A 21-year-old Air National Guardsman was hit with federal charges Friday, accused of unauthorized retention, removal and transmission of national defense information and classified documents that he allegedly leaked online.
Jack Douglas Teixeira, an airman 1st class for the 102nd Intelligence Wing based at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts, not only had a Top Secret security clearance but also sensitive compartmented access (SCI), a more restrictive designation for some of the government’s most closely guarded secrets, since 2021, according to a newly released affidavit from the Justice Department.
“Teixeira would have signed a lifetime binding non-disclosure agreement in which he would have had to acknowledge that the unauthorized disclosure of protected information could result in criminal charges,” the affidavit details.
Teixeira oversaw a private online chat group in which more than a dozen young men would discuss guns, memes and video games, according to The New York Times. The group was named “Thug Shaker Central” on Discord, a website connected to video gaming.
But Teixeira for months was also releasing photos of classified defense documents pertaining to operations in the Ukraine war, as well as U.S. surveillance efforts around the world, federal officials claim.
The young airman was able to acquire the documents due, in part, to the clearances he had, which made them “accessible to Teixeira by virtue of his employment with [the Air National Guard],” the affidavit said. The Air Force confirmed Thursday that Teixeira serves as a cyber transport systems journeyman.
Notably, Teixeira has been on federal Title 10 orders since October, National Guard officials told Military.com, meaning he had been on active-duty status performing military duties as opposed to more sporadic drill weekends in Massachusetts.
Because he was on active duty, Teixeira could also face military charges separate from Justice Department prosecution. Guardsmen, who spend the bulk of their service under different duty statuses working part time, often fall out of military justice jurisdiction.
Federal documents released Friday allege that Teixeira began posting “the Government Information as paragraphs of text” starting in December 2022.
But by January, the documents said that he started posting pictures of the intelligence and secret information because he “had become concerned that he may be discovered making the transcriptions of text in the workplace, so he began taking the documents to his residence and photographing them.”
On April 6, a week before armed law enforcement officers would arrest him, Teixeira allegedly began searching on his government computer for the term “leak” on classified networks.
“Accordingly, there is reason to believe that Teixeira was searching for classified reporting regarding the U.S. Intelligence Community’s assessment of the identity of the individual who transmitted classified national defense information,” the affidavit details.
As federal investigators closed in on Teixeira, he reportedly called members of the online chat group to tell them he never expected this situation to happen, according to The New York Times, saying that the documents were not meant to be widely distributed but only shared with a close-knit group of friends.
“Guys, it’s been good — I love you all,” Teixeira said, one listener recounted to The New York Times. “I never wanted it to get like this. I prayed to God that this would never happen. And I prayed and prayed and prayed. Only God can decide what happens from now on.”
Federal Defense Attorney Brendan Kelley is representing Teixeira, according to court documents. He did not immediately respond to a Military.com phone call seeking comment about his client’s case.
Teixeira’s case has raised concerns among legal and national security experts about the access that young, enlisted service members have to classified information.
“We entrust our members with a lot of responsibility at a very early age,” Gen. Pat Ryder, Pentagon press secretary, told reporters Thursday. “So you receive training and you will receive an understanding of the rules and requirements that come along with those responsibilities, and you’re expected to abide by those rules, regulations and responsibility. It’s called military discipline. And in certain cases, especially when it comes to sensitive information, it also is about the law.”
Ryan Nerney, a managing partner at law firm Tully Rinckey, told Military.com in an interview Thursday that Teixeira’s case should be a reminder to all service members about the importance of protecting classified and top secret information.
“Anybody who gets a clearance, whether you’re an 18-year-old person coming into the military or a 20-year veteran going into the civil service … anybody who gets a clearance goes through the same adjudicative guidelines,” Nerney said. “But it definitely is a wake-up call to, potentially, update or renew the processes for individuals getting clearances.”
Calls from lawmakers — and even President Joe Biden — to update policies have been swift. But when Ryder was asked by Military.com on Thursday whether the Pentagon had reduced the number of people who have access to classified info in the wake of the leak, he didn’t disclose what specifically had been done, saying only that policies were being reviewed.
Instead, Ryder pointed blame at Teixeira’s actions.
“I want to emphasize that this was a deliberate criminal act to violate those guidelines and rules, in the same way that if you locked your front door and somebody came into your house and took something,” Ryder said. “You followed your procedures and you locked your door, but somebody went in your house and took something and put it out on the street; that’s what we’re talking about here.”
The 102nd Intelligence Wing, where Teixeira was stationed, is more than 100 years old and started as the 101st Observation Squadron of the Massachusetts National Guard in 1921, according to the wing’s website.
The wing’s mission is to “provide worldwide precision intelligence” mainly “for expeditionary combat support and homeland security.”
It’s also been reported that Teixeira has family ties to the military and, more specifically, the 102nd Intelligence Wing.
His stepfather Tom Dufault and stepbrother Alex Dufault also worked at Joint Base Cape Cod, the Cape Cod Times reported.