Intel analyst shared classified information on Discord, investigators say

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An Air Force intelligence analyst is alleged to have shared classified U.S. intelligence on the chat platform Discord with followers of an anti-government extremist group, according to an FBI affidavit that was unsealed this week.

Investigators said that analyst Jason Gray shared information that he “likely obtained” from his access to National Security Agency intelligence while he served at a base in Alaska, according to the affidavit, which was dated November 2022 and accompanied a search warrant for a Discord account that Gray said he operated.

At the time the FBI sought the warrant, Gray had already admitted to Air Force investigators that he had created a Facebook group for supporters of the loosely organized, anti-government Boogaloo movement, whose followers anticipate a second U.S. civil war. Gray, whom investigators described as unhappy with his military career, participated in several pro-Boogaloo Discord channels and shared the classified NSA intelligence with seven other individuals, possibly “in furtherance of the Boogaloo ideology,” the affidavit stated.

Read the full text of the warrant application and affidavit

Gray’s case bears striking similarities to another leak of highly classified intelligence on Discord by an Air Force National Guard member, Jack Teixeira, who worked in an intelligence unit in Massachusetts that is similar to the one in which Gray worked in Alaska. Both men were in their 20s, active on Discord, espoused anti-government views and had access to huge amounts of classified information given the nature of their jobs. Teixeira also harbored conspiracy theories about law enforcement and joked with friends about killing federal agents.

Teixeira was a computer support technician who copied large amounts of classified material and shared it with friends on the Discord platform from 2022 until 2023. Subsequent investigations have shown that military officials had no idea Teixeira was removing classified information from the sensitive facility where he worked at Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Mass. His leaks only came to public attention when classified documents that he had shared with friends began spreading across the internet in early 2023.

Teixeira has pleaded guilty and is expected to receive a prison sentence of 11 to 16 years in the wake of what officials describe as one of the biggest leaks of classified information in a decade.

It wasn’t immediately clear if investigators initially suspected Gray of sharing classified information on Discord when he consented to let them examine his account. But given that he had been discovered months before Teixeira was arrested, the incident raises questions about what the Defense Department knew about personnel who were able to share highly guarded government secrets on a chat platform.

An investigation by the Air Force inspector general found that Teixeira’s supervisors knew he was looking at classified information that had nothing to do with his job and failed to stop him. Working late at night with practically no supervision, Teixeira was able to copy classified information by hand or print out documents and remove them from his workplace, the inspector general found.

Like Teixeira, Gray allegedly shared images on Discord showing firearms he possessed. A separate FBI affidavit stated that agents discovered photographs uploaded on Gray’s account that appeared to show guns equipped with “silencer or destructive devices,” including one that showed someone matching the appearance of Gray “brandishing a firearm that appears to be equipped with a silencer.” Federal law requires silencers and similar devices to be registered, but the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) had no record of Gray doing so, the affidavit said.

Teixeira was able to take advantage of Discord’s data retention policies, which automatically render most material impossible to recover upon deletion, to remove a record of some of his activity on the platform. It is unclear what if anything Gray deleted from Discord before authorities accessed his account.

It also was not immediately clear if the Air Force conducted an investigation into the security protocols at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, in Anchorage, where Gray was assigned and worked for an office of the National Security Agency, which collects electronic information and conducts computer network surveillance around the world.

Gray was never charged with sharing the classified information and appears to have disclosed far less than Teixeira. The FBI affidavit described the information only as “an image” that “appeared to be classified.” The affidavit does not say whether the suspected classified information was originally contained in an image that Gray uploaded, or if Gray photographed it himself and subsequently shared it.

Based on court records, in the course of investigating Gray for possession of classified material, authorities discovered a large amount of child pornography on his personal devices. He pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography and received a 60-month prison sentence.

Officials at the Alaska air base didn’t respond to a request for comment. A public defender who represented Gray declined to comment. Gray’s plea agreement with the Justice Department doesn’t indicate whether he faced potential charges at some point for leaking classified information.

A spokesperson for Discord said in a statement to The Washington Post that the company “cooperated with the law enforcement investigation once notified, including by producing data that was lawfully requested.”

“The sharing of classified documents poses a significant, complex challenge for Discord as it does for any online platform,” the statement continued, noting that only government personnel can determine what material is actually classified. “And currently, there is no structured process for the government to communicate their determinations to online platforms.”

Discord prohibits using the platform “for illegal activity, which includes the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents,” the statement added.

The Boogaloo ideology allegedly embraced by Gray has fueled a string of crimes, including the murder by a former Air Force Sergeant of a guard at a federal courthouse in Oakland, Calif. In June 2020, Facebook banned hundreds of accounts, pages and groups associated with the movement. The same month, Discord banned a large server affiliated with Boogaloo adherents following a report by VICE News.

Gray’s Facebook group was one of several that adopted the names and logos of news outlets, part of the movement’s trolling campaign against journalists and the “mainstream media,” but presumably also a way to disguise the group’s activities from content monitors.

The private group, called “CNN Journalist Support Group,” first appeared after Facebook’s June ban, and contained about 2,200 members, according to screenshots recorded by researchers with the Tech Transparency Project. Katie Paul, director of the TTP, said that in the summer of 2020 the organization sent the FBI records it had documented from the group.

“This is an extremist movement that was born online and facilitated the behavior of otherwise lone wolfs,” Paul said. Facebook was the central organizing hub, she said, but users also shifted conversations to other platforms, including Discord.

Gray’s former wife, Brieayna Geib, said she recalled his involvement with a Facebook group and the Boogaloo scene.

“He was kicked off Facebook,” she said.

Gray was assigned to the 301st Intelligence Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in February 2021, according to court filings. He later told Air Force investigators that he grew “disgruntled” with his posting. Geib said she lived with Gray for part of the time he was stationed in Alaska. Gray first drew the attention of investigators in late 2022, Geib said.

In November 2022, the FBI searched Gray’s desktop computer, finding what appeared to be child sexual abuse images. A search of Gray’s phone showed he had exchanged child sexual abuse material with another user on the chat app Kik, according to a criminal complaint.

The Post reviewed messages that appeared under an account, “notimeforlife,” on a pornographic website. Some mentioned the same Kik account, “donttacoboutit,” that authorities alleged Gray used to share and discuss child sexual abuse material. The website hosts nonconsensual pornographic material, which victims have struggled to have removed, and posts with descriptions of rape and violent fantasies targeting women and girls.

Hannah Allam and Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.

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