A Steam profile helped catch a suspected leaker of classified US Department of Defense documents. Massachusetts National Guard Air Force Private First Class Jack Teixeira has been arrested for leaking sensitive information online. And according to several investigations, he did it mainly for internet points.
Leaked documents made headlines earlier this week when it revealed a US intelligence report on “weaknesses in Ukrainian weapons, air defense, battalion size and readiness”. They also revealed Russian casualty estimates, military plans, and diplomatic efforts with other national governments. Surprisingly, the article initially started circulating more widely on the Minecraft Discord server, but investigators soon traced it back to another Discord server called “Thug Shaker Central.”
Initially a fan channel dedicated to military YouTuber Oxide, Thug Shaker Central later became a more general channel for discussions of video games, guns, and, according to the New York Times, “racist online memes.” The Washington Post spoke to a previous user (whose channel has since been deleted) who described the members as a “close-knit family” who “depends on each other.”
Teixeira was the owner and operator of Thug Shaker Central and reportedly posted classified military documents obtained as an IT expert for the Air National Guard. One user commented on Teixeira’s motives, saying, “It’s a bit of a show off to my friends, but he wants to keep us informed.”
It is clear from other users that Teixeira did not intend to leak the document, but eventually did. According to open-source information company Belligcat, the document was later reposted to a Discord server for Filipino YouTubers and then to a Minecraft Earth Discord server to settle disputes between gamers. At this point, the leak was widely reported and Discord began working with the FBI.
According to the New York Times investigative reporter Christian Tribert, the investigation got its big break “when the team identified a Steam profile with Airman Teixeira’s name, leading to an Instagram profile with a picture of the exact location where the leaked documents were filmed (a kitchen countertop in his childhood home)” . Soon after, the FBI showed up in a black van and arrested Teixeira.
Interestingly, not all documents currently circulating widely online have been leaked. Ukraine has already denied many of the allegations of some documents and accused Russian agents of fabricating them. Because these documents were widely circulated among gaming groups, Microsoft claims that Russian intelligence assets are infiltrating these groups to spread misinformation.
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