Discord military leaker pleads guilty, gets 16 years

Former US airman Jack Teixeira has pleaded guilty to leaking US military secrets on a Discord group to impress his fellow gamers. He confessed to his crimes, knowing that the attorney general would impose a sentence of 200 months in prison.

Teixeira, 22, of North Dighton, Massachusetts, a former cybersecurity professional and Air National Guardsman, was arrested by the FBI last April after it emerged he had shared online top-secret documents, including those pertaining to Ukraine’s air defenses and troop movements during the Russian invasion, and Israel's Mossad spy agency.

A US Department of Justice (DoJ) document filed on March 4th but dating from February 28th stated that Teixeira would “plead guilty to counts one through to six” of the charges filed against him, “each charging Defendant with Willful Retention and Transmission of National Defense Information in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 793(e).”

The former Airman First Class of the 102nd Intelligence Wing faced up to ten years in jail on each of the six counts against him. However, as part of the plea bargain, the DoJ said it would be “bound by a range of incarceration of between 132 and 200 months,” with the attorney general opting for the maximum tariff.

He also faces three years of supervised release after serving his sentence and a fine of $50,000 that the court agreed to waive should he be unable to afford it.

Teixeira agreed to waive the right to appeal his sentence unless it is later proven his lawyer failed to act diligently, or any member of the prosecution or police involved in the case engaged in serious misconduct.

Facebook and Fox News

‘Violated his oath’

“Mr. Teixeira exploited his top-secret security clearance to share our nation’s secrets on a social media platform,” said acting US attorney Joshua Levy for the District of Massachusetts. “He violated his oath to preserve, protect and defend and, in doing so, he undermined our national security and risked the safety of Americans serving overseas and our allies.”

Levy added: “Every instance of mishandling classified information weakens our defense and compromises our ability to thwart potential threats. We cannot afford to underestimate the gravity of this conduct; it has far-reaching consequences that transcend individual interests.”

Previously described as a gun-loving white nationalist by the prosecution, Teixeira is said to have boasted of the privileged access to classified information his job as a serviceman gave him.

Sowing discord on Discord

Teixeira was said to have posted images of the secret military documents on his Discord chat group “Thug Shaker Central” on or around January 2022 – complete with US government stamps marking them as TOP SECRET.

Though the “thug shakers” were only about two dozen strong, a member shared the military documents on another forum. This led them to spread like wildfire across the internet and eventually reach the eyes of the Pentagon.

After Teixeira’s arrest, US President Joe Biden ordered an investigation of the Massachusetts Air National Guard to determine how a low-ranking guardsman could gain access to classified information.

Rajan Koo, chief technical officer of DTEX Systems, agreed that “the Teixeira incident revealed critical gaps in insider risk management within federal agencies.”

“As the Air Force navigates these challenges, the federal sector finds itself at a crucial juncture, with an opportunity to learn, adapt, and fortify insider risk strategies to better safeguard national security,” said Koo.

“Individuals granted security clearances are entrusted with protecting our nation’s most sensitive secrets, and Teixeira knowingly betrayed that trust and put the country at risk,” said an FBI spokesperson the day the plea bargain was made public. “The FBI will continue to work with our partners to hold accountable anyone who would endanger our national security interests.”