Pentagon leak suspect had ‘arsenal of weapons’, prosecutors say

Defence lawyers argue 21-year-old Jack Teixeira should be released on bond, saying weapons were ‘lawfully owned’.

Jack Teixeira
This aerial footage screen grab shows Jack Teixeira taken into custody by FBI agents North Dighton, Massachusetts [AFP/WBZ via CBS]

United States prosecutors have accused the Air National Guardsman suspected of leaking secret Pentagon files of keeping an “arsenal of weapons” and making violent threats online, arguing that Jack Teixeira should remain in custody pending trial.

In a court filing late on Wednesday, authorities said Teixeira, 21, may still have access to secret documents and would pose a “serious flight risk” if released on bail.

During a court hearing on Thursday, a US federal judge did not make an immediate ruling on whether Teixeira should remain in detention or be granted a conditional release.

Judge David Hennessy expressed concern, however, that the 21-year-old’s knowledge of classified material might be valuable to a foreign government, noting that the defendant had copied some of the documents and may still remember the secret information “reasonably well”.

Charged with the unauthorised disclosure of classified national defence information in violation of the Espionage Act, Teixeira faces 25 years in prison “and potentially far more”, the prosecutors said.

“He accessed and may still have access to a trove of classified information that would be of tremendous value to hostile nation states that could offer him safe harbor and attempt to facilitate his escape from the United States,” their court filing reads.

Teixeira’s defence rejected the government’s characterisation of their client, calling the prosecutor’s assessment “hyperbolic” and stressing that he no longer has access to secret documents.

“The government’s supplemental motion for detention in many respects engages in hyperbolic judgements and provides little more than speculation that a foreign adversary will seduce Mr Teixeira and orchestrate his clandestine escape from the United States. This argument is illusory,” the defence said in a court filing on Thursday.

At the hearing later that day, Hennessy expressed scepticism of defence arguments that the prosecution had not shown that Teixeira ever intended for the leaked information to be spread widely.

“Somebody under the age of 30 has no idea that when they put something on the internet that it could end up anywhere in this world?” the judge asked. “Seriously?”

Defence lawyers asked for Teixeira to be released to his father’s home on a $20,000 bond under conditions that would restrict his movement and access to the internet.

The files that Teixeira allegedly leaked have been described by experts and officials as a threat to US national security. They included details of Western military support to Ukraine, information about Russia’s war effort, and intelligence collected from allied states.

Officials have said Teixeira, who served in the Massachusetts Air Force National Guard, shared the information with members of a Discord server to “discuss geopolitical affairs and current and historical wars”.

Teixeira’s age and junior rank have raised questions about why he had access to top-secret information and how he was able to leak the documents over several weeks without being detected. Many Congress members have pledged to seek answers about the issue.

Wednesday’s court filing by prosecutors said Teixeira, who was arrested in the small town of North Dighton, Massachusetts earlier this month, made threatening comments relating to weapons and murder online.

“In November 2022, the defendant stated that if he had his way, he would ‘kill a [expletive] ton of people’ because it would be ‘culling the weak minded’,” the prosecutors wrote.

They also said he was suspended from high school in 2018 for “remarks about weapons, including Molotov cocktails, guns at the school and racial threats”.

Prosecutors added that authorities had found a “virtual arsenal of weapons” at Teixeira’s primary and secondary residences — his mother’s and father’s homes — including “bolt-action rifles, rifles, AR and AK-style weapons, and a bazooka”.

Teixeira’s defence team, however, stressed that the weapons were “lawfully owned and properly stored”.

The defendant’s lawyers also tried to dismiss his online threats and the high school suspension, saying that he has not committed a “single act of violence”.

“The high school incident was thoroughly investigated, and he was allowed to return to school within a handful of days, having completed a professional psychiatric evaluation,” they wrote.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies