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Pentagon leaks: US air national guardsman, 21, identified as suspect

Thursday, 13 April, 2023, 23:42
Pentagon leaks: US air national guardsman, 21, identified as suspect

The man believed to be responsible for the leak of hundreds of US defence documents that have laid bare military secrets and upset Washington’s relations with key allies is reported to be a 21-year-old air national guardsman based in Massachusetts.

Jack Teixeira was the leader of an online chat group who uploaded hundreds of photographs of secret and top secret documents, according to the New York Times. The online group called itself Thug Shaker Central, made up of 20 to 30 young men and teenagers who shared their love of guns, racist memes and video games.

Members of the group have told the investigative journalism organisation Bellingcat, the Washington Post and the New York Times that the documents were shared on Thug Shaker Central in an apparent attempt to impress the group, rather than to achieve any particular foreign policy outcome.

The Times said it had seen about 300 of the documents, only a fraction of which have so far been reported, indicating the national security damage could be worse than has so far been acknowledged.

The FBI, which is conducting a hunt for the leaker, did not confirm his identity, but Joe Biden said in Ireland on Thursday that US authorities were close to catching the person responsible..

Speaking to reporters outside the Irish president’s residence in Ireland, where he is on an official visit, Biden said: “There’s a full-blown investigation going on, as you know, with the intelligence community and the justice department, and they’re getting close.”

An increasing volume of evidence pointed to the leaker being a disaffected young man with racist views and a preoccupation with guns, who claimed to work on a military base. The person shared photos of the documents on a chat group with about two dozen active members, starting last year and continuing until March.

“I’m not concerned about the leak,” Biden said. “I’m concerned that it happened. But there’s nothing contemporaneous that I’m aware of that’s of great consequence.”

Some of the leaked documents are dated as recently as March, and discussed Ukraine’s troop deployments, military vulnerabilities and efforts to arm its forces before a spring counteroffensive.

There is also evidence of US spying on allies, and their reluctance to arm Ukraine, and there is material about Russian forces and decision-making in Moscow that could help the Kremlin better understand the strengths and weaknesses of US intelligence collection efforts in Russia.