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FBI Arrests Air National Guard Member in Classified Documents Leak


FBI agents arrest Jack Teixeira, an employee of the U.S. Air Force National Guard, outside a residence in this still image taken from video in Dighton, Massachusetts, April 13, 2023. (WCVB-TV via ABC via Reuters)
FBI agents arrest Jack Teixeira, an employee of the U.S. Air Force National Guard, outside a residence in this still image taken from video in Dighton, Massachusetts, April 13, 2023. (WCVB-TV via ABC via Reuters)

The FBI has arrested a 21-year-old Air National Guard member suspected of a massive leak of classified U.S. government and military documents, U.S. law enforcement officials said Thursday.

Jack Teixeira, a member of the intelligence wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, was taken into custody "without incident" at a residence in Dighton, Massachusetts, on Thursday afternoon, the FBI said in a statement.

In a brief televised statement, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Teixeira was arrested "in connection with an investigation of alleged unauthorized removal, retention and transmission of classified national defense information."

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

Charging documents have not been filed yet but Garland’s statement suggested Teixeira could be charged under the Espionage Act. The Justice Department has used that 1917 statute, which criminalizes the removal, retention and transmission of “national defense information” to unauthorized persons, to prosecute government leakers.

Dighton, Massachusetts
Dighton, Massachusetts

According to The Washington Post, the documents allegedly leaked by Teixeira included highly sensitive information about Ukraine's military capabilities and the U.S. intelligence community’s reach into Russia’s military command.

Teixeira will make his first appearance in federal court in Boston on Friday, according to a law enforcement source.

Teixeira’s mother, Dawn Teixeira, did not respond to an email requesting comment.

In the statement, the FBI said it had "aggressively pursued investigative leads" into the leak since late last week.

Teixeira's arrest "exemplifies our continued commitment to identifying, pursuing and holding accountable those who betray our country's trust and put our national security at risk," the FBI said.

The arrest came as Teixeira emerged as the main suspect in the case and U.S. media outlets identified the guard member as the leader of an online chat group for young gamers where the leaked documents had been posted.

The Post described Teixeira as a “young, charismatic gun enthusiast” and “the elder leader” of the group of roughly two dozen gamers on the social media platform Discord.

The Post said it interviewed a member of the Discord group and had details corroborated by another member of the group.

The Discord group member told the newspaper that the alleged leaker, who went by OG, was not “hostile to the U.S. government” but “ranted” about the government and railed at the U.S. law enforcement and intelligence community “as a sinister force that sought to suppress its citizens and keep them in the dark.”

According to a Post investigation, OG posted classified documents to the Discord server throughout the winter before stopping in mid-March.

The halt came a few weeks after another Discord group user posted several dozen of the documents on another Discord server, unleashing a wider dissemination.

The leak alarmed U.S. officials, spawning a frenetic search for the culprit.

Jordan Strauss, a former Justice Department and White House national security official, said U.S. investigators pursued the case with unusual urgency because it involved "very recent and possibly ongoing information" about the war in Ukraine.

"That the leaker presumably had recent or ongoing access to information this sensitive means there would be extreme urgency to find him — not just to prosecute, but to staunch the leak," Strauss, now a managing director at risk and financial advisory firm Kroll, said.

Speaking to reporters in Ireland, U.S. President Joe Biden said he was concerned that the leak had happened but "there's nothing contemporaneous that I'm aware of that is of great consequence."

VOA national security correspondent Jeff Seldin also contributed to this report.