Mass. Guardsman charged with leaking highly classified documents makes brief court appearance

BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts Air National Guardsman charged with leaking highly classified military documents made a brief court appearance Wednesday, as a hearing to determine whether he should remain jailed while awaiting trial was delayed to give the defense more time to prepare.

Jack Teixeira, 21, had been scheduled for a detention hearing in Boston’s federal court, but the judge canceled it after Teixeira’s lawyer filed a motion requesting that it be delayed for about two weeks. The defense said it “requires more time to address the issues presented by the government’s request for detention.” A new date has not yet been set.

On Wednesday morning, Teixeira was brought to the courtroom in handcuffs and orange jail garb as he waived his right to a preliminary hearing. He said nothing beyond answering yes and no to questions about whether he understood his rights and the proceeding.

Northeastern University international relations professor Max Abrahms says this case is significant on so many levels. “

There are concerns that this information might negatively impact US support for the war in Ukraine,” said Abrahms. “We also found out that there are special operations forces on the ground in Ukraine. That was not public information.”

Teixeira was charged last week under the Espionage Act with unauthorized retention and transmission of classified national defense information. During his first court appearance last Friday, a magistrate judge ordered him to remain in custody until his detention hearing.

Teixeira has not yet entered a plea. His federal public defender didn’t respond to an email last week from The Associated Press and didn’t speak to reporters at the courthouse.

Teixeira is accused of sharing highly classified military documents about Russia’s war in Ukraine and other top national security issues in a chat room on Discord, a social media platform that started as a hangout for gamers. The stunning breach exposing closely held intelligence has sparked international concern and raised fresh questions about America’s ability to safeguard its secrets.

Abrahms says espionage is usually motivated by a political reason. “But that is not this guy. This guy is kind of a nerd who was sharing the information with his friends in order to get props,” said Abrahms.

Abrahms also points out – the criminal case itself will likely expose more concerns. “I think it is understandably quite worrisome to the American public as well as the government that these government secrets are actually not protected at all,” said Abrahms.

Air Force leaders said Tuesday they were investigating how a lone airman could access and distribute possibly hundreds of highly classified documents. The Air Force has also taken away the intelligence mission from the Air National Guard 102nd Intelligence Wing based in Cape Cod, where Teixeira served, pending further review.

Court records unsealed last week revealed how billing records the FBI obtained from Discord and interviews with social media comrades led authorities to Teixeira.

Investigators believe he was the leader of an online private chat group on Discord called Thug Shaker Central, which drew roughly two dozen enthusiasts who talked about their favorite types of guns and shared memes and jokes. The group also held a running discussion on wars that included talk of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

A Discord user familiar with Teixeira’s online posts told the FBI that a username linked to Teixeira began posting what appeared to be classified information roughly in December. The person provided the FBI with basic identifying information about Teixeira, including that he called himself “Jack,” claimed to be part of the Air National Guard and appeared to live in Massachusetts, according to the court records.

The person also told the FBI that Teixeira switched from typing out documents in his possession to taking them home and photographing them because he “had become concerned that he may be discovered making the transcriptions of text in the workplace.”

That’s different from what posters have told The Associated Press and other media outlets — that the user they would call “the O.G.” started posting images of documents because he was annoyed other users weren’t taking him seriously.

The prosecution affidavit alleges Teixeira was detected on April 6 – the day The New York Times first published a story about the breach of documents – searching for the word “leak” in a classified system. The FBI says that was reason to believe Teixeira was trying to find information about the investigation into who was responsible for the leaks.

The classified documents range from briefing slides mapping out Ukrainian military positions to assessments of international support for Ukraine and other sensitive topics, including under what circumstances Russian President Vladimir Putin might use nuclear weapons.

Authorities have not revealed an alleged motive. But members of the Discord group described Teixeira as someone looking to show off, rather than being motivated by a desire to inform the public about U.S. military operations or to influence American policy.

The Biden administration has scrambled to contain the potential diplomatic and military fallout from the leaks since they were first reported, moving to reassure allies and assess the scope of damage. There has been no clear answer on how many documents were leaked. The Associated Press has viewed approximately 50 documents; some estimates put the total number in the hundreds.

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