US airman pleads guilty to leaking national security secrets and military documents, facing up to 17 years in prison

4 March 2024, 18:37 | Updated: 4 March 2024, 18:39

US airman pleads guilty to leaking national security secrets and military documents, facing up to 17 years in prison
US airman pleads guilty to leaking national security secrets and military documents, facing up to 17 years in prison. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

A U.S. airman has pleaded guilty to leaking highly classified national security secrets and documents about the war in Ukraine.

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Jack Teixeira, a Massachusetts Air National Guard member, pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court, as prosecutors called for a prison sentence of between 11 and 17 years.

Teixeira, of North Dighton, Massachusetts, pleaded guilty on Monday to six counts of wilful retention and transmission of national defence information under the Espionage Act.

The national guard member was arrested almost a year ago in what is considered to be the most consequential national security leak in years.

Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira (centre) is seated as defense attorney Brendan Kelley stands and speaks (right), April 27, 2023, Worcester, Mass.
Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira (centre) is seated as defense attorney Brendan Kelley stands and speaks (right), April 27, 2023, Worcester, Mass. Picture: Alamy
Jack Michael Teixeira, father of Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira, arrives at federal court, on Monday in Boston
Jack Michael Teixeira, father of Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira, arrives at federal court, on Monday in Boston. Picture: Alamy

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Appearing in court today, Teixeira smiled at his father as he was led out of the courtroom with both his hands and legs shackled.

The 22-year-old admitted to illegally collecting military secrets and sharing them to Discord, a social media platform popular with online gamers.

Last year's breach raised alarms over America's ability to retain its national security secrets and caused international embarrassment for the Pentagon.

Joe Biden's administration scrambled to contain the diplomatic fallout and has since tightened controls to safeguard its most classified information.

The Pentagon also moved to discipline National Guard members who failed to take the required action about Teixeira's suspicious behaviour.

Teixeira was part of the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts, where he worked as a cyber transport systems specialist. His role was essentially an information technology specialist responsible for military communications networks.

According to US authorities, Teixeira first started typing out classified documents, before then sharing photographs of files that bore "Secret" and "Top Secret" markings.

Electronic items recovered from a dumpster at Jack Teixeira's mother and stepfather's home in North Dighton, Mass
Electronic items recovered from a dumpster at Jack Teixeira's mother and stepfather's home in North Dighton, Mass. Picture: Alamy

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The leak exposed to the world unvarnished secret assessments of Russia's war in Ukraine, the capabilities and geopolitical interests of other nations and other national security issues.

Teixeira is still in the Air National Guard in an unpaid status, an Air Force official said, but has remained behind bars since his arrest in April.

The judge denied his request for release from jail last year after prosecutors revealed he had a history of violent rhetoric and warned that US adversaries who might be interested in mining Teixeira for information could facilitate his escape.

Prosecutors have said little about a motive. But members of the Discord group described Teixeira as someone looking to show off, rather than being motivated by a desire to inform the public about US military operations or to influence American policy.

Prosecutors have said Teixeira continued to leak government secrets even after he was warned by superiors about the mishandling and improper viewing of classified information. In one instance, Teixeira was seen taking notes on intelligence information and putting them in his pocket.

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