Attorney General Merrick Garland confirmed that Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old member of the 102nd Intelligence Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, leaked several classified documents over the last few months. As many as 53 documents that shed light on the war in Ukraine and threatened to upend U.S. governments with its allies around the globe were apparently shared to the social media platform Discord, which is a popular service with video gamers.

Teixeira, who joined the Air National Guard in September 2019, was most recently stationed at Otis Air National Guard Base as a “Cyber Transport Systems Journeyman.” According to media reports, he held the highest-level security clearance granted by the government to review top-secret information.

In addition to serving in the Air National Guard, Teixeira was also the leader of a small online gaming chat group where several classified documents had been posted. He is believed to have first shared classified information in December 2022.

“Teixeira posted classified files on Discord using his own user name and provided factual information about himself, his job, and geographic location. His Discord account information used his actual address,” said Dr. Sal Aurigemma, faculty director of the Master of Science in cyber security program at Tulsa University.

“Teixeira knew that posting the classified documents online was against the rules he agreed to when he signed his Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with the Air Force,” Aurigemma told ClearancesJobs. “He took some minor and unsuccessful steps to try to protect himself from being detected.”

Gamers Have Over Shared

It appears that Teixeira isn’t exactly a “whistleblower,” but rather may simply be the latest gamer to show off his knowledge and access to inside information.

“This particular case is currently seen as more of an intentional leak of classified information than a deliberate espionage case and is less about gaming and more about online social forums,” said Aurigemma.

In the past few years, a number of gamers have revealed classified information about military tanks, aircraft, and other equipment – oftentimes to prove that a game’s representation of a particular piece of military hardware is incorrect.

This has occurred several times with forums for the military simulation War Thunder, where players have simply tried to simply win an argument.

This essentially could fall into the “ego” component of the four general motivations – Money, Ideology, Compromise and Ego (MICE) – that could lead someone to commit treason, become an insider threat, or collaborate with a hostile agency or organization. What is unique about these recent cases, however, is that there seemed to be little actual coercion from a potential adversary.

Even so, that doesn’t make the threat any less concerning. Yet, it could suggest that perhaps gaming activities need to be considered in the security clearance review process.

“The SF-86 is used for the initial background investigation for federal jobs requiring security clearances,” said Kenneth Gray, Msenior lecturer of Criminal Justice, Homeland Security, and Emergency Management at the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences at the University of New Haven.

“Such a change could potentially open avenues of additional investigation. I believe the use of social media is already included; this would widen the scope,” Gray told ClearanceJobs.

However, as Gray explained, the SF-86 is currently a snapshot in time.

“A person could get involved in something like the misuse of a discord server after being granted a security clearance and getting employed,” Gray continued. “Does a federal employee forfeit the right to engage in such activity due to the misuse by Teixeira? As a result of this leak of classified material, I am sure that we will see changes in rules on access to classified material.”

Could Potential Adversaries Turn to Gamers?

Already potential adversaries may try to engage with individuals via social media, so it is very likely that gamers could also be targeted – especially as some hardcore players have huge egos.

“Adversaries have always and will continue to utilize social engineering schemes in gaming for multiple reasons, including disclosing secrets,” warned Dr. Brian Gant, assistant professor of cybersecurity at Maryville University.

“Cyber criminals in online forums often place links in chats as an example and offer up ways to improve game play, advance past difficult levels etc.,” Gant told ClearanceJobs. “Initially this was done as a tool to insert malicious malware or steal information from the gamer. Now adversaries can bait gamers into sharing secrets in a quid pro quo fashion or in a retaliatory manner if they have already obtained information from the individual.”

Though playing games may not be a problem, it is possible that there could soon be questions asked during a background check.

“Although the SF-86 is already a thorough document, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking whether or not the applicant has participated in gaming,” Gant continued. “The question would be to what extent and how would you flesh if anything malicious was done in nature while they were gaming. The polygraph in conjunction with the SF-86 could also be used to help determine the worthiness of potential candidates for security clearances. Gaming and the servers they operate on are definitely a security threat to monitor.”

Discussions on Forums and Discord

Moreover, as we’ve seen, this isn’t really about actual gameplay – rather in many cases, the gamers simply engage on forums and are showing off.

“Teixeira belonged to an invite-only Discord channel with a relatively small number of members,” Aurigemma noted.

The service started back in 2015 as a way for gamers to communicate with others online while playing games. It has evolved over time into a social media platform to create, manage, and participate in private and public communities. Yet, Discord shouldn’t be blamed for the leaks.

“I use Discord myself in the classroom and for education-related activities because it is a great platform to easily communicate with other participants,” Aurigemma continued. “Just like any other communication media, there is nothing unique about Discord that facilitates illegal information sharing of any type. Adversaries interested in conducting espionage activities have long used online forums and social media platforms to successfully recruit and encourage malicious behavior.”

Such activity could likely continue into the future and has less to do about targeting gamers and gaming culture than finding and exploiting willing participants to conduct such illegal information activities.

“Simply put, adversaries will find and follow the activities of their demographic of interest and seek to embed themselves into those communities and practices,” said Aurigemma.

In addition, he said that he doesn’t believe there is any evidence that gamers are any less trustworthy at protecting classified information or are more susceptible to manipulation by adversaries.

“There are many more ‘gamers’ with security clearances that follow the rules surrounding classified information than those that do not,” Aurigemma told ClearanceJobs. “Therefore, it is my opinion that while the government does need to be vigilant and stay aware of the multitude of existing and new social media and communication platforms emerging, it would be a mistake to focus too strongly on a specific community or communication method unless there is evidence of sustained and significant adversarial activity in that community.”

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.