The 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guardsman alleged to have leaked classified Pentagon documents on social media is now facing serious charges.
On Thursday, the FBI arrested Jack Teixeira in North Dighton, Massachusetts, in connection with a series of posts containing information from and photos of intelligence documents—some marked Top Secret—shared to the social media platform Discord starting in December. He made his first court appearance Friday and was charged with unauthorized retention and transmission of national defense information and unauthorized removal of classified information. The charges carry a maximum of 15 years in prison.
The documents contain information about U.S. espionage and military assessments. Although President Joe Biden has downplayed the leaks, saying there is “nothing contemporaneous that I’m aware of that is of great consequence,” they have reportedly unsettled key allies as the Pentagon conducts a damage assessment.
Here’s what you need to know about Teixeira, the information purportedly contained in the documents, and its significance.
Who Is Jack Teixeira?
Teixeira grew up in the suburbs around Providence, Rhode Island, and graduated from Dighton-Rehoboth High School in Massachusetts in 2020.
Several of Teixeira’s former classmates told CNN he had a fascination with guns, the military, and war. He wore camouflage to school and carried a “dictionary-sized” book on guns, often making other students uneasy. Still, he did not behave in a way that needed to be reported, one explained.
A friend of Teixeira described him as a devout Catholic and libertarian with concerns about America’s future. Members of the Discord group—called “Thug Shaker Central” and led by Teixeira—shared a video with The Washington Post showing him shouting racist and anti-Semitic slurs before firing a rifle.
Military records obtained by The Washington Post show that Teixeira enlisted in the National Guard on September 26, 2019. He was stationed at Otis Air National Guard Base located in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and worked as a low-ranking IT official.
According to an affidavit unsealed during his Friday court appearance, Teixeira has had a Top Secret security clearance since 2021. A defense official told CNN that his role as a Cyber Transport Systems journeyman required it, as he would have been working on a network that contained highly classified information.
What Was in the Documents?
The posts contained information about U.S. efforts to spy on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict. They also included tactical updates on military forces, including in Ukraine, and insights into foreign governments’ efforts to interfere with elections, according to The Washington Post.
The documents contain reports about the Ukrainian military and the challenges it faces after more than a year of fighting. One from late February stated that Ukraine’s medium range air defense could be “completely reduced” by May 23, while another top secret document from early February assessed the country’s planned counteroffensive is likely to result in only small gains.
The leaks suggested that U.S. intelligence has infiltrated the Russian military to the point where it had warned Ukraine of oncoming attacks. Other assessments detailed conditions that could draw China into the conflict and the results of a hypersonic weapon test conducted by Beijing on February 25.
Other activities named in the documents include:
- U.S. surveillance of Iran’s secret weapons activity
- Serbia’s provision of lethal aid to Ukraine, which its defense minister vehemently denied
- South Korea’s response to a U.S. request to provide ammunition to Ukraine
- An alleged revolt planned by Israel’s spy service against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed judicial overhaul
Officials from Ukraine and South Korea have downplayed the leaks, with the latter even suggesting much of their information is “altered.” But according to CNN, U.S. allies have already begun damage assessments to see if any of their own sources and methods were compromised.
What’s Next for Teixeira?
Teixeira did not enter a formal plea at his court appearance and will remain in detention until a hearing on Wednesday.
Although his fate ultimately won’t be known for a while, the case is bound to draw comparisons to that of other notable leakers like Daniel Ellsberg and Chelsea Manning.
Ellsberg, 92, famously provided the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times and 16 other newspapers in 1971, including documents suggesting the U.S. government had misled the public regarding the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War. He was charged with theft conspiracy and violations of the Espionage Act, but his case was called a mistrial. He has since written books and countless articles on foreign policy, nuclear disarmament, and economics.
Manning, 35, served as a U.S. Army intelligence analyst in Iraq and delivered hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks in February 2010. Three years later, she was convicted on 20 counts, including espionage, theft, and computer fraud, and received a 35-year prison sentence. President Barack Obama commuted her sentence, and she was freed on May 17, 2017.
Tyler Piccotti joined the Biography.com staff in 2023, and before that had worked almost eight years as a newspaper reporter and copy editor. He is a graduate of Syracuse University, an avid sports fan, a frequent moviegoer, and trivia buff.