Pentagon leaker Teixeira ordered to remain in jail before trial

Prosecutors had previously cited Teixeira’s weapons and violent comments in arguing he should stay behind bars.

Jack Douglas Teixeira, a US Air Force National Guard airman, is accused of leaking highly classified military intelligence records online. [File: Margaret Small/Reuters]

A former Massachusetts Air National Guard member accused of leaking highly classified military documents has been ordered to remain behind bars as he awaits trial in the United States.

Jack Teixeira appeared in federal court in Worcester, Massachusetts, where Magistrate Judge David Hennessy weighed prosecutors’ request that the 21-year-old should remain locked up ahead of the closely watched trial.

In handing down Friday’s decision, Hennessy indicated that Teixeira may be unreliable, given that the case hinged on the allegation that the 21-year-old had broken his “word that he would protect information related to the security of the United States”.

Hennessy also addressed the gravity of the accusations against Teixeira. “Who did he put at risk? I mean, you could make a list as long as a phone book,” the judge said, referencing the alleged leak.

In addition, Hennessy cited Teixeira’s fascination with guns, his online comments and his disciplinary record with the state national guard as reason to keep him in detention.

Teixeira faces charges under the Espionage Act for allegedly sharing a trove of secret military documents in a chat room on Discord, a social media platform used predominantly by gamers.

The documents purported to show the US assessment of Russia’s war in Ukraine and an array of other national security issues. The revelations roiled several US allies and drew wider questions about why a relatively low-ranking official in a state national guard would have access to such classified information.

Those questions have been heightened after prosecutors said in court papers filed this week that Teixeira had been caught by superiors months before his April arrest taking notes on classified information and viewing intelligence not related to his job.

He had been twice admonished by superiors in September and October, and was again observed in February viewing information “that was not related to his primary duty and was related to the intelligence field”, according to internal Air National Guard memos filed in court.

This week, Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh referred questions about Teixeira’s continued access to classified information after the incidents to authorities conducting the Department of Justice and Air Force investigations.

Judge Hennessy heard arguments on Teixeira’s detention from lawyers late last month but put off an immediate decision at that time. On Friday, Hennessy indicated that it was in the interest of national security that Teixeira remain behind bars.

“It doesn’t seem implausible at all that a foreign government would make an overture to this defendant to get information,” he said.

Teixeira has not yet entered a plea. His lawyers had urged the judge to release him to his father’s home, noting he did not flee when media outlets began publishing his name shortly before his April 13 arrest.

His lawyer told the judge last month that Teixeira “will answer the charges” and “will be judged by his fellow citizens”.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, had earlier pointed to the arsenal of weapons had in his possession before his arrest, as well as a history of violent and disturbing remarks.

Further stoking concerns, the Department of Justice has also said that Teixeira used his government computer in July to look up mass shootings and government standoffs. He searched terms including “Ruby Ridge”, “Las Vegas shooting”, “Mandalay Bay shooting”, “Uvalde” and “Buffalo tops shooting” — an apparent reference to the 2022 racist mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket.

US officials have largely downplayed the fallout from the leaks which, among other revelations, appeared to show how closely the US monitors its allies interactions with Russia and China.

One document said the US may have spied on its ally South Korea, providing details of alleged discussions among top aides to President Yoon Suk-yeol.

Citing a leaked document, the Washington Post also reported that Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi discussed a plan to supply Russia with 40,000 rockets. A spokesman for the foreign ministry denied the assessment, saying Cairo was maintaining “noninvolvement in this crisis and committing to maintain equal distance with both sides”.

Another leaked report suggested Israel’s Mossad spy service opposed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed overhaul of the judiciary.

Several of the purported US intelligence assessments also painted a more pessimistic outlook for the Ukrainian military than the US had provided publicly. They suggest Kyiv is heading for only “modest territorial gains” in its much-anticipated counteroffensive.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies