BOSTON — Jack Teixeira, the Massachusetts Air National Guard member suspected of leaking a trove of classified military intelligence, was charged by the federal government Friday with retention and transmission of national defense information and willful retention of classified documents.
Teixeira was arrested Thursday afternoon at a family residence in Dighton, Mass., after a fast-moving investigation related to leaks of military intelligence that started with a small online group and eventually led to hundreds of government secrets spilling out to the wider world.
As a result, dozens of highly classified documents have been leaked, revealing sensitive information intended for senior military and intelligence leaders on subjects including U.S. spying on allies and exposing the grim prospects for Ukraine’s war with Russia.
In a statement Friday, President Biden said his administration is “still trying to determine the validity” of the documents but said he had directed the military and intelligence communities “to take steps to further secure and limit distribution of sensitive information.”
The statement struck a somewhat different tone than Biden did when speaking to reporters in Ireland on Thursday, when he downplayed the fallout from the breach and said that “there’s nothing contemporaneous that I’m aware of that is of great consequence.”
Teixeira, 21, appeared shortly after 10 a.m. Eastern time before Magistrate Judge David Hennessy of the U.S. District Court in Boston, where he was presented with charges under the Espionage Act.
Teixeira was wearing a beige prison-issued outfit and was handcuffed. He sat next to his lawyer, looked around the room and nodded at his family in the first row.
Hennessy asked Teixeira whether he understood that he had the right to be silent. Teixeira answered yes. The judge reminded him, “Your words can be used against you.”
At the end of the proceedings, Teixeira’s father shouted, “Love you, Jack!” — to which the suspect responded, “Love you, too, Dad.”
According to the criminal complaint, a member of Teixeira’s online messaging group on Discord told the FBI that during one of the conversations, Teixeira said he had stopped writing down the contents of classified documents because “he had become concerned that he may be discovered making the transcriptions of text in the workplace, so he began taking the documents to his residence and photographing them.”
The charging document also describes how that member of the group told the FBI that in February, after Teixeira posted a government document in their small group, the member reposted that image elsewhere on the internet — setting off a chain of events that led to the revelations of the past week, and a criminal case against Teixeira.
Teixeira, the complaint notes, has held a top-secret clearance since 2021 and has the authority to view a smaller category of highly classified material called sensitive compartmented access.
The complaint alleges that Teixeira even used his top secret clearance to try to figure out whether the leak hunters were on to him.
On April 6, as the news of the leaks was starting to spread, Teixeira allegedly used his government computer to look for any intelligence reports with the word “leak.” The charging document says that “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.”
During a news conference Friday on an unrelated issue, Attorney General Merrick Garland declined to discuss the specifics of Teixeira’s case, given that it remains an ongoing investigation, but he said the Justice Department takes breaches of national security seriously.
“This is not just about taking home documents. That is, of course, itself illegal. But this is about the transmission, both the unlawful retention and the transmission of the documents,” Garland said. “There are very serious penalties associated with that. People who sign agreements to be able to receive classified documents acknowledge the importance to the national security of not disclosing those documents. And we intend to send that message how important it is to our national security.”
Heavily armed FBI agents led Teixeira out of a family residence Thursday afternoon. The young man, wearing red gym shorts and a T-shirt, was led into a waiting car.
A friend of Teixeira described his motives to The Washington Post as wanting to share — and show off — the secrets he knew to a small circle of online friends who bonded over video games.
Teixeira served in a junior position, but he had access to an internal Defense Department computer network for top-secret information, called the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System, according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter. That access would have allowed him to read and potentially print documents classified at the same level as many of the leaked files.
Teixeira told members of the group Thug Shaker Central on the Discord instant-messaging platform that he worked as a technology support staffer for the Massachusetts Air National Guard and at a base on Cape Cod, and this was how he was able to access classified documents, one member of the Discord server told The Post. Members of the group came together initially because of their shared interest in guns and military gear, the member said.
The investigation kicked off in early April when Pentagon officials first became aware that documents about an extraordinary range of subjects exposed how the United States spies on friends and foes alike. The leak of dozens of pages also upset senior Ukrainian officials, who had sought to keep details of their military’s vulnerabilities hidden as Russia’s war with Ukraine grinds on in its second year. The Post reviewed approximately 300 photos of classified documents, most of which have not been made public.
Investigators are likely to probe how Teixeira, from his position as a technology support staffer at a base in Massachusetts, would have had access to highly classified information, some of which was used to brief senior leaders at the Pentagon.
National Guard units perform some support services for active-duty units, including intelligence support for senior military officials, one U.S. official said. In that case, Teixeira could have had access to the kinds of highly classified documents that he is alleged to have shared with his fellow members on the Discord server, the official said.
The Discord Leaks
In exclusive interviews with a member of the Discord group where U.S. intelligence documents were shared, The Washington Post learned details of the alleged leaker, “OG.” The Post also obtained a number of previously unreported documents from a trove of images of classified files posted on a private server on the chat app Discord.
How the leak happened: The Washington Post reported that the individual who leaked the information shared documents with a small circle of online friends on the Discord chat platform. This is a timeline of how the documents leaked.
The suspected document leaker: Jack Teixeira, a young member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, was charged in the investigation into leaks of hundreds of pages of classified military intelligence. Teixeira told members of the online group that he worked as a technology support staffer at a base on Cape Cod, one member of the Discord server told The Post. Here’s what we learned about the alleged document leaker.
What we learned from the leaked documents: The massive document leak has exposed a range of U.S. government secrets, including spying on allies, the grim prospects for Ukraine’s war with Russia and the precariousness of Taiwan’s air defenses. It also has ignited diplomatic fires for the White House. Here’s what we’ve learned from the documents.