Air Guardsman Arrested in Connection With Leaked Documents

Jack Teixeira, 21, taken into custody following security breach that has raised worries about undermining Ukraine’s war effort

By guest authors Sadie Gurman, Nancy A. Youssef in Washington and Jon Kamp in Dighton, Mass. Warren P. Strobel and James Marson contributed to this article ,all from the Wall Street Journal.

Jack Teixeira was taken into custody at his home in Dighton, Mass., on Thursday. Photo: WCVB/Associated Press


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The FBI arrested a 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guardsman in connection with a leak of what appear to be highly classified intelligence documents, a security breach that posed a threat to U.S. ties to some allies and efforts to support Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

Federal agents took Jack Douglas Teixeira into custody in Dighton, Mass., on Thursday afternoon. Television footage showed armed agents leading a male wearing red shorts and an olive green T-shirt with his hands cuffed behind his back.

Attorney General Merrick Garland confirmed Mr. Teixeira’s arrest in connection with the “investigation into alleged unauthorized removal, retention and transmission of classified national defense information.” Mr. Garland declined to elaborate, citing the probe.

Mr. Teixeira was expected to appear Friday in federal court in Massachusetts. An attorney for Mr. Teixeira couldn’t be immediately identified, and members of his family couldn’t be reached for comment.

The arrest caps a fast-moving probe by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Pentagon and others to pinpoint the source of a leak of documents that appear to have exposed details of U.S. surveillance of adversaries and allies, touching off multiple diplomatic storms and raising worries about undermining Kyiv’s fight against Russia.

Mr. Teixeira has been in the Air National Guard since 2019 and is based at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts, according to his service record. Defense officials said he was a member of the 102nd Intelligence Wing. The wing’s website says its mission is to “provide worldwide precision intelligence and command and control.”

Mr. Teixeira has a rank of airman first class and is a junior Air Force communications specialist, according to his service record. It wasn’t immediately clear why somebody with his job title—cyber transport systems journeyman—would have access to the types of files that have surfaced.

The bulk of the more than 60 documents that have been made public so far appear to originate from the Central Intelligence Agency’s Operations Center and the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The documents appear to have first been posted online in January by a member of a small group on Discord, a social-media outlet popularized by videogame enthusiasts. The documents stayed within that small group, seemingly unnoticed by the outside world, until early March, when another member reposted several of them to a larger Discord group, where the material began circulating more widely.

In early April, a Russian propaganda account on the Telegram social-media platform posted a crudely doctored version of one of the documents, alongside a few unedited ones, drawing the attention of the media and the U.S. government.

The unauthorized disclosure of classified documents points to the challenge of safeguarding government secrets when that information is distributed widely among different military and intelligence personnel. Pentagon officials are now reviewing how that classified information is disseminated.

Rep. Mike Turner (R., Ohio), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, called for more scrutiny of how government secrets are handled.

“The House Intelligence Committee will examine why this happened, why it went unnoticed for weeks, and how to prevent future leaks,” Mr. Turner said in a statement.

President Biden, when asked for an update on the leak investigation Thursday during a trip to Dublin, said he was concerned that the leak happened, but “there’s nothing contemporaneous that I’m aware of that’s of great consequence.”

On Wednesday, all service members and Defense Department employees received a message reinforcing how they are expected to handle classified information, a U.S. official said.

Defense officials said a service member’s access to classified information is based on that person’s job and not necessarily seniority or age.

Someone holding Mr. Teixeira’s job title may have received access to classified material that others don’t because his specific job demanded it, defense officials said.

He also may not have been authorized to access those documents, they said, or he could have been performing a function beyond his official title, which happens in the U.S. military.

“Having a security clearance at the secret or top secret level is only part of what is required to access specific classified documents. There also must be a need to know,” said Aram Gavoor, associate dean for academic affairs at George Washington University Law School and a national-security expert.

Police in Dighton, Mass., cordoned off the street where Mr. Teixeira’s family lives, far from the house.

Neighbours described the area as the kind of place where people are friendly but don’t really know each other closely.

“It’s a quiet street normally,” said Shannon Simmons, who has lived nearby for 23 years. “People keep to themselves.”

Tyler Ellinwood, 22, who was two years ahead of Mr. Teixeira at Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School, said he didn’t really know him well.

“There’s a certain culture surrounding small-town schools,” he said. “People buy into dirt bikes and like pickup trucks, very country, very wanting to go into the military.”

Mr. Ellinwood said it was hard to imagine a former schoolmate serving as a guardsman allegedly divulging classified documents. “That’s so crazy to me,” he said.

Police blocked a road in Dighton, Mass., where Jack Teixeira was taken into custody on Thursday. Photo: M. Scott Brauer for The Wall Street Journal

The leaks are the latest in a series of significant breaches of highly classified U.S. government data since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. That coordinated attack was blamed in part on a systemic failure of various intelligence agencies to share information.

As a result, a greater number of people—in some cases relatively junior staffers—gained access to sensitive information, made possible in part by the digitization of vast troves of information, high-speed communication links and the internet.

In 2013, National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed secrets of the agency’s global surveillance programs, part of a disclosure of hundreds of thousands of classified files. In 2010, Army soldier Chelsea Manning downloaded thousands of diplomatic cables and documents regarding the Iraq and Afghan wars, sharing them with WikiLeaks. In 2022, former CIA employee Joshua Schulte was convicted of illegally handling classified information in connection with the “Vault 7” revelations, a massive breach of agency hacking tools.

Both the U.S. and allies are assessing the impact of the leak on the war in Ukraine and relations between Washington and its partners overseas.

A senior Ukrainian official on Thursday played down the seriousness of the leak, saying it would have no impact on a critical Ukrainian offensive planned for the coming weeks.

The leaked files “have no operational significance,” Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, said in an interview. “They have no impact on the front line or the planning of the General Staff.”

A South Korean official on Monday said the government was investigating the circumstances around the leaks, which appeared to show intercepted communications of discussions among Seoul officials about concerns over selling ammunition to the U.S. that could end up in Ukraine. Israel’s intelligence agency, known as the Mossad, has called allegations contained in the apparently leaked documents that it help stir up protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government “mendacious and without any foundation whatsoever.”

The Wall Street Journal wasn’t able to independently authenticate the documents, but they contain enough detail to give them credibility. Defense officials have said they believe some of the documents could be authentic. The documents appear to have been printed and folded twice. In some images there are items clearly visible in the background, including a hunting magazine, a knife and a tube of Gorilla-brand glue.

Some of the leaked documents appear to originate from the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.  Photo: Patrick Semansky/Associated Press