‘Pentagon leaker’ Jack Teixeira indicted on six federal charges

The Air National Guard member is accused of leaking military secrets on Discord chatrooms, leading to his April arrest.

A court sketch shows a young man in an orange jumpsuit, next to suit-clad lawyers.
A courtroom sketch shows Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira, seated second from right, at a hearing in Boston, Massachusetts, shortly after his arrest [File: Margaret Small/AP Photo]

A member of the United States Air National Guard accused of leaking classified military documents onto the social media platform Discord has been indicted on six federal charges.

Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old stationed in Massachusetts, faces six counts of retaining and transmitting sensitive national defence information, each of which carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 apiece.

The US justice department announced the charges on Thursday, highlighting the breach in trust and national security that Teixeira’s alleged leak represented.

“Individuals granted security clearances are entrusted to protect classified information and safeguard our nation’s secrets,” said Christopher Wray, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). “The allegations in today’s indictment reveal a serious violation of that trust.”

Teixeira has remained in federal custody since his arrest on April 13. But the revelation that US national security secrets had been disseminated through an online chatroom has proven to be a black eye for the federal government – one that has strained relations with allies and risked exposing military secrets.

The charging documents describe how Teixeira first joined the Air National Guard in September 2019, working his way up to top-secret security clearance by 2021.

But shortly thereafter, around January 2022, the justice department alleges Teixeira started to access, copy and publish sensitive information to share with the online community Discord, commonly frequented by gamers.

The charging documents explain that Teixeira either transcribed the classified information himself or took pictures of the records to post online.

That information included sensitive details about Ukraine’s efforts to repel the full-scale Russian invasion launched in February 2022. Among the documents allegedly leaked were specifics about Ukraine’s air defences, casualty numbers, US aid updates and documentation about Russian espionage activities.

The records also revealed intelligence pertaining to US military interests in other parts of the world.

Some of the documents, for example, seemed to indicate that the US had been spying on security officials in South Korea and pressuring its President Yoon Suk Yeol to provide ammunition to Ukraine.

That led to an outcry among South Korean politicians, some of whom accused the US of violating their national sovereignty. Other officials cast doubt on their authenticity, saying certain records had been manipulated.

“Individuals granted access to classified materials have a fundamental duty to safeguard the information for the safety of the United States, our active service members, its citizens and its allies,” said Acting US Attorney Joshua Levy in Thursday’s statement.

But as Teixeira emerged as the suspect in the leaked documents case, questions started to arise about how the 21-year-old was able to access so much information, seemingly so freely.

The justice department’s filings allege that Teixeira was reprimanded twice – in September and October – for “concerning actions” taken while handling classified information.

An Air Force memorandum, dated September 15, relays how Teixeira “had been observed taking notes on classified intelligence information” by a superior officer. When Teixeira “put the note into his pocket”, the superior asked if he planned to shred it. They met to discuss the incident and Teixeira was “instructed to no longer take notes in any form”.

But by the next month, an October 27 memo shows that his supervisors believed Teixeira was “potentially ignoring the cease-and-desist order on deep-diving into intelligence information”.

After his April arrest in North Dighton, Massachusetts, defence lawyers pushed for the 21-year-old to be released to his father.

But given the “profound breach” Teixeira was accused of committing – and questions of his trustworthiness – US Magistrate Judge David Hennessy ruled in May that he would remain behind bars until his trial.

Hennessy implied Teixeira might otherwise be a flight risk.

“Foreign countries know that this defendant was disloyal to the United States,” Hennessy said. He also cited Teixeira’s “fascination with guns” and concerning online statements tinged with conspiracy theories and threatening language.

Thursday’s indictment comes on the final day the US government had to file formal charges: Prosecutors had to pursue an indictment within 30 days of Teixeira’s arrest.

Source: Al Jazeera