FBI arrests Air National Guardsman in connection with DoD intel leak

The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested a Massachusetts Air National Guardsman on Thursday in connection with a massive leak of Pentagon intelligence, Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

Airman 1st Class Jack Teixeira, 21, whom Garland described as a Massachusetts Air National Guard employee, was arrested “without incident” afternoon, Garland told reporters Thursday.

“He will have an initial appearance at the U.S. district court for the District of Massachusetts,” Garland added, though he did not give a date or time.

The New York Times first reported on Thursday that Teixeira is assigned to the 102nd Intelligence Wing.

Teixeira is a cyber transport systems journeyman, a sort of information technology specialist, according to service details released by the Air Force on Thursday, based at Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts.

He has served in the Air National Guard since September 2019 and earned the Air Force Achievement Medal.

The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Teixeira was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, at the time of the leaks, which occurred earlier this year but were first acknowledged by the Pentagon on April 7.

Prior to Garland’s announcement, Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to confirm Teixeira’s identity, including whether he was in a federal status and thus within the Defense Department’s chain of command at any point during this year.

Asked how such a junior service member would have access to high-level documents, including intelligence on the war in Ukraine, Ryder said that even very young troops are given security clearances in some cases.

“We entrust our members with a lot of responsibility at a very early age,” he said. “So you receive training and you will receive an understanding of the rules and requirements that come along with those responsibilities.”

That training includes social media conduct and operational security policies, which Ryder said the leaker certainly knew when those documents were photographed and uploaded to a Discord server called Thug Shaker Central.

“This was a deliberate criminal act, a violation of those guidelines,” he said.

In the wake of the leaks’ discovery, the Pentagon has tamped down on access to such classified information.

“We continue to review a variety of factors as it relates to safeguarding classified materials,” Ryder said. “This includes examining and updating distribution lists, assessing how and where intelligence products are shared, and a variety of other steps.”

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.

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