A federal magistrate ruled on Friday that Jack Teixeira, the 21-year-old Air Force National Guardsman accused of posting scores of secret documents to an online gaming platform, will remain behind bars pending his trial because he poses a continuing threat to national security.
The judge, David H. Hennessy, cited Airman Teixeira’s history of seeking out, gaining access to and posting classified intelligence materials, in defiance of superiors at an Air Force base on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, in denying the airman’s request to be released on bond into the custody of his father.
Airman Teixeira’s actions were “a profound breach” of the oath he took to protect sensitive information when he was given his security clearance, Judge Hennessy said during a custody hearing at the federal courthouse in Worcester, Mass. His ruling came after the government introduced evidence that the airman continued to have access to sensitive intelligence months after his superiors noted his suspicious behavior.
The decision was a victory for the government, which is seeking to send the strongest possible message to potential leakers after a humiliating disclosure of national security secrets that appears to have been pulled off by a boastful young man trying to impress his online friends.
The government had also argued that it was too dangerous to release Airman Teixeira into his community outside Boston, presenting evidence that he had made racist and violent threats. A review of thousands of posts on the social media platform Discord this month by The New York Times revealed that the airman had expressed fascination with mass shootings, conspiracy theories and weapons.
The hearing came two days after federal prosecutors disclosed that the airman’s superiors had missed several opportunities to limit his access to the secrets about the Ukraine war he brazenly shared with people from around the world who subscribed to three chat groups on Discord.
Air Force officials caught Airman Teixeira taking notes and conducting deep-dive searches for classified material months before he was charged with leaking a vast trove of government secrets, but did not remove him from his job, according to a Justice Department filing on Wednesday.
On two occasions in September and October 2022, Airman Teixeira’s superiors in the Massachusetts Air National Guard admonished him after reports that he had taken “concerning actions” while handling classified information.
Those included stuffing a note into his pocket after reviewing secret information inside his unit, according to the court filing.
Airman Teixeira — who until March shared secrets with scores of online friends on Discord — “was instructed to no longer take notes in any form on classified intelligence information,” department lawyers wrote in an 11-page memo arguing for his indefinite detention.
The airman’s superiors also ordered him to “cease and desist on any deep dives into classified intelligence information,” although it is not clear how, or if, they enforced that directive.
Two of Airman Teixeira’s superiors at the 102nd Intelligence Wing on Cape Cod have been suspended pending completion of an internal investigation by the Air Force inspector general, a spokeswoman for the service, Ann Stefanek, said. Their access to classified information has been temporarily blocked, she added.
Now that a decision has been made on Airman Teixeira’s custody status, his case will likely be assigned to a different federal judge, in Boston. There remains a remote possibility that lawyers with the Justice Department’s national security division will request the case be moved to a court in Northern Virginia, which includes the Pentagon, but that is increasingly unlikely, people with knowledge of the situation said.
The next major step is likely to be the filing of a grand jury indictment, which would include a much more detailed narrative of the allegations against Airman Teixeira, including an accounting of the charges he will face. Prosecutors have already suggested the charges could result in a prison sentence of at least 25 years.
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