The 21-year old Nationwide Guard Airman was in a panic as he signed up for a small online gaming group. This group has unimaginably ended up at the center of a federal probe into a serious U.S. security breach.
Vahki recalled that Airman Teixeira said, 'Guys it's good -- I love you all.' I never wanted it to be this way. I prayed that it would never happen. I prayed, prayed, prayed. Only God can solve what is happening.
The F.B.I. arrested Airman Teixeira on Thursday. The F.B.I. arrested Airman Teixeira an hour and half after The New York Times recognized him as the administrator of a web group called Thug Shaker Central. This was the location where a cache leaked intelligence documents that captivated the globe for a week first appeared.
Airman Teixeira of the Massachusetts Nationwide Guard was the one who, according to his friends in the group, somehow obtained the classified documents and sent them on to the group. The classified documents were then leaked to the public, possibly compromising U.S. Intelligence gathering and damaging relationships with allies.
In interviews, Thug Shaker Central members stated that their group began as a place where younger men and teenage boys could gather amid the isolation caused by the pandemic, to bond over weapons, share memes - usually racist - and play video games themed around war.
Airman Teixeira was the unofficial leader of this group, which one member called O.G. Members said that Airman Teixeira, who was also its unofficial leader, wanted to teach the young acolytes, who gravitated towards him, about actual battle.
Group members and law enforcement officers said that Airman Teixeira began sharing classified information in October. Eventually, he imported a large number of documents, including detailed maps of the Ukrainian battlefield and confidential assessments about Russia's war machine.
The group members said that his aim was to impress and tell each person.
The group of 20-30 people was intrigued by Airman Teixeira’s access to secret information and his ability to know about major world events before they were reported on the front pages.
Vahki said in an interview that 'everyone revered O.G.' He was the person and the parable. He was the legend. This man was revered by all.
Vahki said that Airman Teixeira wasn't a whistleblower in the same vein as Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning. Their outrage at perceived injustices drove them to break the law and reveal closely held government secrets.
The important documents in the news now, said Airman Teixeira’s friends, were never meant to leave their little corner of the internet.
Vahki, an 18-year-old recent high school graduate, who identified himself by his display name, said that the man in question was Christian, antiwar and simply wanted to inform a few of friends about what's going on. We have some people in our group that are in Ukraine. We like combating video games; we like battle video games.'
Their world has crumbled around them.
The Pentagon opened an investigation after a New York Instances article last week about the discovery of classified Ukraine war documents circulating online. National safety officers then raced to close down access to sensitive materials and reassure distraught ally that the U.S. government was still in control of its secrets.
It is not yet fully understood the extent of damage caused by the leak.
The information that Airman Teixeira was accused of sharing showed how deeply U.S. intelligence agencies and their allies had penetrated the Russian authorities. They were able to provide near-real time info about Russian attacks to the Ukrainians.
They also confirmed that American spy agencies had been listening in on allies such as Israel and South Korea along with the Ukrainian government. These embarrassing revelations would undermine trust at a moment when Washington was trying to present a united front against Moscow.
F.B.I. On Thursday, F.B.I.
His online circle of friends said that it began innocently. As the pandemic shut down schools and offices, plunging everyone into isolation, the young men in Thug Shaker Central gravitated towards one another on-line. They found solace in their shared interests, mostly video video games such as Mission Zomboid in which players attempt to survive in an post-apocalyptic Kentucky infested with zombies.
However, they abandoned it for a more closed-knitted group.
Visible Investigations is a team of more than a dozen journalists that combine digital sleuthing, forensic analysis and traditional reporting to deconstruct news events. They have uncovered important details about drone attacks, police shootings and Capitol riot.
They did not hide some of their extreme ideologies. Members of the group used racist and antisemitic epithets on Steam, another popular gaming platform. They also appeared in teams with Nazi icons.
Vahki acknowledged retweeting racism memes. Vahki said, 'There is no point in hiding it.' I'm not a good person.
Airman Teixeira called the group Thug-Shaker Central. Members acknowledged that it was a joke, primarily based off a web meme. Bellingcat, a collective of investigative journalists, was the first to report that the group had been the source of the leaks. The Washington Post also reported details about the group.
The chums said that Airman Teixeira was popular on the internet and was a prolific meme creator. He went by many different names on the internet, including TheExcaliburEffect, jackdjdtex, and TexKilledYou.
He was born in North Dighton (Mass. ). In pictures from his relatives' social media pages, he can be seen curled up with the two dogs of his family, driving an ATV and wearing Boston Celtics gear. Every Veterans Day, his mother posted pictures of him and his family in the military.
The younger man followed in their footsteps and joined the navy in summertime 2020 after graduating from Dighton Rehoboth Regional High School. He missed his commencement ceremony in order to attend his initial coaching obligations at Lackland Air Drive Base, Texas. The following 12 months, he completed his technical training and officially entered active responsibility on October 1, 2021 with the Massachusetts Air Nationwide Guard 102nd Intelligence Wing.
Airman Teixeira's sister posted dozens of photos and birthday wishes for him on her social media pages. This was a hint that he might be the leaker. One of the 'photographs' captured a countertop in the kitchen that looked identical to the one on which the classified paperwork was photographed.
Airman Teixeira’s online group shared a passion for weapons as well as video games. Vahki claimed to be a great marksman. Data uncovered by The Times revealed that he traded gun equipment with his fellow gamers.
Vahki said, 'We are gunners and gear nerds', adding that members of the group have spent thousands of dollars on gear both in the virtual world and real life.
Airman Teixeira, however, began posting content in a different way.
The group members found it difficult to follow the lengthy daily memos that included complex and sometimes hard summaries about global events. Vahki said that he would often chastise his younger friends for not taking information seriously.
His frustration led him, in October last year, to start posting unique documents, including detailed battle maps of the war in Ukraine marked "TOP SECRET." Vahki said that from October to March the airman sent 350 documents to the group.
If it weren't for Lucca, an 17-year old Californian who didn't fully understand the importance of the documents he was given access to, the paperwork would have remained in Thug Shaker central.
Lucca, on March 2, was involved in a discussion about the Ukraine conflict in a Discord public group called #Conflict Posting. He printed out a dozen documents from the cache and uploaded them to Thug Shaker Central.
The documents circulated in esoteric groups for a whole month. One was popular with players of the online game Minecraft, and another with fans of a British YouTuber who is quite well known. The documents were not noticed by anyone who knew their significance until early April when they began appearing on Telegram channels for supporters of Russia's war against Ukraine.
As the details began to emerge, Airman Teixeira started closing his online accounts and saying goodbye to his online friends.
Vahki said, 'He was very scared.' This is not an oopsie-daisy. I will be reprimanded. This is the stuff of prison.
Kitty Bennett, Sheelagh MacNeill and others contributed to the analysis.