The Narcissist with a Top Secret Clearance Trying to Impress Teenagers in a Ukraine-Russia Chat Room

It’s something like 34 paragraphs deep into this WaPo report on how a bunch of documents got shared on a Discord server named “Thug Shaker” before WaPo reveals there was another name for the specific room in which someone who works on a military base shared classified information: bear-vs-pig, an allusion to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The documents were another lesson for younger members in how OG thought the world really worked. The member said OG wasn’t hostile to the U.S. government, and he insisted that he was not working on behalf of any country’s interests. “He is not a Russian operative. He is not a Ukrainian operative,” the member said. The room on the server where he posted the documents was called “bear-vs-pig,” meant to be a snide jab at Russia and Ukraine, and an indication that OG took no sides in the conflict.

Before you get to that detail, the WaPo offers this apocryphal reference to Reality Winner’s leak.

The photographs of printed secret documents now seen by millions may offer clues to the federal agents searching for OG. Reality Winner, who leaked secret National Security Agency documents to the news website the Intercept in 2017, was compromised by secret markings on printouts that helped narrow the search.

There’s no evidence in the search warrant affidavit or detention motion that the FBI had to use the dots on the document Winner printed out. They didn’t need to. She was one of just two people at her workplace who printed out the document, for which she did not have a need to know. She was easy to find using little more than subpoenas, as this dude is likely to be.

But the reference to Winner, someone who leaked a document that alerted Russia to what collection the NSA had on one of Russia’s most elusive hacking groups even though she had no known reason to want to help Russia, is an important reminder that often the best way to recruit someone to leak is via means other than asking them to help a hostile country.

Indeed, even the teenagers interviewed by the WaPo describe, whether they recognize it or not, that “OG” is a narcissist craving for adulation, even if comes from teenagers or people posing as teenagers in a Discord chat room.

The young member was impressed by OG’s seemingly prophetic ability to forecast major events before they became headline news, things “only someone with this kind of high clearance” would know. He was by his own account enthralled with OG, who he said was in his early to mid-20s.

“He’s fit. He’s strong. He’s armed. He’s trained. Just about everything you can expect out of some sort of crazy movie,” the member said.


OG was the undisputed leader. The member described him as “strict.” He enforced a “pecking order” and expected the others to read closely the classified information he had shared. When their attention waned, he got angry.


The dramatic and yet nonchalant presentation also reminded the group that OG could lay his hands on some of the most closely guarded intelligence in the U.S. government. “If you had classified documents, you’d want to flex at least a little bit, like hey, I’m the big guy,” the member said. “There is a little bit of showing off to friends, but as well as wanting to keep us informed.”

OG is a right wing guy with Top Secret clearance who has been soured by conspiracy theories.

But OG had a dark view of the government. The young member said he spoke of the United States, and particularly law enforcement and the intelligence community, as a sinister force that sought to suppress its citizens and keep them in the dark. He ranted about “government overreach.”

OG told his online companions that the government hid horrible truths from the public. He claimed, according to the members, that the government knew in advance that a white supremacist intended to go on a shooting rampage at a Buffalo supermarket in May 2022. The attack left 10 dead, all of them Black, and wounded three more. OG said federal law enforcement officials let the killings proceed so they could argue for increased funding, a baseless notion that the member said he believes and considers an example of OG’s penetrating insights about the depth of government corruption.

And whether the foreigners in the Discord server had followed OG there or even had elicited these leaks, they surely saw the same thing a bunch of teenagers saw: he would and did leak to feed his own ego and rationalized doing so with claims about the Deep State, the same kind of claims that the former President spreads regularly.

The member estimated that the server hosted people from Europe, Asia and South America. “Just about every walk of life.” Of the roughly 25 active members who had access to the bear-vs-pig channel, about half were located overseas, the member said. The ones who seemed most interested in the classified material claimed to be from mostly “Eastern Bloc and those post-Soviet countries,” he said. “The Ukrainians had interest as well,” which the member chalked up to interest in the war ravaging their homeland.

For years, U.S. counterintelligence officials have eyed gaming platforms as a magnet for spies. Russian intelligence operatives have been suspected of befriending gamers who they believe work for intelligence agencies and encouraging them to divulge classified information, a senior U.S. official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information.

As WaPo notes, spooks have recognized for some time that gaming platforms and other semi-private chat rooms are havens for spy recruitment.

The easy part of this investigation will be figuring out who OG is. Subpoenas on Discord and even these kids’ call records will identify him. The hard part will be figuring out who the other foreigners in the room were, and whether they enticed OG to leak this stuff or treated it as an auspicious benefit of being there.

This was a room focused on Ukraine and OG was an easy mark. One of the main questions at this point is whether he needed the nudge to leak these or really did so just to impress a bunch of teenagers.

Update: NYT reports that a member of MA’s Air National Guard is the person in the chatroom.

The national guardsman, whose name is Jack Teixeira, oversaw a private online group named Thug Shaker Central, where about 20 to 30 people, mostly young men and teenagers, came together over a shared love of guns, racist online memes and video games.

Two U.S. officials confirmed that investigators want to talk to Airman Teixeira about the leak of the government documents to the private online group. One official said Airman Teixeira might have information relevant to the investigation.

Update: While I was out to dinner, Teixiera was arrested.


53 replies
  1. Bears7485 says:

    It seems to me that OP, or whoever is behind them, is seeking to supplant Q who has to be bleeding all but the most ardent followers after 4+ years of failed prophecy.

    Also, the bear vs pig called up South Parks’ ManBearPig.

    • Wajim says:

      Yeah, I got a similar “Q” vibe from the description. In any case, Mr. Jack is looking at some serious “government overreach” indeed. But, hey, “he’s fit. he’s strong, he’s armed, he’s trained,” right? Should do well in prison

  2. phred says:

    VoteVets has an ad calling for the end of showing Fox News in public areas on military bases. I don’t know how prevalent that practice is, but it seems crazy to allow it to continue.

    I don’t know whether OG started down his conspiratorial path by being exposed to Fox News at his military base. Perhaps he grew up watching Fox News, who knows?

    But if Fox News is broadcast in public spaces there, it certainly would not have caused him to stop and question the conspiracies he was falling for.

    In any case, one does have to wonder what is going wrong with the training of young military recruits when they must take an oath to uphold and defend the constitution and abide by the orders of their superior officers, yet nonetheless get themselves wrapped around the axle about the Deep State. A state of which they are a part.

    • nadezhda says:

      It’s my understanding that Fox is the channel of choice in public areas, gyms and the like on military bases, both domestic and abroad. I see a occasional remark objecting it.

      Post-Dominion it would seem to be a no-brainer to restrict their presence in public spaces

      • MrBeagles says:

        Maybe Post-Dominion, or just in general the federal government could require a kind of ‘equal time’ on TV monitors at government facilities. For example, a split screen with two or three closed caption FOX/ MSNBC/ C-SPAN. Would be easy to implement technologically, educational (media literacy, government function), a pretty fair baseline and model for the rest of society/ the world. Not to mention it would make it safer to be a democrat or left-leaning servicemember, a good many of whom hide their views for personal safety.

  3. Joe Stewart says:

    I feel that on the whole Reality Winner served us well – she exposed a massive, illegal government operation. I’m unsure if the means by which she did so we’re the best.

    On the other hand, this OG effort seems to be about G, not about some higher purpose.

    Hard to tell.

    • Ghosty says:

      As I understood she mostly wanted to win an argument with Glenn Greenwald and get him to “see the light” on Russian hacking. In the end it very much so did not change his mind/behavior and her life got ruined as a consequence.

      Both of these incidents are a sobering reminder to not get too wrapped up in online but also that what we do here is not consequence free fantasy

    • bmaz says:

      Lol, you have to be kidding me. Reality Winner did not expose anything not already known. The only thing she accomplished was sending herself to prison.

      “Super Soldiers”.

    • Commander Ogg says:

      Retired military and Government employee here. You do not reveal classified information under any circumstances. Does not matter if you are left, right or center. Does not matter if your last name is Winner or Teixiera. Does not matter if you call yourself a “whistle blower”. You do not do that.

      If you suspect wrong doing you report it to the IG (Inspector General). If the policies of our Government are such that you can not in good conscience follow them you resign.

  4. Vicks says:

    The whistleblower is unusually articulate for a teenager, it’s been reported that’s it’s an American and the quotes aren’t translations correct?

    • Clare Kelly says:

      I disagree with the assessment that this teenager was a “whistleblower”, and that he was “unusually articulate”.

      The WaPo interview clips showed him using gamer war language and embroilment in both hero worship and ‘in-the-know’ conspiracy theories.

      My own beloved, intelligent and articulate wee laddie believed the pizza gate thang (briefly), despite my efforts at teaching him media literacy.

  5. pdaly says:

    “The Post obtained consent from the member’s mother to speak to him and to record his remarks on video. He asked that his voice not be obscured.”

    Sounds as if this anonymous minor wants to be recognized by OG if no one else.

    OG’s push to move to a new, private Discord chatroom sounds like grooming.
    I agree it is difficult to know yet whether OG was the one doing the grooming and/or if he was being groomed by someone else offstage?

    The love of guns, racial epithets and prayer reminds me of the stories of religious discrimination of religious minorities in military units that are infused with a dominant culture of Protestant Christianity.

    According to a RAND study, “Officers in the Army tend to be considerably more religious than the enlisted population, with the “None” population [enlisted soldiers who are admitted atheists or agnostics] making up about one-quarter of enlisted soldiers but less than 5 percent of RA [Regular Army] officers.”

    But if OG was seeking a group of like minded-followers does this suggest OG was no longer surrounded in real life by like-minded individuals, including leaders?

    • Timburns117 says:

      The Air Force, we all know, is lousy with jihadist Christians, bent on Holy War against Islam and “liberals.” Jack could have found any number of officer mentors to be a white supremacist religious nut.

      I imagine he was more interested in just being the alpha dog in a VERY small kennel.

        • Jim_08FEB2023_1112h says:

          If only. Do you remember the scandal a few years ago where the commandant of the Air Force Academy was dragooning cadets into Evangelical prayer groups? That’s how high that kind of thing goes. It’s astonishing that any of those people can get clearances.

          [Welcome back to emptywheel. SECOND REQUEST: Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We are moving to a new minimum standard to support community security. The name “Jim” is not permitted as we have a contributor named Jim and many other community members named “Jim” or “James.” Your username has temporarily been changed for differentiation, noting the date/time of your first comment. Thanks. /~Rayne]

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        The Air Force Academy has long had a problem with fundamentalist Christian views being too overt among its staff. Fixing it has been hampered by its location, since Colorado Springs has a similar problem. But, yes, the description is hyperbolic.

  6. Fran of the North says:

    I think the interesting comparison will come when OG is identified and charged vs. how FPOTUS is being handled. The allegations that Trump has been showing classified documents to others without security clearances seems to be very similar to OG’s actions, albeit not posting them on a social media site.

  7. Sambucus says:

    As a former Navy Submarine Nuke, I cannot tell you how upsetting this is. I was one of hundreds of young kids in their late teens / early 20s (I enlisted at 17) dealing with secret material daily and dealing with it responsibly and seriously, especially in Nuclear Power School. Its easy for me now in my 60s to say “kids these days” but I feel it is deeper than that. It’s almost like we have forgotten how to be an actual nation.

    • emptywheel says:

      I think that’s precisely the issue. A lot of people have given up on the commitment to the US.

      Ah well, we’ll learn more about this dude soon enough.

    • Timburns117 says:

      Sambucus, perhaps if there had been an internet 40 years ago, more of this kind of stuff would happen

    • Hug h roonman says:

      “… we have forgotten how to be an actual nation.” Indeed!

      Nearer a Corporatocracy.

      • Matt___B says:

        Oh, a corpotocracy for some time now (I associate that with the Obama years). Now, with tinges of (take your pick): creeping fascism? Invasionary Christian Nationalism? Increasing normalization of conspiracies and lies in the public sphere? Demand way exceeding supply when it comes to effectively dealing with cult dynamics?

        You are too kind.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          Re: corporatocracy. Matt B, were you around (and old enough to be aware of such things) in the 1980s?

          Either you’re very young, in which case I envy you, or you’ve forgotten such things as the Brooks Brothers Riot, the movie Wall Street (“Greed is good”), and trickle-down economics, complete with the mythology of “job creators,” recently poked by Succession.

        • Matt___B says:

          I was in my mid-20s in the ’80s. Yes, things were getting started back then. So I remember when Reagan started the trend to trickle-down. My thought about corpotocracy (I leave out a couple of letters, saves a syllable when you say it out loud) is that it got really cemented during Obama’s administration in the fabric of everyday society, not that it started during his time. And I think my point, regardless of when corporate influence became king, is that yes, we live in a corpotocracy, but now (i.e. 2017-present) it is so much worse than merely that…

        • elcajon64 says:

          I was a school board member/president during this time and remember the mantra of “run it like a business” applied to nearly every public/community institution.

          Unfortunately, many were.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          That applied to colleges and universities, too, despite that schools are NOT businesses, nor are libraries, or most foundations and charities.

          My college once had the same Dean of Students for twenty years. Now it has a rotating band of brothers, and the college brags not about their success or rapport with students, but how many “assets” they are responsible for.

          The college president has a chief of staff, and the usual laundry list of deans and deanlets, few of whom are faculty members. Not much is said about real faculty, whom the business model tries to erase, as if they were a union at GM.

          Students, the reason for colleges and universities to exist, are just the thoughput. Horse puckey.

    • John B. says:

      Well, I have to say as I approach the big 6 O, this is not surprising to me. We seem to have one party bound not by what is best for the nation, but WRT many issues; climate change, gun regulations, equal representation under the law, the actual law, democracy, etc…they seem to be more interested in rigging the system for their complete control ILO of actually winning votes based on the issues they take. And it appears to be an “I got mine jack” kind of society and with examples like tfg out there still commanding attention I can see why many may have no allegiance to an actual shared set of beliefs and aspirations. In addition to that, we don’t seem to do big projects anymore, no interstate highway systems, no adventures to the moon and beyond that captivate and inspire young people, we are told by representatives of that same party that we can’t afford it. The United States of America can’t afford big responsibilities and projects. After Reagan was elected, the same year I graduated from high school, the party line has been austerity; tax breaks for the rich and corporations and multiple attempts to roll back the new deal legislation that benefited all, especially the middle class and workers, and essentially a war on poor people, minorities and women. That same parties focus on “rugged individualism” above all has shattered a shared responsibility for each other and the common good. In fact, that whole notion of the common good and the common space has been rendered laughable and unserious by those who want their tax cuts and capital gains taxes eliminated. The fight over who we are and what is important to us is deadly serious as I know all here know; it’s nowhere near over and it feels like we are moving into a very deadly and fraught period.

    • SonofaWW2Marine says:

      Sambucus, I’m retired DOJ. My grandfather was a boilermaker in Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet before he built submarines at Electric Boat when it was still the Groton Iron Works. That makes me share some of your pain. But I’m not sure it’s the current generation of kids, or even the current corrupting times. The submarine force was comprehensively betrayed by the Walker family from 1967 to 1985. That was long before Teixeira & his gamer buddies were born, but the same year that the Walkers were caught, Robert Hanssen & Aldrich Ames started betraying the FBI & CIA to the KGB. And after 9/11, of course, the hits just kept on coming. But it looks from here as if clearances and access are still being handed out without nearly enough of the seriousness and care that you and your shipmates devoted to your careers. At a minimum, some Air Guard, Air Force, & Pentagon security people ought to be in deep trouble over this. They’re the ones who trusted Teixeira with things he never should have smelled, much less seen.

      • Sambucus says:

        Yes, I remember the Walkers and the Ames cases. But I am differentiating here in that they were spies… out and out foreign spies. That has been a problem since Sidney Reilly and long before, across all nations, back to antiquity.

        This appears to be a stupid kid obsessed with showing off to a bunch of other stupid kids. Someone who didn’t think that living up to his responsibilities was part of the oath he swore. It’s the utter callousness of it that I can’t wrap my head around.

        • SonofaWW2Marine says:

          Me too. I guess this guy’s more like Clayton Lonetree, the Moscow Embassy guard who fell for a KGB honey trap.

          I still don’t get how this kid, whatever his computer maintenance duties, got access to JWICS stuff that darn sure didn’t get to other JWICS users.

  8. MrBeagles says:

    ‘Bear vs Pig’. I could very well be missing something but I am shocked that I haven’t seen (Wapo, Guardian, Here) anyone describe this as anti-Ukranian. First of all, using the Russian bear symbol is hyped up online in far-right meme culture. Jews have are slandered with ‘pig’, and so the Ukrainians are labeled ‘Pig’, nazis + jewish President according to Putin. Far right tankie culture speak.

    If anything, ‘Bear vs Pig’ is a neutral term narrowly in the sense of online tankie culture fetishizing military combat. A shorthand for the combat, fetishizing Russian military vs a slur. That would be in line with the naming of their Discord, ‘Thug Shaker Central’, a thinly veiled violent racist term.

    Am I missing something?

      • MrBeagles says:

        Obviously this kind of violent racist rhetoric is important to be clear eyed on. 1/2 my family is jewish and I’m decently familiar with this kind of language on the internet. This is serious stuff, I posted a serious comment and your response sounds non-serious. I don’t understand what you mean.

        I feel like maybe explaining why ‘Bear vs Pig’ is a slur aligned with anti-semitic Russian propaganda is a little difficult or ~speculative for a day-of article in WaPo, kind of jargonated, internet tankie talk stuff..

        I posted because I want to understand. Serious stuff, and with my background it immediately struck me that ‘Bear vs Pig’ sounded bad and my emotional reaction to not seeing that discussed was alarm.

        In other words, how could this teenager who has been groomed into violent racist takes on the world, not get checked and just taken at his word when he uses ‘Bar vs Pig’ as example to defend the character of his narcissistic hero? Like, how? Am I missing something?

    • Hoping4better_times says:

      Because young military personnel are trusted with classified secrets. Chelsea (aka Bradley) Manning was only 21-22 when she (as he) gave classified information to WikiLeaks.

        • Jim_08FEB2023_1112h says:

          It is exactly the same thing these days. National Guard people get activated and stay on active duty for years at a time. And if they’re intel people, they do intel. It’s been going on for more than 30 years now.

        • P J Evans says:

          Someone didn’t get the training they needed for the access they apparently had. And that’s on the ANG.

        • Kurtyboy says:

          Yes, ANG is the same kind of thing. I enlisted at age 18 and held clearances within months. That was over 40 years ago, and the ANG role in national security has only increased since.

          This nation grants clearances to young people because there is no reasonable alternative. A fit fighting force will tend to the young side, and such a force cannot wage war effectively without access to classified information.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      My question too. Someone on MSNBC said the document thief might have been a technician working on systems that require clearance. When I heard that I recalled commenter(s) here who have described a similar type of access.

      EW’s commenters never talked about exploiting that access to violate national security, however, so that part is new.

    • wasD4v1d says:

      I suspect he did not have authorized access, but as a computer tech he had access to the machinery. Look to his superiors for not maintaining opsec by failing to encrypt all data at rest, and for using a wastebasket instead of a pulverizer.

      • wasD4v1d says:

        So much for my theory. Per WaPo:

        “Teixeira, the complaint notes, has a top secret clearance and authority to view a smaller category of highly classified material called sensitive compartmented access.”

  9. Raven Eye says:

    A fair number of people get their egos tangled up in the level of their security clearance. It’s a shame.

    I never wanted to know more than I needed to do my job. At one point the #2 looked me in the eyes and told me that he really needed me to read something, and if someone in the office was slow-rolling my access — let him know. As I got closer to my final retirement I generally tried to spend less time and attention with types and levels of information that I would no longer need in a few months down the road.

    There is nothing sexy or cool about a TS/SCI. It’s just more stuff you don’t want to think about outside of work hours.

    • Alan Charbonneau says:

      “I never wanted to know more than I needed to do my job.”
      I never had a security clearance, though as a due diligence analyst vetting mutual funds, I did come across some non public info that was sensitive.

      I liken sensitive info to gossip—if I lived my life until now without knowing “x” about person “y”, I can live the rest of my life without knowing and be content.

    • Purple Martin says:

      Yup, I had recent year-old TS/SCI/SSBI when I retired in 1996 from my final Air Force job running the IT Security program for an AF MAJCOM. Was a factor with IBM hiring me in their Information Security consultancy (probably increased my starting salary by $20k, as they were paying $60k to get a civilian new-hire TS-cleared and it took up to a year). Clearance was transferred from AF to their Industrial Security program office, who tracked me down every once in a while for specific projects—probably 10% of my total workload, and not the most interesting 10%.

      But— “Please release me, let me go | For I don’t want the Need-to-Know”—I didn’t try to get it renewed as it was expiring five years later, as I’d been getting into “Privacy” work and could stay plenty busy in that even faster-growing field.

      Now happily retired from that and everything’s outside of work hours!

  10. NVGrumps says:

    TFG’s Mar-a-Lago documents vs Airman Teixeira’s

    Which one is more damaging?

    And will the penalty be the same for both?

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