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Suspected Pentagon documents leaker charged in federal court

Jack Teixeira, the man accused by federal investigators of leaking classified Pentagon documents that sent shockwaves through critical US relationships, made his first appearance in court on Friday.

The Boston courtroom was packed as Teixeira, a 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guardsman, was informed by Magistrate Judge David Hennessy that he has been charged with unauthorized retention and transmission of national defense information, and unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material.

An affidavit filed in support of the charges says “there is probable cause to believe that Teixeira improperly and unlawfully retained and transmitted national defense information classified at the TS//SCI level to persons not authorized to receive such information.”

The TS/SCI clearance is granted to those who can access information at the highest level of US government classification, known as Top Secret clearance with access to Secret Compartmentalized Information. Prosecutors say Teixeira had been granted TS/SCI clearance in 2021.

Many of the documents at the heart of the investigation bear the Top Secret designation. The documents, including one that described the status of Russia’s war on Ukraine, including date-specific troops movements, were posted on various social media websites and chat messaging services, the affidavit said.

The FBI on April 10 interviewed an unnamed individual who told them that an individual with Teixeira’s online username posted the documents on a social media platform, according to court documents.

The records say Teixeira told the individual, identified only as “User 1,” that he had become concerned that transcribing the documents at work could lead to him getting caught, so he instead began to take them home to photograph them.

On April 6, as the documents were first publicly reported on by news outlets, Teixeira used a government computer to search classified intelligence networks for the word “leak,” according to prosecutors.

Teixeira was arrested Thursday at a residence in North Dighton, Massachusetts, which is some 43 miles (69 km) from Boston. Aerial news footage of his arrest depicted heavily armed FBI agents taken him into custody, and Attorney General Merrick Garland said he was apprehended “without incident.”

The New York Times newspaper first identified Teixeira as the leader of the Discord chat group on which the documents had initially been shared. The arrest came just hours after US President Joe Biden said federal investigators are “getting close” to identifying the source of the Pentagon documents leak.

“There’s a full-blown investigation going on, as you know, with the intelligence community and the Justice Department. And they’re getting close,” he told reporters in Ireland where he is making his first official visit since coming to office in 2021.

In interviews with four members of the Thug Shaker Central chat group, the New York Times said the group’s leader was described as older than the young men and teenagers who made up the group, and had access to US intelligence documents through his job.

Many of the apparent classified US documents that circulated online were crudely taken photos of documents with markings bearing varying levels of classification and appear to be folded.

The Times said the photos included background details that matched photos of Teixeira’s childhood home that were posted on social media.

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