WASHINGTON — Jack Teixeira, 21, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, was arrested Thursday by federal authorities in connection with an investigation into classified documents leaked online.
FBI agents took Teixeira into custody Thursday afternoon “without incident,” Attorney General Merrick Garland announced in brief comments at the Justice Department, which is conducting a criminal investigation into the matter.
“Today, we arrested Jack Douglas Teixeira, Jack Douglas Teixeira, an employee of the United States Air National Guard, on investigation into the unauthorized possession and dissemination of national security information,” Garland said.
Teixeira will make a preliminary appearance in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Garland said, and the investigation is ongoing. He refused to take questions from reporters.
FBI agents arrested Teixeira at a home in North Titan, Mass., the bureau’s office in Boston said. Report. The residence is more than an hour from the military base where he worked.
“The FBI continues to conduct authorized law enforcement operations at the residence,” the statement said. “Since late last week, the FBI has been actively pursuing investigative leads, and today’s arrest highlights our continued commitment to finding, pursuing and holding accountable those who have betrayed our nation’s trust and endangered our national security.”
Military records show Teixeira holds the rank of Air Force First Class and has been in uniform since joining the Air National Guard in September 2019. He holds the title of Cyber Transport Systems Travelman at the Otis Air National Guard base in Cape Cod.
A Facebook post in July from the 102nd Intelligence Wing, which is headquartered at the base, congratulated a man with the same name, Teixeira, on his promotion to Air Force 1st Class.
U.S. officials have been searching for the source of the leak, which exposed hundreds of pages of intelligence about Russian efforts in Ukraine and spying on U.S. allies.
Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder declined to confirm the leaker’s identity at a briefing Thursday and referred reporters to the Justice Department because it was a “law enforcement matter” and an ongoing investigation, he said.
The Department of Defense is “working around the clock” with the intelligence community, Ryder said, “to better understand the scope, the extent, of these leaks.” Ryder said the Pentagon was “very limited” about the documents.
Asked about the intelligence operations of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, where Teixeira worked, Ryder said, “In general, intelligence units throughout the Air Force support what you would imagine — the intelligence needs and requirements of the Air Force worldwide to support a wide variety of intelligence missions, including active defense and reserve components.”
Secret Defense Department documents found online last month — it’s unclear how long the documents have been online and the total number released — and detail U.S. spying on Russia’s war efforts in Ukraine, classified assessments of Ukraine’s war power, as well as intelligence from U.S. allies including South Korea and Israel. collection, NBC News previously reported.
President Joe Biden suggested Thursday morning that authorities are nearing a breakthrough in the investigation into who leaked the documents online.
“As you know, there’s a full-scale investigation going on with the FBI and the Department of Justice, and they’re getting closer,” Biden told reporters in Ireland.
Two White House officials later confirmed that the president had been notified of Teixeira’s arrest.
The suspect’s identity was first reported The New York Times reported on Thursday that he was the head of a small online gaming group where the documents were first leaked.
Formerly The Washington Post reported Regarding the gaming group, he identified its leader only as “OG”. The main source of the story is a small person who remains anonymous and was a member of this group on the Discord platform. The Post said it reviewed approximately 300 photos of the suspect’s alleged leaked classified documents, most of which have not been made public, the report said.
NBC News has yet to verify details about the gaming group and the source of where the confidential documents were first shared.
After Teixeira’s arrest, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed said in a statement: “This is a major security breach that cannot be allowed to happen again. This leak of classified information endangered our military and intelligence professionals and undermined the security of our allies and partners.”
“Anyone with a security clearance who betrays their country by deliberately mishandling classified documents or disclosing classified material should be held accountable,” Reed, DRI, added.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said his committee will “investigate why this happened, why it went unnoticed for weeks, and how to prevent future leaks.”“
Administration officials said Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were briefed on the disclosure last week. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters earlier this week that the White House was first aware of the documents’ existence in the public domain.
According to Bellingate, an online open-source investigative group, the documents appeared on the Discord social media app in early March. Some of the documents may have surfaced as early as January, the group said.
Eoghan Macguire, a researcher and author who helped break the story at Bellingate, told NBC News that the documents were passed around three separate Discord servers before being widely published on the extremist site 4chan.
Kirby said the Pentagon is “leading an interagency effort here to review whatever the national security implications are from this,” and said the Justice Department is leading a criminal investigation into the leaks.
He also said that some of the classified documents appear to have been altered from their original form. Kirby said Biden administration officials contacted “concerned allies and partners” late last week to reassure them about the leaks at the “highest level.”