Key lawmakers are pushing for harsh punishment for the guardsman who released a series of classified documents online, despite some conservatives’ calls for leniency for the young service member.
On Friday, Airman 1st Class Jack Teixeira of the Massachusetts Air National Guard was formally charged with unauthorized handling of classified material. Federal officials believe the 21-year-old was the source behind a series of classified documents leaked online in recent months, some including information on upcoming military operations in Ukraine.
In a statement on Thursday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., blasted the guardsman’s actions as “a major security breach that cannot be allowed to happen again.” He called for significant punishment for the crime.
“Leaking this trove of classified information endangered our military and intelligence professionals and undermined the security of our allies and partners,” he said. “Anyone with a security clearance who betrays their country by purposefully mishandling classified documents or disclosing classified materials must be held accountable.”
Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Calif. and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said if the charges against Teixeira are proven true, “he should be tried for treason immediately.” Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va. — another committee member and a former Central Intelligence Agency officer — called Teixeira’s actions “outrageous” during an appearance on MSNBC Friday.
But Teixeira’s alleged offenses were downplayed by critics of U.S. involvement in the war in Ukraine. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Ala., on social media on Friday wrote that “many are calling Jake Teixeira a hero” for exposing secrets about the ongoing conflict.
She also stated that Teixeira “is white, male, christian, and antiwar — that makes him an enemy to the Biden regime. And he told the truth about troops being on the ground in Ukraine and a lot more.”
Fox News host Tucker Carlson made similar comments on his Thursday evening show, accusing senior Pentagon officials of lying about U.S. participation levels in the war and saying Teixeira is being punished because “telling the truth is the only real sin.”
Investigators have not revealed any possible motives for Teixeira posting classified documents online. The information was originally released on a private online group hosted by the platform Discord, mostly focused on video game discussions, and reportedly shared onward by other group members.
On Thursday, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder called the release of classified information “a deliberate criminal act” that warrants a significant response.
Lawmakers are expected to receive a classified briefing on Capitol Hill on April 19 regarding the ongoing criminal investigation into Teixeira and the potential damage caused by the public release of the documents.
Leaders of the congressional armed services and intelligence committees have already received some unclassified background briefings in recent days. Both House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner, R-Ohio, and ranking member Jim Himes, D-Conn., said they hope to have a public hearing on the issue in coming weeks.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.