The suspect was charged in the leak case
The first appearance of the 21-year-old airman charged with unauthorized retention and transmission of national defense information and materials in a private channel on social media
The suspect in the leak of classified Pentagon documents posted on social media has been charged with unauthorized retention and transmission of national defense information and unauthorized removal of classified information and defense materials.
The 21-year- old airman with the Massachusetts Air National Guard made a first appearance in federal court in Boston Friday morning after his arrest by the FBI.
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 seen by NPR, the man posted classified documents on the platform of a group chat.
Teixeira is believed to be the head of obscure invite-only Discord chatroom called “Thug Shaker Central,” multiple US officials told CNN, where information from the classified documents was first posted.
Teixeira entered the courtroom with a tan shirt and jeans from the detention center, as well as hiking boots. He entered the courtroom in shackles, though his hands were uncuffed before he sat down at the defense table.
Three people are on a bench reserved for family in the Boston courtroom. When Teixeira entered the courtroom, he did not look at his family members.
End of WOW Mao Zone: A Chatroom for the Classification of General Relativity, Warfare and Military Phenomena
The photos of the classified documents were found on a second chat room in March named End of Wow Mao Zone. Four of the members of Wow Mao Zone told CNN that they saw another user, who was not Teixeira, re-posted some of the classified documents to the chatroom.
His job was not to be the one packaging the intelligence for those senior commanders, but rather to work on the network on which that highly classified intelligence lived. For that purpose, the official said Teixeira would be required to have a TS/SCI clearance, in the instance that he was exposed to that level of intelligence.
Several former high school classmates of Teixeira’s told CNN Thursday that he had a fascination with the military, guns and war. He would sometimes wear camouflage to school, carried a “dictionary-sized book on guns,” and behaved in a way that made some fellow students feel uneasy.
Teixeira grew up in the suburbs of Providence, Rhode Island, according to public records. He attended Dighton-Rehoboth High School where he graduated in 2020, according to the superintendent of the regional school district.
Teixeira didn’t behave in a manner that rose to the level where “people felt the need to report him,” another former classmate said, but “he made me nervous.”
The same student said she took his fascination with the military as a form of American nationalism, and was therefore surprised by the allegations against him. “I didn’t think he would be capable of doing something like this,” she said.
Leaked Communications during a Presidential Visit to the United States: The New York Post-Newtonian Report on the Investigation of Edward Snowden
Biden was continually briefed on the state of the investigation while abroad, as well as the efforts of his top officials to engage with allies over the leaked information, officials said. Behind the scenes, that effort was a reality that loomed over a deeply personal and important foreign trip for Biden, one official acknowledged.
Before the arrest on Thursday, Biden downplayed the impact of the leaked documents. There is nothing that I know of that indicates that it was a big deal.
The Massachusetts Air National Guard member has been charged with unauthorized retention and transmit of national defense information and the removal and retention of classified documents or material.
The investigation began after a small number of classified documents appeared on social networking sites. The documents included sensitive details about the war in Ukraine as well as eavesdropping from intelligence agencies on world leaders.
A person with an IT background has been accused of leaking classified information before. 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.
The federal complaint said that the purpose of divulging secret information was to discuss historical and current wars.
The leaker explained to another user that he was concerned about getting in trouble if he transcribed text in the workplace and that he would take the documents to his residence and photograph them, according to the FBI.
NPR found that many users of the Discord channel were fascinated by Orthodox Catholicism, guns, and racist, vile meme.
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.
A CNN View on the End of Wow Mao Zone Chatroom: Correlating Documents Leaked by a “Respected User” Teixeira
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.
CNN has been unable to contact Lucca or establish their identity. End of Wow Mao Zone members are hiding their identities behind screen names on forums, despite the fact that CNN spoke with them. But End of Wow Mao Zone chatroom members told CNN that Lucca played a key role in propagating the documents that Teixeira allegedly leaked.
Lucca was a “respected user,” one Discord user who said they knew Lucca told CNN in a text conversation, and it was expected that Lucca would take the images down. But they didn’t. The four users that spoke to CNN said that many of the chat rooms were lightly moderated and the images stayed up for weeks.
One user said Lucca would add “fresh off the press” after posting the documents. “He would post them for attention. It was very common for him to ping everyone,” the user said.
On Wednesday, a day before Teixeira’s arrest, the FBI obtained records from Discord that included the subscriber information of the server’s administrator, which had Teixeira’s name and address, according to the affidavit.
The sharing of classified documents on the platform is not allowed according to the terms of service.
The Air National Guardsman’s Breakdown and the National Security Agency’s Cyber Security (Cybersecurity), a Reflection on the U.S. Government
The carefully choreographed arrest of the 21-year-old Air National Guardsman stood in stark contrast to the Biden administration’s scramble one week earlier to deal with the fallout from the revelation that highly classified documents had been sitting publicly on the internet for weeks.
The Biden administration raced to determine the identity of the leaker who had posted pictures of folded-up documents online, to understand the full scope of what had been leaked and to soothe allies who were varying degrees of angry that their secrets had spilled out for the world to see.
While the suspected leaker has been arrested, the administration’s damage assessment is still ongoing. It is not known whether the leaks will have a negative impact, as details from additional classified documents continued to be published throughout the week, even after his arrest.
The documents that were leaked appear to be part of a daily intelligence briefing deck prepared for the Pentagon’s senior leaders, including Milley, the top US military general. On any given day, the slides in that deck can be properly accessed by hundreds, if not thousands, of people across the government, officials said.
The most egregious disclosures of classified documents in a long time have taken place in this episode. The leaked documents have exposed what officials say are lingering vulnerabilities in the management of government secrets, even after agencies overhauled their computer systems following the 2013 Edward Snowden leak, which revealed the scope of the National Security Agency’s intelligence gathering apparatus.
The recent leak is unlikely to have been prevented by those safeguards. “All classified systems have multiple levels of risk controls, but a determined insider will find the weak points over time,” said a former US official.
The Pentagon has already taken steps to clamp down on who can access sensitive classified material, while Austin has ordered a review over access to classified documents. And Congress is vowing to investigate exactly what happened and why the US intelligence community failed to discover its secrets were sitting on a public internet forum for weeks.
President Joe Biden said in a statement Friday that he had directed the military and intelligence community to take steps to further secure and limit the distribution of sensitive information.
Chris Krebs, the former head of the Homeland Security’s cybersecurity agency, told CNN that this is a breakdown. There will be a lot of introspection in the intelligence community and across the government, where were those breakdowns? How do we make sure that the military discipline system is tightened so that this doesn’t happen?
The affidavit states that the Government Document is based on top-secret intelligence and contains national defense information.
Teixeira, an airman first class stationed at Otis Air National Guard Base, was assigned to the 102nd Intelligence Wing, which is a “24/7 operational mission” that takes in intelligence from various sources and packages it into a product for some of the most senior military leaders around the globe, a defense official said.
“It’s not like your regular IT guy where you call a help desk and they come fix your computer,” the official said. They need that clearance because they work on a very highly classified system.
The FBI, the Pentagon, and the U.S. Security Service in the Times of Document Leaks: A Conversation between Austin and Milley
The photos showed crumpled documents laid on top of magazines and surrounded by other random objects, such as zip-close bags and Gorilla Glue, suggesting they had been hastily folded up and shoved into a pocket before being removed from a secure location.
While the Pentagon looked at the damage from the leaks themselves, the Justice Department focused on finding the leaker.
Within days, FBI agents from Washington to California to Boston combed through evidence, conducting interviews and tracking computer data that eventually pointed to the person they were looking for. Army CID investigators were involved in classified document probes.
Anthony Ferrante, who was an FBI agent, said that the first few hours are critical when it comes to preserving evidence in cases such as the discord leaks and it becoming harder to find online or disappear altogether.
Without the public attention, agents might have watched him for weeks to see if he met anyone suspicious or had a group of people.
Austin and Milley were on the phone talking to allies and partners around the world about the sensitive intelligence and top- secret documents that suddenly came into public view. Another US official said that the conversations would continue through the end of the week.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was tapped to lead the diplomatic response to the leaked US intelligence documents, according to a US official familiar with the matter.