Even as Ryder was speaking in the Pentagon briefing room, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that the FBI had arrested Jack Teixeira, an airman in the Massachusetts Air National Guard, “in connection with an investigation into alleged unauthorized removal, retention and transmission of classified national defense information.”
Ryder said DOD officials continue to review a variety of factors in an effort to safeguard classified materials. DOD already has stringent guidelines in place for safeguarding classified and sensitive information. “This was a deliberate criminal act, a violation of those guidelines,” he said. “I think it’s important understand that we will continue to do everything we can to ensure that the people who have a need to know when it comes to this kind of information have access to that.”
The press secretary said there have been daily meetings with the defense secretary and the senior DOD leadership team to assess the scope and impact of these disclosures. They are also discussing mitigation measures. “I will tell you that these discussions are very focused, very deliberate and very measured … in terms of ensuring that we’re doing the right things, while not impeding or impacting our ability to do our important missions worldwide,” he said. “Frankly, we’re continuing to conduct our operations and provide people with the information they need, without missing a beat.”
Just because documents appear in the media or on a website or in a chat or as an attachment does not mean they have been declassified, DOD officials said. These documents remain classified and should be treated as such. Even though these documents may be in the media, service members and DOD employees must not read or download them.
The guardsman, an IT specialist identified as 21-year-old Jack Teixeira, was taken into custody without incident after FBI officers converged on his Massachusetts home. He is to be charged under a provision of the Espionage Act that makes it a crime to remove or transmit classified national defense information, Attorney General Merrick Garland said.
Garland did not reveal a possible motive, but accounts of those in the online private chat room where the documents were disclosed have depicted Teixeira as motivated more by bravado than ideology.
While Thursday’s arrest was a pivotal moment in an investigation into the highest-profile intelligence leak in years, the military and Justice Department were still scrutinizing how sensitive government secrets shared in a chat room ended up circulating around the world. The emergence of Teixeira as a primary suspect is bound to raise questions about how such a profound breach, one that the Pentagon termed a “very serious risk to national security,” could have been caused by such a young, low-ranking service member.
Biden has been regularly briefed on the investigation, officials said, as well as the efforts by his top officials to engage with allies who have been identified within, or unsettled by, the content of the leaked information, according to one of the officials. Behind the scenes, it has been a reality that has loomed over a deeply personal and important foreign trip for Biden, one official acknowledged.
Joined Air National Guard in 2019
The Air Force released service details for Teixeira, an Airman 1st Class.
Teixeira is an enlisted airman at the Massachusetts Air National Guard, according to details from his service record released by the Air Force Thursday. He joined the service in September 2019 and 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 properly.”
On Wednesday, The Washington Post first reported that the person behind the leak worked on a military base and posted sensitive national security secrets in an online group of acquaintances. The leaker was described in the Post story as a lonely young man and gun enthusiast who was part of a chatroom of about two dozen people on Discord – a social media platform popular with video gamers – that shared a love of guns and military gear, according to a friend of the alleged leaker the Post interviewed who was also part of the group.
He would sometimes wear camouflage to school, carried a “dictionary-sized book on guns,” and behaved in a way that made some fellow students feel uneasy.
“A lot of people were wary of him,” said Brooke Cleathero, who attended middle school and high school with Teixeira. “He was more of a loner, and having a fascination with war and guns made him off-putting to a lot of people.”
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