBI’s investigation only began last week, after the classified information began to appear on public social networks.