The files, labeled top secret, are among the handful of Mexico-related U.S. intelligence documents leaked with dozens of military files more than a month ago on Discord, a chat service popular with online gamers.
On Thursday, the Justice Department announced the arrest of Jack Douglas Teixeira, a member of the Air National Guard in Massachusetts, for the “alleged unauthorized removal, retention, and transmission of classified national defense information.”
The Post has reviewed approximately 300 photos of classified documents, most of which have not been made public, that were leaked to a small group of Discord users. The majority of the files relate to the Russian war in Ukraine, but the documents also contain intelligence briefings on a range of nations including U.S. allies and neighbors.
The briefing on Gulf Cartel operations said the group’s members were “preparing to defend against possible Mexican military arrests after the group’s abduction of four U.S. citizens last week, which could further increase violence around Matamoros, where the U.S. maintains a consulate.”
Citing information obtained through “FISA-derived signals intelligence” — which include court-authorized wiretaps — the briefing says the four Americans were attacked “in retaliation for an alleged hit-and-run incident.” Matamoros is the headquarters of the Gulf Cartel, one of Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficking groups, and lies across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Tex.
U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies have been eavesdropping on the communications of drug gangs for decades, and the intercepts are routinely used to build federal criminal cases against traffickers extradited to the United States.
According to the leaked files, intercepted communications among Gulf Cartel members indicated that the group had turned the four Americans — two of whom were dead — over to Mexican authorities. The deceased, Shaeed Woodard and Zindell Brown, were taken alive on March 3 when cartel gunmen opened fire on their vehicle, but died later of their wounds.
In an interview posted Tuesday evening, the two survivors, Latavia “Tay” McGee and Eric James Williams, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the gunmen began honking at them and brandishing weapons soon after they crossed into Mexico. The Americans had traveled from South Carolina so that McGee could get an abdominoplasty — a tummy tuck — according to family members.
McGee and Williams, who are siblings, did not mention any vehicle collision. Williams told CNN that the shooting started as their vehicle turned onto a main street in Matamoros. The assailants shot Brown and Woodard after they got out of the vehicle.
Another armed man tapped on McGee’s window, and Williams said he was shot in both legs when he got out of the car. The attackers robbed the Americans and loaded them into the back of a truck, a scene recorded in footage that later circulated widely on social media.
McGee and Williams told Cooper that one of their abductors acknowledged that the cartel attack on the group had been a mistake by gunmen who were “high and drunk.” The captor, who told the siblings he was a U.S. citizen, drove them March 6 to a shack outside Matamoros and left them for Mexican authorities to collect them.
The leaked files indicate that U.S. authorities were monitoring those developments using “separate FISA-derived signals intelligence,” a possible reference to additional wiretaps.
In a third document pertaining to Mexico that also was leaked to the Discord chat, U.S. military officials assessed the implications of the Mexican military’s assuming oversight and control of civilian aviation.
Mexico has deployed its armed forces to battle the country’s drug traffickers and criminal groups, and under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, military officials have taken on a widening portfolio of civilian roles.
The top-secret briefing predicts that López Obrador is likely to continue assigning more responsibilities and oversight roles to the country’s armed forces — especially the Mexican army — but “without commensurate increases in resources.” Such an imbalance is typically viewed as a recipe for corruption.
According to the U.S. military assessment, the secretary of Mexico’s navy was so frustrated by the possibility that the Mexican army would take control of all Mexican airspace that he “instructed navy officials to limit cooperation with SEDENA [Mexico’s army] in response.”
The briefing notes the potential for worsening tensions among Mexico’s armed forces, “a dispute that will likely exacerbate their existing rivalry and further detract from their ability to conduct joint operations.”
There was no indication that the briefing item was derived from U.S. wiretaps or intercepts of Mexican authorities.
An official at Mexico’s embassy in Washington declined to comment.