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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Jack Teixeira pleads guilty to leaking intelligence documents on Discord

 Relatives of Jack Teixeira leave John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse following his arraignment on April 14, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. Teixeria, a Massachusetts Air National Guardsman was charged on two counts: unauthorized retention and transmission of national defense information and unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material.    (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
By Shane Harris and Samuel Oakford Washington Post

BOSTON - Jack Teixeira appeared in a federal district court Monday and pleaded guilty to the massive leak of U.S. intelligence documents last year on Discord, an online chat platform popular with video gamers.

Teixeira was accused of using his top-secret security clearance to access classified government computer networks on an Air Force base in Cape Cod, where he worked with a unit providing intelligence support to the military. A Washington Post investigation revealed that, while Teixeira was serving in the Massachusetts Air National Guard, he shared hundreds of classified documents as well as his own summaries of classified reports on Discord.

Teixeira had pleaded not guilty after his arrest last April. His lawyers spent the past several months reviewing the evidence, including classified documents, that prosecutors intended to use at trial.

Teixeira pleaded guilty to all six charges against him, including the willful retention and transmission of national defense information, which included information the government had classified as top secret. Under the terms of the plea agreement, Teixeira faces between 11 and 16 years in prison.

Teixeira had posted information about a vast range of topics, including the war in Ukraine, in a small Discord server that he formed with friends during the covid-19 pandemic. He also posted classified information about the war as early as February 2022 in another, larger server with hundreds of active users. The Post found that some of the members of the servers included foreign nationals, a fact that prosecutors have noted in court filings to show how Teixeira may have facilitated classified U.S. intelligence ending up in foreign hands.

The leaks were seen as one of the most serious breaches of U.S. national security in recent years. Some U.S. and European officials said the information could risk lives if it were widely known.

It’s unclear whether investigators were able to fully re-create the extent of what Teixeira shared online. Before his arrest, Teixeira took advantage of Discord’s data retention policies to cover his tracks. He also deleted an entire server, called Thug Shaker Central, where The Post found that Teixeira had been sharing classified material with a group of mostly teenage boys in an attempt to impress them. Discord officials said Teixeira’s actions left them without an archive of the server to provide to law enforcement. A “thread” of messages containing information about the war in Ukraine also disappeared from another server where Teixeira was active, according to users.

Investigators first became aware of Teixeira’s actions early last year. On Feb. 28, 2023, a teenage member of Thug Shaker Central with the online handle “Lucca” began posting to a different server several dozen photographs of classified documents that Teixeira had taken. Five days later, yet another Discord user posted 10 of the photographs on Minecraft Earth Map, a server devoted to the popular video game. Soon the documents were swirling around the internet, and Pentagon and FBI officials scrambled to find their source.

After Teixeira’s arrest, authorities struggled to track the spread of classified material linked to him. The Post obtained more than 300 images showing classified documents as well as written posts containing additional intelligence that Teixeira’s friends said he had shared.

An Air Force Inspector General’s report cited lapses at the base where Teixeira worked, which would have made it easier for him to access classified material, including full-page printouts that he photographed and posted on Discord. During largely unsupervised night shifts, Teixeira and others were afforded “ample opportunity” to print material from the military’s classified networks, according to the report.