Massachusetts Air National Guardsman, Jack Teixeira, the suspect accused of leaking classified US intelligence, made a frantic final call to his gamer friends as the FBI closed in on him, professing he “never wanted it to get like this.”
“Guys, it’s been good — I love you all,” Teixeira, 21, was quoted as saying on the call, according to a member of an online group who goes by the screen name Vahki.
“I never wanted it to get like this. I prayed to God that this would never happen. And I prayed and prayed and prayed. Only God can decide what happens from now on.”
Speaking to the New York Times, Vahki said it sounded like Teixeira was in a speeding vehicle when he joined the call.
Teixeira was arrested Thursday April 13, by heavily armed federal agents at his mother’s home in North Dighton, Massachusetts.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland said he is to be charged with removing or transmitting classified national defense information — a crime under the 1917 Espionage Act punishable by years in prison.
Less than two hours before he was taken into custody, the Times revealed Teixeira as the administrator of the 20- to 30-member channel “Thug Shaker Center,” hosted on the Discord gaming platform, where a tranche of intelligence reports — some marked “Secret” and “Top Secret” — first appeared.
The documents contained information about Ukraine’s fighting capabilities and potential weaknesses, as well as sensitive details about the country’s allies and US intelligence gathering.
Members of the “Thug Shaker Center” group said in interviews with the Times that the online community has been a place for teenage boys and young men to bond over their love of guns, play war-themed video games and swap memes, some of them racist.
Teixeira was known in the group as O.G. and was described as its de facto leader
“Everyone respected O.G.,” Vahki, a 17-year-old recent high school graduate, said in an interview. “He was the man, the myth. And he was the legend. Everyone respected this guy.”
A member of Teixeira’s gaming channel on Discord said that between October and March, the military IT specialist had released 350 documents, including detailed Ukraine battle maps.
Teixeira was an airman 1st class working as a cyber transport systems journeyman with the Air National Guard’s 102nd Intelligence Wing — the same unit where his stepfather, Master Sgt. Thomas Dufault, had served for 34 years before retiring four years ago.
As a cyber transport systems specialist — a military equivalent of an IT specialist — Teixeria was responsible for military communications networks and would have had a higher level of security clearance because he would have also been tasked with ensuring protection for the networks, a defense official told the Associated Press.
Beginning in October, Teixeira reportedly began sharing descriptions of classified documents, before graduating to uploading hundreds of pages, some displaying detailed battlefield maps from Ukraine marked “Top Secret.”
Vahki insisted that Teixiera was not a whistleblower in the mold of Edward Snowden, and that the documents he shared in the gaming channel were never meant to be splashed all over the internet.
“This guy was a Christian, antiwar, just wanted to inform some of his friends about what’s going on,” Vahki said, adding that between October and March, Teixeira uploaded about 350 pages to their channel.