The murky digital trail started with four items posted to Russian channels on the messaging app Telegram, each consisting of a photograph of a classified U.S. intelligence report. Aric Toler, a freelance reporter who works with us, noticed that several similar documents had also been posted elsewhere and figured that the original source of the leaks had to be somewhere other than Telegram. But he couldn’t find it.
“I looked and looked,” Aric said.
Then a tip came in. Somebody messaged him saying that similar material had appeared on the chat app Discord, in a channel dedicated to maps for the video game Minecraft. Aric found 10 documents there and contacted the host.
The host insisted that he was not the leaker and sounded terrified. Like a lot of the people Aric encountered during the search, the host also seemed to be a teenager. He explained that he had gotten the documents from a chat group called wow_mao on Discord. There, a user named Lucca had posted more than 100 images of leaked documents.
Aric then started livetweeting his research process, and people sent him private messages. He eventually learned that Lucca was part of another chat group — called Thug Shaker Central — where hundreds of documents seemed to have been uploaded. But Thug Shaker Central had vanished, deleted by its users when the leaks became public.
At this point, a former member of Thug Shaker with the user name Vakhi contacted Aric. Lucca was not the original leaker, said Vakhi, who is 17 years old. Somebody known as O.G. was.
The granite clue
Two other Visual Investigations reporters — Christiaan Triebert and Malachy Browne — joined the effort at this point. Working with Aric, they heard from Vakhi that O.G. had started posting the documents to Thug Shaker last fall. O.G. worked at a military facility, Vakhi said, and the two of them had played video games together.
The search was on for O.G.“Thug Shaker was gone, and his fellow gamers refused to identify O.G., but we had enough information to home in on who he might be,” Malachy said. “We looked at the games he played online, who he played them with and connected those dots.”
On Steam, an app that sells video games and where users connect with other players, the reporters looked for Vakhi’s account and for the people to whom he was linked. Aric used a specialized site that scrapes and indexes Steam user data, allowing him to see user names that were associated with Vakhi and his contacts. The team figured that one of the people who had interacted with Vakhi might have been O.G.
The reporters found a such person, with the original user name of jackdjdtex. On the account, they found a screenshot from a video game identifying a player as J Teixeira.
The reporters then scoured Flickr, Instagram and other parts of the web for this mystery person. They found one photo of a Jack Teixeira in a military uniform, another of him smiling in the woods and another of him in the kitchen of his childhood home — standing near a brown-and-white-speckled granite countertop.
On Wednesday, Christiaan and Malachy spoke to another Discord member who had downloaded a new trove of 27 photographs of leaked documents. In some of them, Christiaan and another member of our team, Riley Mellen, noticed that the surface on which the documents were sitting when they were photographed. It was a brown-and-white kitchen countertop.
On Thursday, Haley Willis, another member of our team, and two colleagues arrived before dawn at the Teixeira home in North Dighton, Mass. “We saw who we believe might have been Jack driving into the driveway,” she said. “He saw us, we saw him and his car froze for a second in the driveway.”
They approached the house. Jack’s stepfather, Thomas Dufault, a retired Air Force master sergeant, was there. Haley asked him if she could speak to Jack. “He’s not going to communicate with anybody except an attorney at this point,” the stepfather said. Soon, a plane circled overhead. It was clear the authorities were already on to him.
Back in New York, we published our investigation. Later that morning, a SWAT team arrived at the house in Massachusetts.
Aric Toler talked about the search on the Times podcast Hard Fork.
Teixeira was obsessed with war and guns in high school.
Ukrainians say the leaks confirm what they’ve been saying for months — they need more weapons.
Tensions between military factions spiraled into a battle for control of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, killing dozens of people.
As of this morning, fighting was spreading beyond the capital. See maps and videos and follow our updates.
The chaos has dashed hopes for democracy in Sudan. Here’s why the fighting matters.
Transgender rights has replaced same-sex marriage as a rallying cry for the religious right.
“The science of reading”: A revolt over how children are taught to read is sweeping classrooms and statehouses.
Other Big Stories
Ukrainian soldiers are freezing their sperm so that even if they die, their partners can still build their families.
Investigators discovered a text message that offered a potential clue in the killing of tech founder Bob Lee. Here’s what we know about the case.
CoolSculpting, a beauty treatment, promises to zap fat, but it has disfigured some patients.
A small number of shoplifters are responsible for thousands of thefts in New York City.
A woman emerged from a cave in Spain after spending 500 days in total isolation for an experiment, the BBC reports.
On “Saturday Night Live,” Ana de Armas joked about how the first warm day of the year brings weirdness to the park.
“King Lear” is a critique of the gerontocracy, Maureen Dowd writes. In Washington, Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch play aging kings.
When true crime stretches the truth, it leaves victims and survivors behind, Sarah Weinman argues.
The Sunday question: Was Biden to blame for the fall of Kabul?
The Biden administration’s review of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan mostly pointed fingers at his predecessor. It’s a document of fake history, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board writes, portraying Biden’s disastrous decisions as triumphs. But those choices were better than the alternatives, The Chicago Tribune’s Daniel DePetris argues.
Grand National: Corach Rambler won the steeplechase, the most unpredictable horse race in the world.
Horror stories: New Yorkers have found rats in toilets and beds.
Bellyflops and booms: Watch SpaceX’s test launches — some more successful than others.
Vows: A kitten advocate fell in love with a cat photographer.
Sunday routine: A candle seller hugs her children while waiting for the elevator.
Advice from Wirecutter: Use these tools to clean awkward spaces.
Lives lived: Hedda Kleinfeld Schachter built the bridal superstore Kleinfeld’s with her husband, Jack, drawing women from all over the world. She died at 99.
What should I read next? The books editors at The Times hear that question a lot. And here’s their answer: 12 books you should be reading right now. The answers include a literary thriller, a gnarly piece of horror, a mesmerizing historical novel, a lavish fantasy and a real-life “Succession.”
Brittney Griner: The basketball star is writing a memoir about her detention in Russia.
By the Book: The historical novelist Charles Frazier thinks the classics are better later in life.
Our editors’ picks: “Enter Ghost,” about one woman’s recovery from a breakup, and eight other books.
Times best sellers: A new entry on the children’s picture book list features a cheerleading chicken that boosts readers’ self-esteem in “Woo Hoo! You’re Doing Great!”
THE SUNDAY TIMES MAGAZINE
On the cover: What is the future of work?
Recommendation: Dogsitting for New York City’s elite is the best and worst job she has ever had.
Return to office: Panicked chief executives are turning to consultants to help coax employees back into the office.
Read the full issue.
THE WEEK AHEAD
What to Watch For
A defamation trial against Fox News is scheduled to start tomorrow.
The Boston Marathon is tomorrow. See the scream tunnel and the hills the runners will face.
The N.H.L. Stanley Cup playoffs begin Monday.
Tuesday is the deadline to file your taxes in the U.S. (Here’s what you need to know.)
The Latin American Music Awards are on Thursday. Bad Bunny tops the list with 11 nominations.
The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr begins when Ramadan ends, with the sighting of the new moon later this week.
What to Cook This Week
Crispy, creamy, crunchy: They’re some of the best adjectives for food. This week, Emily Weinstein has some quick and easy recipes that will give you that delicate shattering sensation and that satisfaction. Try crispy coconut rice with tofu, this baked fish with tartar sauce or this ginger chicken with a crisp napa salad.
NOW TIME TO PLAY
The pangrams from yesterday’s Spelling Bee were rowdily and wordily. Here is today’s puzzle.
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: “No worries” (five letters).
Take the news quiz to see how well you followed the week’s headlines.
Here’s today’s Wordle.
Thanks for spending part of your weekend with The Times. — David
Here’s today’s front page.
Sign up here to get this newsletter in your inbox. Reach our team at [email protected].
Source: Read Full Article