Yesterday (April 13), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested 21-year-old airman Jack Teixeira on suspicion of leaking a number of classified intelligence documents related to the war in Ukraine.
Teixeira was identified through a combination of investigations by the FBI, The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Following the arrest, New York Times journalist Christiaan Triebert revealed that a “breakthrough” in the outlet’s investigation came when investigators discovered a Steam profile in Teixeira’s name.
A breakthrough in our investigation came when the team identified a Steam profile in Airman Teixeira’s name that led to an Instagram profile with photos of the exact location where leaked docs were photographed — a kitchen countertop in his childhood home. https://t.co/XQAZf2kNV7 pic.twitter.com/DWlkN8xmqK
— Christiaan Triebert (@trbrtc) April 13, 2023
By using the Steam account, reporters were able to uncover an Instagram account that appeared to show the same kitchen countertop that the leaked documents were originally photographed on top of.
The New York Times investigation alleged that Teixeira was a member of a small Discord group called Thug Shaker Central, which was originally created to play survival simulator Project Zomboid and other games together.
There, Teixeira reportedly shared the leaked documents to inform his online friends of world events. However, members of the community went on to share them on other Discord servers — including a Minecraft server that propelled the leaks across the world.
The leaked documents have been described as a “massive intelligence breach” by one U.S. official, and included the country’s evaluation of Russian and Ukrainian military forces. They also confirmed that American and British special forces are operating in Ukraine, and revealed the U.S. has been spying on Ukrainian leadership.
Despite the significance of the leak’s contents, one member of Thug Shaker Central has claimed Teixeiras did not intend for the documents to travel so far.
“This guy was a Christian, antiwar, just wanted to inform some of his friends about what’s going on,” said Discord user Vahki.
Earlier in the week, Microsoft president Brad Smith responded to the leaks by warning that Russian intelligence groups were attempting to “penetrate” gaming communities to spread information.