Alleged leaker fixated on guns and envisioned ‘race war’
Videos and chat logs reveal Jack Teixeira’s preparations for a violent social conflict, his racist thinking and a deep suspicion of the government he served
Updated May 13, 2023 at 9:51 a.m. EDT|Published May 13, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. EDT
Editor’s note: Videos in this presentation include racist language and gunshots, which may be disturbing to some readers.
Jack Teixeira, dressed in camouflage fatigues, his finger wrapped around the trigger of a semiautomatic rifle, faced the camera and spoke as though reciting an oath.
“Jews scam, n-----s rape, and I mag dump.”
Teixeira raised his weapon, aimed at an unseen target and fired 10 times in rapid succession, emptying the magazine of bullets.
The six-second video, taken at a gun range near Teixeira’s home in Massachusetts, affords a brief but illuminating glimpse into the offline world of the 21-year-old National Guard member, who stands accused of leaking a trove of classified military intelligence on the group-chat platform Discord.
Previously unpublished videos and chat logs reviewed by The Washington Post, as well as interviews with several of Teixeira’s close friends, suggest that he was readying for what he imagined would be a violent struggle against a legion of perceived adversaries — including Blacks, political liberals, Jews, gay and transgender people — who would make life intolerable for the kind of person Teixeira professed to be: an Orthodox Christian, politically conservative and ready to defend, if not the government of the United States, a set of ideals on which he imagined it was founded.
Teixeira’s love of guns, which first drew him to an online community of friends, was intertwined with a deep suspicion of the government that he served as an enlisted member of the Air National Guard. But Teixeira did not consider himself a whistleblower, according to friends.
By the time of his arrest, filings by federal prosecutors show that Teixeira had amassed a small arsenal of rifles, shotguns and pistols, as well as a helmet, gas mask and night-vision goggles, all under the roof of the house where he lived withhis mother and stepfather. The Post obtained and verified two videos taken at their home in Dighton, Mass., where the FBI arrested Teixeira last month.
Filmed from the shooter’s perspective, the first video shows a person identified by a Discord user as Teixeira firing an AR-style weapon into the forest. Another video shows the gunman firing a pistol into the woods behind Teixeira’s home, including two rapid volleys that suggest the weapon may have been modified. It isn’t clear what legal or illegal modifications Teixeira may have made, though devices like binary triggers and typically illegal auto sear accessories can make semiautomatic guns fire quicker than they are designed to shoot. A separate photograph shows an AK-style weapon resting on a table outside the family home next to a helmet with attached night-vision goggles.
For Teixeira, firearms practice seemed to be more than a hobby. “He used the term ‘race war’ quite a few times,” said a close friend who spent time with Teixeira in an online community on Discord, a platform popular with video game players, and had lengthy private phone and video calls with him over the course of several years.
“He did call himself racist, multiple times,” the friend said in an interview. “I would say he was proud of it.”
The friend, like others on the server, spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid being associated publicly with Teixeira, who faces a potential sentence of 25 years in prison. The friend gave a video interview to The Post and requested that their face be obscured and their voice modified.
In the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, Teixeira told friends that he saw a storm gathering. “He was afraid they would target White people,” his friend said. “He had told me quite a few times he thought they need to be prepared for a revolution.” The friend said Teixeira spoke approvingly of Kyle Rittenhouse, a teenager who shot three people, two fatally, during protests that summer in Kenosha, Wis., claiming that he had acted in self-defense. A jury acquittedRittenhouse of five counts, including intentional first-degree homicide, in 2021.
Teixeira’s preparations for civil chaos weren’t limited to arms; knowledge was also power. His job as a computer technician at Otis Air Force Base, on Cape Cod, gave him access to the Pentagon’s network for top-secret information, where, according to his friends, Teixeira viewed thousands of classified documents on a vast range of topics, from the war in Ukraine to North Korean ballistic missile launches to attempts by foreign governments to interfere in U.S. elections. Teixeira shared some of this intelligence bounty with a band of about two dozen people in a Discord server he came to control called Thug Shaker Central. (The server’s name, the most often used of several, is a racist allusion.) Teixeira’s goal, they said, was to reveal truths that powerful people had hidden from ordinary ones.
Teixeira wanted his online companions, many of them teenage boys, to “be prepared for things the government might do, reinforcing to them that the government was lying to them,” said the close friend, who was also a member of the server. Beginning in 2022, the year after Teixeira was granted a top-secret government security clearance following a standard background investigation, he began posting classified documents in the server, first typing them out by hand and later uploading photographs of printed documents bearing classification markings and restrictions on their distribution. He also shared video from the base, showing friends on the server where he worked and allegedly secreted away classified intelligence.
The Post obtained hundreds of documents, as well as text messages, that Teixeira shared on the server over the course of several months. Teixeira’s lawyers declined to comment. Teixeira, who remains in federal custody, has not entered a plea.
Teixeira occasionally augmented his leaks with sober analysis. He once confidently predicted that China “will be trying to avoid sanctions and appease us in the near term” in light of new laws and regulations aimed at blunting the country’s semiconductor manufacturing industry.
But Teixeira’s missives also revealed a conspiratorial streak.
“Recently a Al-Qaeda sympathizer moved nearby my area, immigrant and we’re finding more about their organization,” he wrote in October 2022, apparently referring to the U.S. government. “Any sand ni--er like that we will watch them[.]”
On Discord, an account with the handle “Jack the Dripper,” one of Teixeira’s known monikers, shared an image titled “payback,” showing a large passenger jet careening toward the Kaaba in Mecca, Islam’s holiest site.
Teixeira asserted that “lots of FBI agents were found to have sympathized with the Jan 6 rioters,” and he said naive members of the intelligence community, of which he was technically a part, had been “cucked.” He referred to mainstream press as “zogshit,” appropriating a popular white-supremacist slur for the “Zionist Occupied Government.” Friends said that during live video chats, Teixeira expounded on baseless accusations of shadowy, sinister control by Jewish and liberal elites, as well as corrupt law enforcement authorities.
“He had quite a few conspiratorial beliefs,” the close friend said, adding: “I remember him multiple times talking about things like Waco and Ruby Ridge, and talking about how the government kills their own people,” referring to a pair of notorious armed standoffs that the far right has held up as emblematic of government oppression.
Polarized by the pandemic
Already united by their love of guns and their Orthodox Christian faith, two members of Thug Shaker Central said their nascent political beliefs became hardened and more polarized during the isolation of the pandemic. Unable to see their local friends in person, the young members spent their entire days in front of screens and came under the influence of outsize online figures like Teixeira. Some on the server saw him as an older brother — others, friends said, like a father figure.
The Post obtained previously unpublished screenshots from the server and recordings of members playing games together. Racist and antisemitic language flowed through the community, as did hostility for gay and transgender people, whom Teixeira deemed “degenerate.” The line between sarcasm and genuine belief became increasingly blurred. On video calls, users held up a finger, jokingly imitating members of ISIS. In their rooms were flags associated with Christian nationalism and white power.
In interviews, some of the members struggled to explain worldviews that had developed largely online, and expressed remorse. Several admitted they had become radicalized during the pandemic and were influenced by Teixeira, whose own politics seemed animated by social grievances and an obsession with guns.
The members may have sensed they were treading into dangerous political waters, even before leaked classified documents started circulating. During video chats, some hid their faces behind masks, fearful of being publicly identified with a group of self-professed bigots, Teixeira’s close friend said.
After he enlisted in the U.S. Air National Guard in September 2019, Teixeira also feared that his own racist and violent statements would jeopardize his chances of getting a security clearance. “He was worried something from Discord would come up during his interview,” said the friend, who met him when the application was still pending. Teixeira changed his online handle to an innocuous version of his surname and became “less active” in the community for a time, the friend added, in an effort not to create more incriminating evidence.
But Teixeira already had an offline record that arguably should have raised concerns for the officials who approved his security clearance. In March 2018, Teixeira was suspended from his high school “when a classmate overheard him make remarks about weapons, including Molotov cocktails, guns at the school, and racial threats,” according to a Justice Department filing last month that argued Teixeira should remain in jail while he faces charges under the Espionage Act stemming from his alleged leaks.
Federal prosecutors noted that, according to local police records, Teixeira claimed that he had been talking about a video game when he made the alarming comments. But other students disputed that characterization, prosecutors said. And Teixeira’s close friend, who knew him after he had graduated high school, said he had confessed to wanting to take a gun to school and carry out a shooting.
“He had told me multiple times about when he was younger, his desire to shoot up his school,” the friend said. “He hated his school.”
“To my knowledge, he never hurt anyone physically, but he absolutely talked about it pretty often,” the friend added. Other friends confirmed Teixeira talked about attacking his school, but they said they didn’t take his threats seriously.
It remains unclear how Teixeira obtained a clearance and what consideration, if any, adjudicators gave to his history of violent remarks.
Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokeswoman, said Teixeira is subject to “potential discipline,” considering he was working under active duty. After the Air Force concludes an investigation, she said, a commander will determine if Teixeira should face charges in the military. The service is coordinating closely with the FBI in the leak investigation, she said.
Teixeira remains an airman first class, a low-ranking enlisted service member, as he awaits trial on the leaking charges.
The military has, in the past, struggled to track down individuals who have espoused racist or white-nationalist ideologies. Service members have faced charges that include dereliction of duty and misconduct for racist rants.
After Teixeira got his privileged access, he sought out another official license that had eluded him: a firearms identification card, which, in the state of Massachusetts, permits the possession of “non-large-capacity rifles, shotguns, and ammunition.”
Teixeira’s application had been turned down in 2018 due to the concerns of local police about his violent remarks at his high school, court records show. But in a letter to a local police officer in 2020, Teixeira argued that his new career in the Air Force, and the security clearance that came with it, demonstrated his trustworthiness.
“I now represent much more than myself and need to watch what I say and do both in public and in private, as it affects more than just myself,” Teixeira wrote in November 2020. He allegedly began divulging classified information online a little more than a year later.
The pandemic refuge of Thug Shaker Central wasn’t the only place Teixeira appears to have spilled protected information.
According to court documents and online records reviewed by The Post, Teixeira posted intelligence on another Discord server as early as February 2022. This community of gamers contained hundreds of people, exposing official secrets to a much larger audience than his tight-circle of friends, who said they understood they should keep the classified documents to themselves.
The server, called Abinavski’s Exclusion Zone, is associated with a YouTube streamer who plays the video game War Thunder, known for its realistic models of tanks, fighter jets and other military vehicles. A member of the server, who asked not to be identified, said a user believed to be Teixeira posted intelligence in a channel called “civil-discussions,” usually in a running thread.
Abinavski’s Exclusion Zone remained active this month. When The Post reviewed the server on Tuesday, it listed 627 members, of whom 150 were online at the time.
On April 6, a Discord user informed Teixeira that he had seen material he believed the service member had shared show up on another social media platform, Telegram, in a channel devoted to pro-Russian topics.
“Is it actually one of them btw,” the unidentified user asked, according to court documents.
“Not commenting,” Teixeira wrote in reply. The user then asked, “[D]id you share them outside of abis,” an apparent reference to Abinavski.
In chat logs made public by prosecutors, Teixeira repeatedly makes reference to “the thread” where he had posted material starting in 2022. In a March 19, 2023, exchange, Teixeira wrote that he’d “decided to stop with the updates,” thanking “everyone who came to the thread about the current event,” an apparent reference to the Russian invasion of Ukraine that had begun a year earlier.
“I was very happy and willing and enthusiastic to have covered this event for the past year and share with all of you,” Teixeira wrote, in comments that match messages the New York Times first reported he had made on that date in what it identified as a second server but didn’t name as Abinavski’s Exclusion Zone. In an email to The Post, Abinavski said a user believed to be Teixeira left the server in early April.
Abinavski said the civil-discussion channel had a thread for conversations around the Ukraine war, created roughly the time Russia invaded. “Members confirmed with me … that photos of documents were posted” to the channel, Abinavski said.
The YouTuber added that Discord deleted the civil-discussion channel on April 24 after “multiple members” received notices from the company.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Discord said: “We have removed content, terminated user accounts, and are cooperating with the efforts of the United States Departments of Defense and Justice in connection with this incident.”
“In this instance, we have banned users involved with the original distribution of the materials, deleted content deemed to be against our Terms of Service and issued warnings to users who continue to share the materials in question,” the spokesperson added.
As classified documents began popping up across the internet, Teixeira asked an unnamed user to help him delete en masse the posts that Teixeira had made in civil-discussions, according to court documents. “If anyone comes looking, don’t tell them shit.”
But the leak that led the authorities to the young National Guard member appears to have come not from Abinavski’s larger group but within Teixera’s trusted circle. The classified information that showed up on Telegram, and later circulated more broadly online, came from a young Thug Shaker Central member, several other members of the server said, who broke the club’s unwritten rule not to share the documents and set off a chain of events that led to Teixeira’s arrest the following month.
Moving from online to IRL
The civil-discussions channel gave Teixeira a large audience. But in Thug Shaker Central, he seemed to feel he was in a more intimate environment, able to share his love of guns and express his political views to a sympathetic audience. Teixeira posted videos and photographs taken at his mother and stepfather’s home in Dighton and clips he recorded at the nearby gun range, where Teixeira made his “mag dump” video.
Teixeira developed an offline relationship with at least one friend on the server: Henry Adams, 18, who lives with his family about an hour’s drive from Dighton in Hanover, Mass.
Three former members of Thug Shaker confirmed Adams’s identity, as well as his close ties with Teixeira and activity on the server. An attorney for Adams, Max Perlman, confirmed that his client knew Teixeira for “around three years,” bonding over shared interests. Through his attorney, Adams denied being a member of Thug Shaker Central, claimed to be unaware of its existence and said he had never seen any “illicit material” posted by Teixeira on any server.
According to a former member of the server, Adams tried to obtain support for Teixeira following his arrest. Asked if Adams had contacted anyone on the server, Perlman said his client had spoken “to one minor individual and asked for letters of support because Mr. Teixeira’s mom ask[ed] him to see if people would do that and get them to his lawyer.”
Perlman said Adams’s and Teixeira visited a shooting range in Raynham, Mass., “many, many times,” accompanied by Adams’s mother, Lisa, his father, Richard, or Teixeira’s biological father, Jack Michael Teixeira.
Reached by phone, Adams’s mother didn’t dispute that her son knew Teixeira. But she denied that he was active on Thug Shaker Central and said he “saw nothing.”
Referring to Teixeira, she asked, “When did serving your country and being a Christian become a bad thing?”
Attempts to reach Jack Michael Teixeira were unsuccessful.
Additional videos obtained and verified by The Post showed Teixeira and Adams at the gun range, owned by Taunton Rifle and Pistol Club. In one, Adams fires a Soviet-era SKS rifle. In another, Teixeira fires a pump action shotgun.
The club president, Eric Dewhirst, confirmed that the footage was taken at the members-only facility. In an interview at the organization’s clubhouse, Dewhirst said there was no record of Teixeira being a member, suggesting that he and his friend were probably taken there by someone else. Dewhirst, who said he had read about Teixeira’s alleged crimes and his life online, described the 21-year-old as “young and head full of mush.”
‘He absolutely enjoyed gore’
When Teixeira wasn’t firing guns in the real world, he was playing with them online.
“He played a lot of video games, mostly shooters,” his close friend said, noting that Teixeira preferred games from the shooter’s point of view.
Teixeira’s gaming and political cultures overlapped, the friend observed. “Once you start getting into the more niche video games, a lot of those communities are much more conservative. I think he found a small place where his views got echoed back to him and made them worse.”
The interest in video games and conservative politics was accompanied by an acute obsession with violence, the friend said. “He would send me a video of someone getting killed, ISIS executions, mass shootings, war videos. People would screen-share it, and he would laugh very loudly and be very happy to watch these things with everyone else. He absolutely enjoyed gore.”
Friends may not have taken seriously Teixeira’s threats against his high school. But he voiced approval of some shooters, particularly when they targeted people of different races and faiths. Teixeira was especially impressed by a gunman’s rampage at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019, which left 51 people dead and 4o injured. “He was very happy that those people died,” the friend said, because they were Muslim. The shooter live-streamed his massacre as though he were in a video game.
The line between condoning violence and making light of it was slippery. When Teixeira was waiting on approval of his security clearance, he told his friend that he was particularly concerned that “jokes” he had made in the server might surface about “shooting up buildings” and “wanting to kill government agents.” These were frequent subjects of amusement.
“Most of the jokes he would make were about the ATF,” the friend said, referencing the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the federal government’s premier gun control agency and a bête noire of the far right.
“He was very against gun control. And so he would talk about wanting to kill ATF agents or when ATF agents would show up to his house, like theoretically preparing your house so that they would die in some strange trap.”
In arguing that Teixeira should remain in jail while he faces charges, federal prosecutors pointed to his threats of violence in high school. But among online communities whose members hold “more extremist conservative views,” the friend said, “it’s really common to joke about killing government agents like that, so it never seemed worrying to me.”
Teixeira’s alleged hostility toward the government doesn’t explain his motivation for disclosing classified information. Other convicted leakers, including those like Teixeira who served in lower-level positions but had some of the highest levels of security clearance, were self-described whistleblowers trying to check perceived abuses or wrongdoings. Teixeira was trying to impress, and apparently mold, a group of teenagers.
“I think he did think it made him special,” the close friend said. “I think there was a part of him that felt like he was cool or important because he got that access.”
For the teenagers Teixeira had taken under his wing, the classified documents offered an education about how the world secretly worked. “He wanted to be seen as someone who’s powerful or looked up to,” the friend said. “He wanted them to be what he thought was the ideal, the ideal man.”
Dalton Bennett, Evan Hill, Alex Horton, Andrew Ba Tran, Alice Crites, Nilo Tabrizy, Jon Gerberg and Dan Lamothe contributed to this report."
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