National Security

National Guardsman Gets 16 Years for Leaking Pentagon Docs Over Discord

Jack Teixeira shared documents on the war in Ukraine to a gamer group on Discord.


Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira was sentenced to 16 years in prison after pleading guilty on Monday to leaking classified military documents to an online Discord chat group.

Teixeira had originally pleaded not guilty, but he admitted to "willful retention and transmission of national defense information" in a deal with prosecutors to avoid espionage charges. He will also be required to brief officials on the information he leaked during his work for the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base.

The sentence is harsher than that of other recent leakers. Daniel Hale, a U.S. Air Force intelligence analyst who exposed key details about the Obama administration's drone assassination program, was sentenced to 45 months in prison. Reality Winner, a National Security Agency contractor who leaked documents about alleged Russian hacking, got five years.

Unlike other historical leakers, Teixeira was not an intentional whistleblower. He originally sent documents to a raucous Discord server called Thug Shaker Central—the title was a reference to a porn film—with a few dozen gamers in it. The files went viral after other users reposted them elsewhere.

Teixeira would not be the first person to leak restricted documents to gamer friends. So many people have posted sensitive weapons data to the War Thunder video game forum that it has become a meme: "0 days since classified document leaks."

But the Discord leak wasn't a mere attempt to impress friends or a joke. Teixeira, who has been described as "antiwar" and "libertarian," appeared to have some qualms about U.S. foreign policy and wanted to talk through these issues with his friends.

"It wasn't really 'pushing these to teenagers for clout,'" Vahki, a pseudonymous member of the chatroom where Teixeira posted the documents, told CNN. "It was more like showing these to friends, so we won't be shocked by the news cycles. And we know what's going on with our tax dollars."

At the time of the indictment, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland stated that Teixeira leaked "information that reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to national security if shared…In doing so, he is alleged to have violated U.S. law and endangered our national security."

Yet the leaks also provided valuable insights into U.S. foreign policy, especially the war in Ukraine. Based on the documents, journalists were able to learn more about U.S. advice about Ukrainian strategy, Ukraine's ammunition shortages, attempts by Russia to obtain weapons and other support from U.S. allies, and casualties on both sides of the war.

The leak embarrassed U.S. friends and foes alike. Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov, stung by reports that Russia was secretly buying rockets from U.S. ally Egypt, called the documents a "hoax."

Perhaps most embarrassingly, the documents revealed the extent of Washington's eavesdropping on its partners, from South Korea to Israel. Rather than threatening American lives, Teixeira's real crime may have been humiliating American diplomats.