US airman charged with leaking top-secret Pentagon documents
Washington, Apr 14 (EFE).- Jack Teixeira, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard who is suspected of one of the biggest leaks of classified US intelligence documents of the past decade, was charged Friday with two counts under the Espionage Act.
The 21-year-old appeared in a federal court in Boston and heard the charges from Judge David Hennessy: unauthorized retention and transmission of national defense information and unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material.
If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.
US President Joe Biden applauded the swift action of federal agents in arresting Teixeira on Thursday and pledged action to prevent future leaks.
“While we are still determining the validity of those documents, I have directed our military and intelligence community to take steps to further secure and limit distribution of sensitive information, and our national security team is closely coordinating with our partners and allies,” he said in a statement Friday.
In an affidavit submitted to the court and incorporated into the criminal complaint, an FBI special agent said Teixeira held a Top Secret security clearance that had been granted in 2021.
The agent said the suspected leaker began posting “what appeared to be classified information” in December of last year, initially posting that government material as paragraphs of text and later uploading photographs that contained “what appeared to be classification markings on official US government documents.”
Although the affidavit does not indicate which social media platform was used, The New York Times and The Washington Post have reported that the leaks began on Discord, a social media platform popular with gamers, before spreading around the Internet.
One of the documents contained information about the “status of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, including troop movements, on a particular date,” the affidavit said, citing a social media user identified as “User 1” who was interviewed on April 10.
The interviewee said Teixeira had told him during a conversation online that he had begun taking the documents to his residence and photographing them because he feared he might be detected while transcribing the texts at his workplace.
On April 12, Discord delivered the information it had pertaining to Teixeira to the FBI.
The criminal complaint said the 21-year-old suspect, who since May 2022 had been serving as an airman in the United States Air National Guard and had been stationed at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts, had the title “Cyber Defense Operations Journeyman.” EFE