I’m Shane Harris, an intelligence and national security reporter at The Washington Post, where I cover the CIA and other U.S. spy agencies. My colleague Sam Oakford and I obtained hundreds of classified documents that Jack Teixeira allegedly shared on Discord. Sam and I, working with our partners at PBS Frontline, spent several months investigating Teixeira’s online world to understand who he is and why he allegedly shared this classified information with his friends. 

I’m Samuel Oakford, a visual forensics journalist at The Washington Post with a background in open source reporting. Shane and I obtaining hundreds of classified documents allegedly shared on Discord by Jack Teixeira. We never stopped reporting on his story, and along with Chris, spent months charting the online world of Teixeira, tracking down his friends to better understand what set the stage for the alleged leaking. In that journey we were lucky to partner with filmmakers Tom Jennings and Annie Wong on a PBS Frontline documentary about the case, which aired this week and you can stream now!

I'm Chris Dehghanpoor, an investigative reporter at The Washington Post that specializes in open source reporting. I worked alongside Shane and Sam as we scoured the internet for clues and mapped out Jack Teixeira's online footprint. 

Watch our investigation into how Teixeira allegedly leaked the classified documents on the Discord chat platform. With PBS Frontline, we examine Jack Teixeira’s alleged leak of national security secrets, why he wasn’t stopped and the role of platforms like Discord: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2023/12/11/discord-leaks-documentary/

And read our series of stories, starting here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2023/12/11/jack-teixeira-discord-leaks/?pwapi_token=eyJ0eXAiOiJKV1QiLCJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiJ9.eyJyZWFzb24iOiJnaWZ0IiwibmJmIjoxNzAyNDQzNjAwLCJpc3MiOiJzdWJzY3JpcHRpb25zIiwiZXhwIjoxNzAzODI1OTk5LCJpYXQiOjE3MDI0NDM2MDAsImp0aSI6IjRkM2RlOTMzLTIyOWItNDY5Zi1iYmEwLWQ4YzE5ZmVkOTNjNyIsInVybCI6Imh0dHBzOi8vd3d3Lndhc2hpbmd0b25wb3N0LmNvbS9uYXRpb25hbC1zZWN1cml0eS8yMDIzLzEyLzExL2phY2stdGVpeGVpcmEtZGlzY29yZC1sZWFrcy8ifQ.qIJtAOL5-5WLGxB3aJ8ueYnw8cGPHLpkWMqh5D_LqZE

PROOFS (copy and paste in your browser - a 404 error seems to come up when clicked on)

Shane: https://imgur.com/a/jFJoUlT

Samuel: https://imgur.com/a/JkPBVfg

Chris: https://imgur.com/a/5LQy7UE

Comments: 80 • Responses: 8  • Date: 

emelsifoo25 karma

I remember reading about the leaks related to War Thunder, where gamers with security clearances wanted to win arguments about the capabilities of tanks and other military hardware. In your reporting you say Texeira's motive appeared to be just ... clout? Any more details about motivation, or the reception by the communities he was trying to impress? It baffles me that someone would risk their freedom just to get some strangers online to think they are cool.

washingtonpost28 karma

From Samuel Oakford: There have been other leaks of classified intelligence tied to War Thunder forums, but they’ve been relatively limited and specific to military equipment. Things like classified manuals. This was a totally different ball game. Teixeira’s leaking on Thug Shaker Central — as incredible as it was — was in keeping with this role he’d established during the pandemic as a leader on the server. He was keeping them "informed."We learned that Teixeira also leaked on Abinavski’s Exclusion Zone, a server originally formed for fans of a YouTuber who made fun edits of War Thunder videos, but which had since taken on a life of its own. The server wasn't toxic in the way that Thug Shaker Central was and Teixeira didn’t have the same leadership role. But he found a ready audience with certain users who were already fascinated by military hardware and conflict. In fact, one moderator told us that in hindsight his interest in the intel might have played a role in why he didn’t end up reporting Teixeira. But he also was so bewildered by what was going on and expected Teixeira to get caught by authorities… that didn’t happen for over a year! 

Menu-False24 karma

How did the Washington Post go about deciding what to report from the leaks and what not to? Were there any doubts about posting any information from a document due to national security concerns?

washingtonpost28 karma

From Shane Harris: Our team of reporters first examined the documents to determine what was in them, what was most newsworthy, and where we felt we could add from our own reporting to what the documents said. In every case, we discussed the information in the documents with U.S. officials and asked for their comments, as well as any concerns they had about the potential risks to national security from publishing certain information--we do this every time we are dealing with sensitive information, on any story. Ultimately, we, as independent journalists, made the call on what to publish.

keenfoot18 karma

Any indication that Teixeira was directly connected to malignant actor countries or groups rather than being a lone actor?

washingtonpost25 karma

From Chris Dehghanpoor: We know that there were foreign users in the servers where Jack shared classified material, but we didn't uncover anything in the course of our reporting that indicated he was sharing information directly with other countries. That's not to say that definitely wasn't happening, but it's not something we found evidence of. Many of Jack's friends said that he was driven by his desire to keep others in the servers "informed".

grumazu9 karma

Which of the discoveries during your investigation generated the most "wtf" reaction?

washingtonpost40 karma

From Samuel Oakford: A big surprise came towards the end of our reporting, when we got the chance to sit down with Discord executives in San Francisco. The company confirmed that Teixeira deleted Thug Shaker Central on April 7. They told us that because the server had never been flagged to them, all its content was gone the minute he did that. Classified material still made it off Discord in the form of screenshots etc. — that’s how the press caught wind of it — but it was significant that the original record of Teixeira’s activity on this server appeared to be gone, and because of that, it was inaccessible to law enforcement.

aubrt8 karma

How do you understand the shift (post-9/11 in general, and especially from Wikileaks forward) of mainstream news organizations toward attacking leakers and whistleblowers instead of celebrating them or even just focusing on straight reporting of the leaked information? Do you worry that you personally, and the institutions you work for generally, have become so focused on maintaining cozy relations with the security state that you may be incapable even of recognizing, much less fostering, information flows that would allow for functionally democratic opinion-formation?

washingtonpost2 karma

From Shane Harris: We don't "attack" leakers and whistleblowers. They are a vital source of information that is often in the public interest. And when they are our sources, we protect them. We wrote dozens of articles about the information Teixeira is alleged to have shared. I don't worry that the press has become "cozy" with intelligence agencies, and I doubt they think we have. It's an adversarial relationship. It is professional and respectful. But we work for the public, not the government.

I think it's also important to distinguish something unusual about this case. Teixeira is not a whistleblower. According to people who knew him, he never intended for the information he shared to be widely distributed or to make its way to journalists. Our reporting has led to stories about why he shared that information, and the security lapses that enabled it. The press has written similar stories about actual whistleblowers--including Snowden, Manning, and Winner--at the same time that we have reported on the information they disclosed.

InGenNateKenny6 karma

What do you think will be the greatest long-term implication of these leaks? Just on security classification or anything specifically relating to their content (i.e. Ukraine war details having an impact there).

washingtonpost27 karma

From Shane Harris: I think the long-term implications are going to be on security clearance and information policy. The leaks, while revealing, didn't do long-term damage as far as we know to intelligence sources and methods. But the leaks revealed serious flaws with how classified information was handled at the facility where Teixeira worked. I wouldn't assume those are isolated problems. The Air Force inspector general wrote about personnel conflating having a clearance with the "need to know" intelligence. In other words, there's a concern that personnel erroneously think a clearance is some kind of all-access pass to intelligence. It's not. If this misconception is more widespread, the military and potentially the intelligence community have a big problem on their hands.

BitOneZero0 karma

... didn't Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman warn us? Duke University via Rick Roderick? Carl Sagan in his 1995 Daemon Haunted book? What are your thoughts on how to combat this with population-wide education about interpreting media, even how people interpret the media of Rupert Murdoch? Thank you.

SamMeowAdams-2 karma

Did you report on the ridiculous over the top arrest where the feds basically terrorized the sleepy town?

washingtonpost15 karma

From Shane Harris: It was a pretty dramatic arrest. But also not surprising that agents showed up in tactical gear. They had reason to believe that Teixeira might be armed. Ultimately, as you see from the video footage, Teixeira surrendered peacefully.