U.S. airman charged with leaking classified military documents

A U.S. National Guard airman who had top secret clearance was charged today with unauthorized retention and transmission of national defense information, and unauthorized removal of classified information and defense materials, in connection with the leaking of classified U.S. documents that have made headlines around the world.

Twenty-one-year-old Jack Douglas Teixeira had the charges read to him in a Boston federal court.

CNN said that according to an FBI affidavit supporting the charges, Teixeira is an airman first class in the Air National Guard at a base in Massachusetts, holding the title of Cyber Defence Operations Journeyman. That gave him Top Secret security clearance, which was issued in 2021. As such, the affidavit says, he would have signed a lifetime binding non-disclosure agreement stating that the unauthorized disclosure of protected information could result in criminal charges.

Teixeria was arrested Thursday at the home of his parents. “Today, the FBI took 21-year-old Jack Douglas Teixeira into custody without incident at a residence in North Dighton, Massachusetts, for his alleged involvement in leaking classified U.S. government and military documents,” the FBI said in a statement on Thursday.

“Since late last week, the FBI has aggressively pursued investigative leads, and today’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.”

Copies and photos of the allegedly stolen documents were initially posted on a members-only group on a Discord messaging site for online gamers. The documents were initially only for that group, but recently someone published them more widely, leading to their discovery by reporters.

Some of the photographed documents showed portions of a room, which may have helped investigators. But investigators would also have been looking for people who had access to the roughly 300 pages of documents.

The arrest came after the Washington Post on Wednesday published an interview with a member of that Discord group who says the leaker allegedly worked on an unnamed American military base. This person told the Post the leaker was known to the group as “OG,” and claimed he spent at least some of his day inside a secure facility that prohibited cellphones and other electronic devices.

Teixeira was also named by the New York Times. It said Airman Teixeira is enlisted in the 102nd Intelligence Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.  CNN said his official job is Cyber Transport Systems journeyman. According to the Air Force, Cyber Transport Systems specialists are tasked with making sure the service’s “vast, global communications network” is operating correctly.

According to CNN, many of the stolen documents had markings indicating that they had been produced by the intelligence arm of the military.

The authenticity of the leaked documents, many labeled Secret or Top Secret, has not been verified. Some sources say many look authentic, while others think some have been altered. They cover a wide range of material including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, claims by a pro-Russia hacking group that it accessed a Canadian gas company’s infrastructure, intelligence on North Korean preparations for an ICBM test flight and more.

On Friday, news services published documents apparently from the same cache, allegedly with a U.S. analysis of the thinking of U.N. Secretary Antonio Guterres.

The affidavit also gives insight into how the FBI tracked the suspect down. On April 10th — after the media published synopses of some of the leaked documents — the FBI interviewed an unnamed user of an unnamed social media platform on which documents had been posted. This was possibly the private Discord group. This person told the FBI they “learned that the individual posting … called himself “Jack”, appeared to reside in Massachusetts and claimed he was in the United States Air National Guard.” Following a legal process, the unnamed social media platform then gave the FBI the subscriber information of the account holder.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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