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U.S. Airman Who Leaked Files is Indicted on Charges of Mishandling Secrets


A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted Jack Teixeira, a Massachusetts Air National Guard member who posted dozens of secret intelligence reports and other sensitive documents on a social media server, on six counts of retaining and transmitting classified national defense information.

The filing of criminal charges in Boston federal court against Teixeira, 21, comes about two months after FBI agents arrested him at his home in North Dighton, Massachusetts, and paves the way for a trial stemming from one of the most damaging national security leaks in recent history. If convicted, he could face up to 60 years in prison.

The evidence presented in the 10-page indictment represents a distillation of the immense trove of secrets Teixeira is accused of taking from computers at an intelligence unit at the Cape Cod air base — and sharing with online friends he was hoping to impress in chat groups on Discord, a social media platform popular with gamers. But it was not immediately clear how many of the vaguely described incidents that underlie the charges had been previously disclosed and which ones were being made public for the first time.

Teixeira’s disclosures — exposing secrets of the United States, its allies and its adversaries — have bared rifts between the United States and its allies and given Russia information about intelligence-gathering methods, as news organizations have divulged some of the material. And Justice Department lawyers have said the extent of the information he leaked “far exceeds what has been publicly disclosed.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland accused Teixeira on Thursday of violating his oath to safeguard national security and said the leaking of the material was likely to have caused “exceptionally grave damage to national security.”

Teixeira’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The indictment follows a preliminary criminal complaint, which detailed how Teixeira, a young tech worker who had obtained a high-level security clearance, got away for months with posting classified information online under the noses of his Air Force superiors before being caught. The evidence in the indictment represents a refinement of the potential charges laid out in that complaint.

The indictment said Teixeira mishandled documents including a report on the hacking of an unnamed U.S. company’s accounts by “a foreign adversary,” information about the provision and delivery of military equipment to Ukraine and a highly sensitive report on Russian and Ukrainian troop movements that might have compromised “classified sources and methods.” Other documents included details of a foreign plot to target U.S. troops abroad that described “where and how” an assault might take place, the indictment said.

Materials posted by Teixeira included files that bore some of the most highly restricted classification markings, including “sensitive compartmentalized information” that could be stored and reviewed only in a protected facility.

“The unauthorized removal, retention and transmission of classified information jeopardizes our nation’s security,” Joshua S. Levy, the acting U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, said in a statement Thursday. “Individuals granted access to classified materials have a fundamental duty to safeguard the information for the safety of the United States, our active service members, its citizens and its allies.”

Teixeira has remained in federal custody after prosecutors presented evidence that he had a history of making violent and racist threats, had access to an arsenal of weapons and represented a risk of sharing sensitive information with foreign countries.

The most detailed accounts of his behavior came to light in an memo filed by the Justice Department’s national security division in arguing for his indefinite detention in April.

The memo claimed that Teixeira repeatedly tried to obstruct federal investigators and might still have information that would be of “tremendous value to hostile nation-states.”

Prosecutors pointedly questioned Teixeira’s overall state of mind, disclosing that he was suspended from high school in 2018 for alarming comments about the use of Molotov cocktails and other weapons, and trawled the internet for information about mass shootings. He engaged in “regular discussions about violence and murder” on Discord, the filing said, and he surrounded his bed at his parents’ house with firearms and tactical gear.

The Justice Department has also documented a series of missteps by the airman’s superiors.

Air Force officials caught Teixeira taking notes and conducting deep-dive searches for classified material months before he was charged with leaking a vast trove of government secrets, but did not remove him from his job, according to previous filings in the case.

Source: The Japan Times

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