Suspect linked to top secret document leak detained in United States investigation
Federal agents arrested a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard on Thursday on suspicion of leaking highly classified US documents that have embarrassed Washington and its allies around the world, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced.
Investigators believe the guard, who specializes in intelligence, led the online chat group where the documents were posted. Garland identified the guard as 21-year-old Jacques Teixeira and said he would be charged with deleting classified national defense information.
Garland said FBI agents met Thursday at Teixeira’s Massachusetts home, and heavily armed tactical agents locked Teixeira, dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, outside the building “without incident.”
Garland said he is accused of removing classified national defense information.
It was not immediately clear if Teixeira had a lawyer to speak on his behalf. A phone message left on a number believed to belong to his mother was not immediately returned.
Law enforcement officials uprooted the street near the house. The New York Times, which first identified Teixeira on Thursday, reported that a man standing outside Teixeira’s home earlier said he “needs a lawyer if things are going the way they are now. The Fed will be soon, I’m sure.”
Teixeira’s emergence as a seemingly prime suspect must raise the question of how a high-profile intelligence leak from years ago, which he continues to reveal on an almost daily basis of top secret documents, could have resulted from such a young and low profile. Ranking Service Member.
The Biden administration scrambled for days to contain the fallout from the leaked information, which exposed potential weaknesses in Ukraine’s air defense capabilities and exposed private assessments by allies on a range of intelligence matters.
The National Guard did not confirm his identity but said: “We are aware of the investigation into the alleged role that a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard may have played in the recent leak of highly classified documents.”
Brigadier General of the Air Force. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, referred all questions about the case to the Justice Department. But he said, “We have rules in place. Each of us signs a non-disclosure agreement. This is a criminal act, a willful violation of those.”
The Biden administration has been assessing the diplomatic and security consequences of the leaked documents since they were first reported last week. A Pentagon spokesperson told reporters earlier this week that the disclosures posed an “extremely serious risk to national security,” and the Justice Department opened an investigation to determine who was responsible.
“We’re getting close,” President Joe Biden told reporters in Ireland on Thursday. He said that despite his concern about the disclosure of sensitive government documents, “there is nothing contemporary that I know of that would have significant consequences.”
The Justice Department declined comment Thursday.
The leak likely started on a site called Discord, which is a social media platform popular with people who play games online. Discord hosts real-time voice, video, and text chats for groups and describes itself as a place “where you can join a school club, gaming group, or global art community.”
In one such forum, which was originally set up to talk about a range of topics, members were discussing the war in Ukraine. According to a chat member, an unknown poster shared documents that the poster claimed were confidential, first printing them with the poster’s own ideas, and then a few months ago uploading photos of folded papers.
Discord said it is cooperating with law enforcement.
There are only a few ways the leaked confidential information could have been accessed, which could provide important clues about who was responsible. Normally in confidential briefings, as with slides placed on Discord, information is shared electronically.
This is done either through secure computer terminals where users gain access based on their credentials or through tablets which are handed out for a briefing and collected afterwards. If slides need to be printed instead, they can only be sent to secure printers capable of handling labeled documents – which keep a digital record of everyone who has ordered a hard copy.
It is this digital evidence, such as the print history, that may help investigators focus on who took the documents. In most photos of documents posted online, the photos are of hard copies that look like they’ve been folded in quarters — as if they’ve been stuffed into someone’s pocket.
In the days after the leaks emerged, the Pentagon deferred questions about the investigation to the Justice Department, stating that it was a criminal matter. Even if the person who leaked the files is an active-duty member of the U.S. military, a defense official told the AP, the Justice Department would likely stay ahead of the prosecution until it is ready to turn the matter over to the Defense Department. On condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.
This has been the case in previous criminal cases, such as when two Marines stationed at Camp Pendleton in California were arrested on drug trafficking charges in 2020, the official said. If the person responsible is found to be a civilian, the official said, the Ministry of Justice will be responsible.
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