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What we know about Jack Teixeira, the suspected leaker of Pentagon documents

Jack Teixeira (in an undated undated photo posted on Facebook by his mother on Veterans Day in 2021) faces two criminal charges after posting classified Pentagon documents on social media.
Eyepress Media/Reuters
Jack Teixeira (in an undated undated photo posted on Facebook by his mother on Veterans Day in 2021) faces two criminal charges after posting classified Pentagon documents on social media.

Jack Teixeira, who is accused of publishing top-secret Pentagon documents on social media, made his initial court appearance at the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on Friday.

The 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard faces two criminal counts: unauthorized retention and transmission of national defense information and the unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material.

The investigation began last week after a small number of classified documents surfaced on Twitter and Telegram. The documents included sensitive details about the war in Ukraine as well as eavesdropping from intelligence agencies on world leaders.

Here is what we know about him:

Teixeira comes from a military family and works in IT

Teixeira lives in North Dighton, Mass., about 50 miles south of Boston.

According to charging documents, Teixeira worked in the 102nd Intelligence Wing based at Otis Air Force Base in Cape Cod, Mass., since May 2022. Teixeira's step-father and step-brother appear to have worked at the same military base.

Since February, Teixeira was a cyber transports systems journeyman — similar to an information technology specialist — for the National Guard.

Teixeira's unit provides worldwide intelligence for combat support and homeland security. Teixeira was granted a "top secret security clearance" in 2021, meaning he would have signed a "lifetime binding non-disclosure agreement" acknowledging that leaking protected information could result in criminal charges, according to the federal complaint.

It's not the first time a person with an IT background has been suspected of leaking classified information. Edward Snowden, who released a trove of documents from the National Security Agency in 2013, was a federal contractor and systems administrator in Hawaii at the time. Generally, IT professionals have access to an array of records and servers in order to fix technical problems.

Following the recent leak, the Pentagon said they are reevaluating who gets access to these kind of files.

Teixeira has allegedly disclosed classified information for the past five months

According to the court documents, a social media user suspected of being Teixeira began releasing classified information in "paragraphs of text" onto an undisclosed social media platform as early as December 2022.

The charging documents confirm Teixeira posted the documents in a private channel on a social media platform though did not specifically identify it. But according to posts from his friends on social media viewed by NPR, Teixeira posted the classified documents in a group chat on the platform Discord.

Initially, the purpose of divulging secret information was to "discuss geopolitical affairs and current and historical wars," the federal complaint said.

But beginning in January, the online user began posting photographs of what appeared to be official U.S. government documents with classification markings. Among the documents photographed was the status of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, including troop movements on a particular date.

The leaker later explained to another user that he was concerned that he would get in trouble for "making the transcriptions of text in the workplace" so he began taking the documents to his residence and photographing them, another online user known to have interacted with the leaker told the FBI.

Teixeira's online friends were fascinated by Orthodox Catholicism, guns and racist memes

NPR found that many users of the Discord channel where Teixeira leaked information were fascinated by Orthodox Catholicism, guns, as well as racist, vile memes.

Meanwhile, the founder of the channel used a profile picture of Terry Davis, a computer programmer who suffered from schizophrenia and spoke about hearing the voice of God.

His friends said that Teixeira did not intend for the documents to spread beyond their chat, but at least one of those friends posted them on other Discord servers.

Teixeira posted the documents using a social media account that he signed up for using his real name and credit card information, according to the charging documents.

On Discord, users can "boost" channels they manage by making monthly payments, allowing them to get better streaming quality and other perks like access to additional emojis.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.
Jenna McLaughlin
Jenna McLaughlin is NPR's cybersecurity correspondent, focusing on the intersection of national security and technology.