Federal agents arrested Jack Teixeira, a junior intelligence officer in the Massachusetts Air National Guard, on Friday for allegedly stealing classified intelligence from the Pentagon and CIA and posting it to a Discord chat room he administered. But members of Teixeira’s small, invitation-only server insist he never meant for the photographed files to be seen beyond the 20 or so young acolytes he was trying to instruct in global geopolitics from December 2022 until Teixeira deleted the server on April 7, when they had become a serious global breach of U.S. national security.
The files’ path from Teixeira’s Thug Shaker Central server to the front page of newspapers winds through a pair of slightly larger Discord servers to 4Chan then pro-Russian social media and Twitter, The Guardian details. On March 1, a Thug Shaker Central member called “Lucca” posted them on a server focused on the Filipino YouTuber Wow Mao. Another user grabbed them from there and posted them on a Minecraft-centric server during a brief April 4 argument on Minecraft and the Ukraine war, typing: “here, have some leaked documents.”
Krralj, the user name for a purported Serbian college student who administers the Wow Mao server, told ABC News that Lucca is a teenager and “a hyperactive kid” who “wants to tell everyone everything all the time.” When Lucca posted the intelligence files, he added, “we all thought they were fake.”
Another, unidentified Wow Mao member said he posted the files to a larger Minecraft server “thinking they were fake and would make a funny joke,” he told The Guardian. “About a month later, in early April, somebody posted them on 4chan to win an argument. That later got to Russian Telegram channels.” And the Russian Telegram account that got the files noticed, The Wall Street Journal reports, was Donbass Devushka (Donbas Girl), “the face of a network of pro-Kremlin social media” accounts overseen by a Sarah Bils, a former U.S. Navy noncommissioned officer in Washington State.
Bils, 37, told the Journal she is the administrator of the Donbass Devushka persona but just one of 15 people “all over the world” involved in running the network. One of the other administrators, none of whom she named, posted four of the files on April 5, she said. They were quickly picked up by larger pro-Russia Telegram accounts. Donbass Devushka, with 65,000 followers, is “definitely one of the fastest growing English language, pro-Russian communities,” said Finnish researcher Pekka Kallioniemi.
One of the documents leaked on Discord, The Washington Post reports, warns Pentagon leaders that Russian government trolls are getting much better at spreading misinformation and Kremlin propaganda online, without getting caught by social networks.