Investigators have taken an Air National Guardsman into custody in the case of leaked classified documents that shed light on the war in Ukraine and rattled the U.S. government.
Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old member of the 102nd Intelligence Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, is the leader of a small online gaming chat group where several classified documents have been leaked over the last few months. His identity was confirmed by Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday.
In a statement to ABC News on Thursday, the Air Force confirmed Teixeira’s duty title was “Cyber Transport Systems Journeyman” and that he joined the Air Force in September 2019.
Teixeira is stationed at Otis Air National Guard Base and his awards include one Air Force Achievement Medal.
The group that Teixeira led, Thug Shaker Central, comprised 20 to 30 mostly young men and teenagers who shared memes and talked about love of guns and video games.
A member of the group first posted hundreds of pages of intelligence briefings to the chat a few months ago, telling its members that it was important for them to stay up to date on world events.
Some members of the Thug Shake Central group defended Teixeira, arguing that the young Guardsman only posted the materials to the group in an attempt to spark discussion and keep friends informed.
“This guy was a Christian, anti-war, just wanted to inform some of his friends about what’s going on,” a 17-year-old member of the group told The New York Times. “We have some people in our group who are in Ukraine. We like fighting games, we like war games.”
Members of the group said the leaked documents didn’t begin to receive attention until one member of the group posted some of them to a public online forum, where they were then picked up by Russian-language Telegram channels.
The members who spoke to The New York Times described Teixeira as older than most of the other members of the group and was the group’s “undisputed leader.” One of the members said he has known Teixeira for three years and met him in person, while another told the outlet that Teixeira had access to classified documents due to his role in the Air National Guard.
It is unclear how the young airman gained access to the documents and whether someone in his position and grade would have access to them.
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