(NEW YORK) — An internet user claiming to be a member of the small online community where a Massachusetts Air National Guard member is accused of leaking hundreds of classified U.S. intelligence documents told ABC News that he looked up to the airman, calling him “very smart, and always was [one] step ahead of everyone.”
In an interview with ABC News conducted on the social media platform Discord, a user using the name Vahki said he was a longtime member of the server on that site where National Guard member Jack Teixeira, who is now in custody, is accused of sharing images of classified U.S. intelligence documents.
Two administrators on the separate, larger Discord server where images of the alleged documents were subsequently shared to a much wider audience told ABC News that Vahki was a member of the smaller, tight-knit group where Teixeira allegedly posted the images. Vahki was first publicly named by Aric Toler, a researcher with the investigative outlet Bellingcat.
Vahki, who described himself as a minor, said he had been a member of Teixeira’s server for four to five years, and that Teixeira was admired within the group of 25 people. The young user detailed how Teixeira “supported” members of their small online community as the COVID-19 pandemic took a toll on their mental health.
“He was compassionate for people’s problems, always. He would always walk us through and help us with that,” Vahki said. “And I mean, obviously this is over the course of many years — he was super nice to everyone to the point where you wouldn’t even notice it at some points.”
Vahki said the topic of religion was popular on their small Discord server.
“Most of us were Orthodox Christian,” he said, explaining that the group had a separate channel where members could share “good prayers to say” and “good places to pray at.”
Vahki described Teixeira as a “Christian,” with politics that were “Libertarian at most.” The pair first met on a server for fans of the YouTuber Oxide, who posts videos about weapons and the military. Oxide, who did not disclose his real name, told ABC News that he remembered banning Vahki and Teixeira from the community years ago for repeatedly posting racist memes.
Vahki said his motivation for speaking with ABC News was to clear up misconceptions around Teixeira, namely, according to Vahki, that the accused leaker is a racist.
Vahki acknowledged that some members of the group posted “funny memes” that might appear racist, sexist, or transphobic to outsiders, but claimed that Teixeira did not participate in posting them. Vahki said the group had a diverse membership and that when members complained, offending content was removed.
The Washington Post last week reported to have reviewed a video that featured Teixeira at a shooting range making “a series of racial and antisemitic slurs into the camera” before firing several rounds at a target.
“People seem to have this mob mentality on [Teixeira] already, without understanding him further. He is a good person, at the end of the day,” Vahki told ABC News.
Teixeira took an interest in educating the group, Vahki recalled, claiming the airman was not interested in “clout” or winning arguments.
“He just wanted us to be informed, ahead of the news cycle,” Vahki told ABC News.
But when it came to the classified documents that Teixeira first allegedly transcribed and shared in the group, few members seemed to take an interest, Vahki said.
“There was no reactions to the documents, nobody talked about them,” he said.
Vahki, however, said the lack of response did not make Teixeira upset. Instead, Vahki said, the muted response led Teixeira to abandon the laborious task of transcription in favor of printing and photographing the documents, which Vahki said required less effort.
This shift happened around the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023, Vahki said.
Later, in early March, images of the purported leaked documents appeared on a larger Discord server dedicated to the YouTube creator “wow mao.” These images were posted by a young user known by the username Lucca, according to records reviewed by ABC News.
Discord admins for that server previously described Lucca to ABC News as a “hyperactive kid.”
“He was still like, a little kid on the server. He was a good kid, you know? He’s mid to late teens,” an admin who goes by the username Krralj said. “And like he was, he’s always active. He joined the voice call to listen … when he was in school.”
ABC News is withholding Lucca’s real name. Vahki said he and Lucca are close friends and claimed that Lucca and Teixeira had minimal interactions.
Vahki said that he has not been contacted by law enforcement. Asked whether he was aware of investigators reaching out to other group members, he declined to comment.
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