The suspect in the leaked classified Pentagon documents on social media has been charged with improper retention and dissemination of national defense information and unauthorized removal of classified information and defense materials under the Espionage Act.
Following his arrest by the FBI in North Dighton, Massachusetts, on Thursday, Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old airman with the Massachusetts Air National Guard, made his initial appearance in federal court in Boston on Friday morning.
Teixeira reportedly posted information about the documents online in December 2022 and images of the materials in January while possessing a top-secret security clearance.
Teixeira’s arrest came a week after it was revealed that the classified material had been released online to a small Discord group, a social media platform popular with gamers. the associated press saw some of the documents, which contained a wide range of highly secret material, such as eavesdropping on significant friends and rivals and scathing assessments of the situation of the Ukraine war.
Multiple US sources informed the associated press that Teixeira is the leader of an unusual invite-only Discord chatroom called Thug Shaker Central, where information from classified documents was originally shared months ago.
Teixeira was told of the charges against him by Magistrate Judge David Hennessy, who ordered a detention hearing for Teixeira on Wednesday. He’ll be kept till then. Teixeira declined to enter a formal plea.
Teixeira approached the courtroom wearing a tan detention facility shirt and jeans, as well as hiking boots. He was shackled before he entered the courtroom, but his hands were uncuffed before he sat at the defense table.
The Boston courthouse was packed, with three people seated on a bench intended for family members. Teixeira did not look at his family members when he approached the courtroom.
During the hearing, Teixeira spoke quietly, muttering “yes” as the court told him of his rights as a criminal defendant.
As the session concluded, a man in the courtroom exclaimed, “Love you, Jack.” Teixeira didn’t turn around, but said, “You too, Dad.”
Since 2021, top-secret clearance has been granted
The document that was made public on Friday states that Teixeira has had a Top Secret clearance since 2021. He also “maintained sensitive compartmented access (SCI) to other highly classified programs,” according to the affidavit. On the online server Discord, several of the stolen documents that were released were classified as Top Secret.
The affidavit claims that because of his position with the Air National Guard, he had access to at least one of the documents that he is accused of posting.
According to an FBI interview with a Discord user, Teixeira started publishing information in December 2022 and started posting images of papers around January 2023.
The unidentified person who spoke with the FBI claimed Teixeira had admitted to him that he was worried about transcribing the documents at work, so “he began taking the documents to his residence and photographing them.”
Teixeira allegedly searched a confidential government database for the word “leak” on April 6, when rumors of classified information being released online became public.
“There is reason to believe that TEIXEIRA was searching for classified reporting regarding the U.S. Intelligence Community’s assessment of the identity of the individual who transmitted classified national defense information, including the Government Document,” the document states.
Investigators used evidence gathered after the secret materials were discovered online to narrow down the prospective members of the chat group. According to a US government source familiar with the matter, Teixeira was under surveillance for at least a few days before his detention by the FBI on Thursday.
Four Discord players who were present in a different Discord chatroom where the documents later appeared told the associated press that the materials started circulating on Thug Shaker. Another participant in the Thug Shaker chatroom informed the associated press that they witnessed the original posts of secret documents but refused to comment further.
Discord, which was previously identified by the associated press but is not mentioned in the affidavit, provided details to the FBI on Wednesday on the account that was allegedly posting the papers.
The document claims that Teixeira used his own name and residence location in North Dighton, Massachusetts, for the billing information connected to his Discord account.
In the Air National Guard, I worked in information technology
Teixeira served as an Airman First Class in the Massachusetts Air National Guard as a low-level IT official.
According to a defense official, Teixeria would have been working on a network that handled highly sensitive information in his capacity as a journeyman with Cyber Transport Systems, which is why he required a security clearance.
Teixeira’s former high school friends told the associated press on Thursday that he had a passion for the military, guns, and conflict. He wore camouflage to school on occasion, carried a “dictionary-sized book on guns,” and acted in ways that made some of his classmates uncomfortable.
“A lot of people were wary of him,” said Brooke Cleathero, a middle and high school classmate of Teixeira’s. “He was more of a loner, and his obsession with war and guns turned him off to a lot of people.”
Public records indicate that Teixeira was raised in the suburbs of Providence, Rhode Island. He went to Dighton-Rehoboth High School and graduated in 2020, according to the regional school district’s superintendent.
Teixeira’s behavior was not such that “people felt the need to report him,” according to another former classmate, but “he made me nervous.”
The same student stated that she saw his passion for the military as a type of American nationalism and that the claims against him astonished her. “I didn’t think he’d be capable of something like this,” she admitted.
The fallout from disclosures continues
Following Teixeira’s arrest, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on Thursday that he is reviewing intelligence access.
The Pentagon is still assessing the impact of the sensitive material leak, which might be used as evidence against Teixeira.
President Joe Biden said Friday that he has addressed the issue with Pentagon officials and believes it would not take long, though he did not specify how long the investigation might take.
“Yes, I’ve directed the department to get to the bottom of why he had access in the first place, number one,” Biden added. “And number two, to focus extensively on the extent to which it all transpired, which is currently taking place. “I have nothing to add to what has already been reported.”
“While we are still determining the validity of those documents, I have directed our military and intelligence community to take steps to further secure and limit distribution of sensitive information, and our national security team is closely coordinating with our partners and allies,” Biden said in a statement earlier Friday.
A US official claimed that Biden had received daily updates on the investigation’s status during the previous week. According to one insider, he was also routinely updated on the efforts being made by his top officials to communicate with allies who have been revealed in or disturbed by the information that has leaked.
Biden minimized the significance of the exposed documents before his Thursday arrest. He told reporters, “I’m worried it happened, but I’m not aware of anything contemporaneous that is of significant relevance.