Journalists appeared to be ahead of the curve in investigating the recent leak of highly classified documents, slot deposit dana publicly disclosing the leak and tracing its source before the DOJ announced charges in the case.
Air Force National Guardsman Jack Douglas Teixeira, 21, was arrested by in Massachusetts on Thursday, over an hour after the identified him as the suspected leaker.
Court documents unsealed on Friday morning indicate that the FBI had identified Teixeira as a suspect at least by Wednesday, using witness statements and billing records from the messaging service Discord.
Bellingcat, an open-source investigation website that relies on public information to research a variety of subjects, was the first to publicly identify the Discord chatroom ‘Thug Shaker Central,’ where Teixeira allegedly posted classified documents under the username ‘The OG.’
In a , Toler meticulously traced the documents to their original source, after they had spread on pro-Russian Telegram channels, the website 4Chan, and multiple Discord servers.
US officials are still assessing the damage inflicted by the leaks, which included secret records detailing Ukrainian military vulnerabilities, and classified information about allies including Israel, South Korea and Turkey.
Bellingcat journalist Aric Toler (left) was the first to publicly identify the source of the leaked documents, the ‘Thug Shaker Central’ Discord chatroom where Jack Teixeira (right) allegedly posted them as early as December 2022
The documents appeared to have circulated online for months before they were brought to public attention by a New York Times article on April 6, which first reported the Pentagon was investigating a breach.
The Pentagon has said that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was initially briefed on the leak on the morning of April 6, and launched a cross-department investigation.
On April 9, Toler, Bellingcat’s Director of Training and Research, posted his article tracing the provenance of the documents back to their original source.
He noted that photographs of the documents first spread widely on pro-Russian Telegram channels on April 5, where they appeared to have been crudely altered to cast Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in a more positive light.
Hours prior to that, other documents had been shared on the imageboard website 4Chan, with only one of the images in common with the Telegram posts, suggesting a separate original source.
Bellingcat identified the probable source as a March 4 post of 10 documents to a Discord server dedicated to the Minecraft game, which included all seven of the documents from the 4chan and Telegram posts.
Those documents appeared to be from a batch of over 30 documents shared by a user of the ‘WowMao’ Discord server on March 1 and 2.
From there, Toler was able to provisionally identify another Discord chatroom, ‘Thug Shaker Central’ as the original source of the leaks, dating all the way back to January 13.
Photographs of the documents first spread widely on pro-Russian Telegram channels (above) on April 5, where they appeared to have been crudely altered
Hours prior to the Telegram post, other documents had been shared on the imageboard website 4Chan, with only one of the images in common with the Telegram posts
Bellingcat identified the probable source of the Telegram and 4Chan posts as a March 4 post of 10 documents to a Discord server dedicated to the Minecraft game
A TV screen shows a news program reporting on the leaked Pentagon documents at the Seoul Railway Station in South Korea on Wednesday