Jack Teixeira, an airman in the Massachusetts Air National Guard, was arrested Thursday in Massachusetts in connection with the leak of classified documents shared in a group he managed on a website popular with gamers.
Teixeira oversaw Thug Shaker Central, a group on Discord where more than 100 classified documents on topics ranging from Ukraine to intelligence gleaned from spying on allies first appeared.
Teixeira’s arrest comes after The New York Times reported last week that documents dealing with intelligence on Ukraine’s battle with Russia from as far back as February had been percolating on the site before spreading to other social media platforms.
Teixeira, 21, enlisted in the 102nd Intelligence Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard and in July was promoted to Airman First Class.
Attorney General Merrick Garland confirmed the arrest in a brief public statement, indicating Teixeira could face charges under the Espionage Act.
“Today the Justice Department arrested Jack Douglas Teixeira in connection with an investigation into alleged unauthorized removal, retention and transmission of classified national defense information,” Garland said.
“FBI agents took Teixeira into custody earlier this afternoon without incident. He will have an initial appearance at the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts.”
The Espionage Act does not specifically bar the sharing of classified information but rather any information dealing with national defense.
The arrest follows a week of speculation on the identity and motivation of the leaker, prompting the Pentagon to cull distribution lists for its intelligence reports as the FBI sought to identify the leaker through a digital trail along with clues included in the photographs of intelligence documents shared online.
The FBI on Thursday confirmed the arrest outside in North Dighton, Mass., as well as the ongoing search of Teixeira’s home.
“The FBI is continuing to conduct authorized law enforcement activity at the residence,” the agency said in a statement.
“Since late last week the FBI has aggressively pursued investigative leads and today’s arrest exemplifies our continued commitment to identifying, pursuing, and holding accountable those who betray our country’s trust and put our national security at risk.”
The arrest comes after several outlets spoke with members of the online group Teixeira led, which reportedly included about 20 to 30 members, including Ukrainians and foreign nationals. Some of the content shared in the group was labeled “NOFORN” indicating it should not be shared with foreigners.
Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder on Thursday would not comment on the arrest, referring reporters to DOJ, be he acknowledged that the leak of classified information “was a deliberate criminal act.”
He also stressed that strict rules are in place to ensure classified material is not leaked, and that distribution lists assessing how and where intelligence products are shared have been reviewed following the incident.
“We do have stringent guidelines in place for safeguarding classified and sensitive information. This was a deliberate, criminal act, a violation of those guidelines,” he said.
The documents shared to the Discord group included a number of sensitive details that have ruffled the feathers of allies in recent days.
The intelligence cast doubt on Ukraine’s air defense systems ahead of a major counteroffensive expected this spring. It also showed that South Korea was privately concerned about munitions sent to the U.S. going to Ukraine.
It also highlighted how deeply the U.S. had penetrated Russian military and intelligence outlets, prompting concern from experts that the documents could give adversaries a roadmap for cutting off sources of the information.
Information on Egypt, Israel and Iran were also included among the documents shared.
Reviews of the online group Teixeira oversaw indicate he was one of the older members of the group, with several of the members who spoke with news outlets identified as being under 18 years old.
Members of the Thug Shaker Central group bonded over their interest in guns, military gear, and war.
Authorities are sure to review how a 21-year-old Air Guard member based in Cape Cod would have access to such a wide range of materials, including those prepared for senior Pentagon leadership.
“Within the government, there’s oftentimes over classification,” said David Schenker, who has served in the Geroge W. Bush and Trump administrations and is now a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“But a lot of these seem to be, really, really sensitive.”
Ellen Mitchell and Laura Kelly contributed. Updated 3:46 p.m.