This image made from video provided by WCVB-TV, shows Jack Teixeira, in T-shirt and shorts, being taken into custody by armed tactical agents on Thursday, April 13, 2023, in Dighton, Mass.

This image made from video provided by WCVB-TV, shows Jack Teixeira, in T-shirt and shorts, being taken into custody by armed tactical agents on Thursday, April 13, 2023, in Dighton, Mass. (WCVB-TV via AP)

WASHINGTON — FBI agents on Thursday arrested a 21-year-old airman with the Massachusetts Air National Guard and charged him with leaking batches of classified intelligence that ended up on various social media sites, the Justice Department said.

The arrest of Jack Douglas Teixeira came several days after the first sensitive materials were discovered to be online and weeks after some of the records were posted on the Internet.

“Today the Justice Department arrested Jack Douglas Teixeira in connection with the investigation into alleged unauthorized removal, retention and transmission of classified national defense information,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday afternoon. “FBI agents took Teixeira into custody earlier this afternoon without incident.”

Teixeira will make his initial court appearance in district court in Boston sometime on Friday, a federal court official told Stars and Stripes on condition of anonymity. 

Garland indicated that Teixeira will be charged under the Espionage Act and if convicted could face as many as 10 years in prison for each criminal count.

“This investigation is ongoing,” Garland added. “We will share more information at the appropriate time.”

According to Teixeira’s Air Force service record, he joined the Air National Guard in September 2019 and presently holds the rank of airman first class. The service said he’s a Cyber Transport Systems journeyman stationed at Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod. A CTS journeyman is similar to an information technology specialist.

Jack Douglas Teixeira

Jack Douglas Teixeira (Photo posted on social media)

The response from the Justice Department came after news reports Thursday that identified the suspected leaker as Teixeira, a member of the 102nd Intelligence Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.

According to the reports citing anonymous military sources and members of Teixeira’s small online video gaming group, “Thug Shaker Central,” the airman leaked photographs of the documents on the Discord social platform. The material was subsequently spread elsewhere on social platforms.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s top spokesperson, didn’t give much detail about Teixeira but emphasized that whoever leaked the materials did so consciously.

“This was a deliberate criminal act,” Ryder told reporters at the Pentagon. “We need to allow [the Justice Department] investigation to run its course.”

Ryder also acknowledged that the Defense Department is tightening procedures dealing in classified information, which may include whittling down distribution and access lists. He also stressed that there are already security measures in place designed to prevent the leak of secret materials.

“We have safeguards in place, we have processes, we have procedures,” Ryder said. “We will continue to do due diligence ... to ensure we’re doing everything we can to prevent potential unauthorized disclosures in the future.”

According to a Facebook post by the 102nd Intelligence Wing, Teixeira was promoted to airman first class last July. The 102nd Intelligence Wing, which is headquartered at Otis Air National Guard Base and Joint Base Cape Cod, referred questions from Stars and Stripes about Teixeira to the FBI and Justice Department.

The now-defunct Discord group was small, but its members shared a passion for firearms, music and gaming. News reports also noted that the group often shared racist memes.

A batch of documents relating to the war in Ukraine, which appeared to be classified, were found on social sites earlier this month and additional documents about U.S. surveillance efforts in other countries were found a couple days later. It appears that some of the questioned documents have been posted online for many weeks.

So far, no U.S. officials have confirmed that the leaked documents are authentic, but the Pentagon has said that at least some of them appear to contain legitimate top secret intelligence. Defense officials, President Joe Biden and the Justice Department have been working nonstop since the discoveries to find out who leaked the materials.

“There’s a full blown investigation going on ... with the intelligence community and the Justice Department, and they’re getting close,” Biden told reporters during a visit in Ireland on Thursday.

“We will continue to work closely with our outstanding allies and partners, and nothing will ever stop us from keeping America secure,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuesday in his first public remarks about the leaked materials.

It wasn’t immediately clear how Teixeira might have had access to the highly sensitive materials or whether any other service members could also be involved in the leaks.

The leak of potentially secret documents online has created a serious scandal for the Biden White House and his Defense Department, which have given billions of dollars worth of weapons and equipment to Ukraine since the Russian invasion more than a year ago. Some of the documents indicated positions of Ukrainian troops, what weapons they have and said Ukraine is running low on air defense missiles — a piece of intelligence, for example, that could potentially prompt Russia to alter attack strategies.

Not a lot is known yet about Teixeira. Some of the reports Thursday described him as a gun and video game enthusiast and a devout Christian. One report called him the charismatic leader of his Discord gaming group.

Police block a road in North Dighton, Mass., Thursday, April 13, 2023.

Police block a road in North Dighton, Mass., Thursday, April 13, 2023. (Michelle R. Smith/AP)

According to a New York Times report, Teixeira’s mother said her son had recently changed his phone number and has been working overnight shifts at a base on Cape Cod. The report also said several FBI agents were actively searching her Massachusetts property near North Dighton, Mass. — a town close to the Massachusetts-Rhode Island border about 35 miles southwest of downtown Boston.

Some of the recently leaked documents contained information about U.S. intelligence gathering in other countries, including American allies South Korea and Israel. The Pentagon said earlier this week that it appears some of the leaked materials had been altered in some way.

“We are still investigating how this happened,” Chris Meagher, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs, said Monday. “These [documents] are highly classified and contain sensitive information. I would like to highlight that they present a very serious risk to national security.”

“Disclosure of sensitive, classified material can have tremendous implications — not only for our national security, but [it] could lead to people losing their lives,” he added.”

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Doug G. Ware covers the Department of Defense at the Pentagon. He has many years of experience in journalism, digital media and broadcasting and holds a degree from the University of Utah. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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