BOSTON — A Massachusetts Air National Guardsman charged with leaking highly classified military documents is due back in court on Wednesday for a hearing to decide whether he should remain behind bars while he awaits trial.
Jack Teixeira, 21, was arrested by heavily armed tactical agents at his Massachusetts home last week and charged, under the Espionage Act, with unauthorized retention and transmission of classified national defense information. During his first court appearance in Boston's federal court Friday, a magistrate judge ordered him to remain in custody until Wednesday's detention hearing.
Teixeira is accused of sharing highly classified military documents about the Ukraine war and other top national security issues in a chat room on Discord, a social media platform that started as a hangout for gamers. The stunning breach exposing closely held intelligence has sparked international uproar and raised fresh questions about America’s ability to safeguard its secrets.
Air Force leaders said Tuesday that they were investigating how a lone airman could access and distribute possibly hundreds of highly classified documents. The Air Force has also taken away the intelligence mission from the Air National Guard 102nd Intelligence Wing based in Cape Cod — where Teixeira served — pending further review.
Court records unsealed last week revealed how billing records the FBI obtained from Discord and interviews with social media comrades led authorities to Teixeira.
Investigators believe he was the leader of an online private chat group on Discord called Thug Shaker Central, which drew roughly two dozen enthusiasts who talked about their favorite types of guns and shared memes and jokes, some of them racist. The group also held a running discussion on wars that included talk of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A Discord user familiar with Teixeira’s online posts told the FBI that a username linked to Teixeira began posting what appeared to be classified information roughly in December. The person provided the FBI with basic identifying information about Teixeira, including that he called himself “Jack,” claimed to be part of the Air National Guard and appeared to live in Massachusetts, according to the affidavit.
The person also told the FBI that Teixeira switched from typing out documents in his possession to taking them home and photographing them because he “had become concerned that he may be discovered making the transcriptions of text in the workplace.”
That’s different from what posters have told The Associated Press and other media outlets, saying the user they would call “the O.G.” started posting images of documents because he was annoyed other users weren’t taking him seriously.
The affidavit alleges Teixeira was detected on April 6 – the day The New York Times first published a story about the breach of documents – searching for the word “leak” in a classified system. The FBI says that was reason to believe Teixeira was trying to find information about the investigation into who was responsible for the leaks.
The classified documents range from briefing slides mapping out Ukrainian military positions to assessments of international support for Ukraine and other sensitive topics, including under what circumstances Russian President Vladimir Putin might use nuclear weapons.
Authorities have not revealed an alleged motive. But members of the Discord group described Teixeira as someone looking to show off, rather than being motivated by a desire to inform the public about U.S. military operations or to influence American policy.
The Biden administration has scrambled to contain the potential diplomatic and military fallout from the leaks since they were first reported, moving to reassure allies and assess the scope of damage. There has been no clear answer on how many documents were leaked. The Associated Press has viewed approximately 50 documents; some estimates put the total number in the hundreds.