The documents had left the restricted space over 5 months ago; it was only last week that US intelligence agencies got a whiff of it.
NEW DELHI: The prime accused in last week’s Pentagon paper leak episode, Jack Douglas Teixeria, a 21-year-old man from the city of North Dighton, Bristol County in the State of Massachusetts, has shaken the entire Joe Biden administration from the inside, the global ramification of which will be felt for years to come.
By taking a series of actions that were executed sometime in 2021, Teixeria, without any intention to hurt the US’s strategic interests, has shown seeds of distrust among its allies on two counts; whether US is capable enough to hide state secrets and that of its allies and secondly the extent to which the US spies on its allies.
The said documents, roughly 100 pages of which have till now been made public, are likely to be about 300 pages in total, which have been taken down for now by those who have it in their possession.
As per the complaint filed by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent, Patrick Lueckenhoff, of the Counter-Intelligence Department, Teixeria has been booked under 18 USC 793 that is related to “gathering, transmitting or losing defense information” and USC 1924 that is related to “unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material”. He was presented before a court in Boston in front of Magistrate Judge David Hennessy who will hear his case on Wednesday.
According to the FBI’s submission, the agency had been investigating unauthorized disclosure of classified national defense information in connection with the posting of dozens of images of documents on various public Internet sites.
“Many of the documents depicted in these images bear classification markings, including “TOP SECRET” markings, which would serve to indicate the presence of US Government classified information, including national defense information (the “Government Information”). Many of these images were posted on a publicly accessible US social media platform. Certain of the images appear to depict Government Information that was used to inform senior military and civilian government officials during briefings at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia,” the FBI told the court on Friday.
According to the FBI, on 10 April, the FBI interviewed a user of a social media platform who told them about Teixeria posting these documents online in December 2022. At that time, Teixeria had stated that the purpose of this was to discuss geopolitical affairs and current and historical wars.
According to the FBI, initially he posted the Government Information as paragraphs of text. However, in or around January 2023, he began posting photographs of documents that contained what appeared to be classification markings on official US Government documents. One of the documents that he posted was a document that described the status of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, including troop movements, on a particular date (the “Government Document”). The said document was based on sensitive US intelligence, gathered through classified sources and methods, and contained national defence information.
As of now, none of the papers that have been made public mentions India. However, considering the increase in mutual assistance in the field of intelligence sharing that the two countries have seen in the last half a decade, it will not come as a surprise if such paper surfaces in the coming days detailing such cooperation.
As per official documents accessed by The Sunday Guardian, Teixeria has been serving as an Airman First Class since May 2022. He joined the Air Force in September 2019 as an E-1 rank. As of February 2023, his title was of “Cyber Defense Operations Journeyman”, a position that gave him a Top Secret security clearance, which he was granted in 2021. Apart from top Secret clearance, he maintained sensitive compartmented access (SCI) to other highly classified programs.
Airman first class is the third lowest rank in the U.S air force. Teixeria was presently assigned to the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base, part of Joint Base Cape Cod, a military base in Massachusetts that houses all the five commands of the US military.
As per the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), he got hold of all the classified documents that eventually found its way into the public domain, while working in the said position, much of which was not meant for him. He was able to access them as they were “not restricted” for military personnel deployed in the base.
The said documents were posted in an closed online gaming chat group, called “Thug Shaker Central” on “Discord”, an online platform popular with gamers.
From there, the said documents were shared on bigger chat rooms and from there, it started appearing on Telegram and Twitter last week. As per the timeline, the said documents had left the restricted space more than five months ago; however, it was only last week that the famed US intelligence agencies got a whiff of it.
All the U.S government agencies, including President Joe Biden have confirmed that the leaks were authentic thereby dispelling the initial reports that the leaks were not genuine and were a part of the Russian misinformation campaign.
While these are just the initial days, apart from revealing sensitive information that the US agencies and other government across the world would not have wanted to become public, this leak has also brought into focus how the presence of multiple agencies, all doing the same work- of intelligence gathering- have led to a situation of chaos as the 21 years old Tixeria, despite being at the lower end of the military hierarchy, was able to easily access inputs from multiple such agencies.
Officially, the US Intelligence Community is composed of 18 organizations including the familiar ones like the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA).
Source said that some of the data that were leaked included satellite images that are handled by a specific department. As per journalists based in Washington following the developments, who were among the first to identify the source of leaks, even as the Biden administration was still trying to gather its breath, Teixeria shared those documents in a closed group of online players with whom he had developed close relations and wanted to educate them about the “geo-politics” of the world.
These leaks were then noticed by Russian agencies who too are active on these online game servers, after which they were shared on multiple Telegram groups, including a prominent one of which this reporter too has been a member. Till Thursday night, newer sets of documents were being released on the said group. One said document was of February and related to United Kingdom mulling deploying an aircraft carrier in the Asian region.
According to sources, the US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin was first told about this leak on 6 April. On Friday, many of the twitter accounts that were sharing the images of the leaked documents were disabled temporarily.
Official sources in India, said that there was no specific worry as far as India is concerned given that the leaked paper did not disclose anything related to India. However, it had definitely hurt the perception of the US intelligence organs and might lead to relevant offices across the world taking a step back and analysing what needs to be shared with Washington and what needs to be restricted given this is not for the first time that such leaks have happened.
“There were highly classified documents, sourced from multiple agencies, individuals and countries. It will impact US ties with those countries that have been mentioned in the leaks including South Korea, Egypt and Ukraine. The first fallout of this incident is likely to be some level of reduction when it comes to intelligence sharing,” an official said.