This developing story has been updated.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested a Massachusetts Air National Guardsman on Thursday in connection with a massive leak of Pentagon intelligence, Attorney General Merrick Garland said.
Airman 1st Class Jack Teixeira, 21, whom Garland described as “an employee of the United States Air Force National Guard,” was arrested “without incident” afternoon, Garland told reporters Thursday.
“He will have an initial appearance at the U.S. district court for the District of Massachusetts,” Garland added, though he did not give a date or time.
The New York Times first reported on Thursday that Teixeira is assigned to the 102nd Intelligence Wing.
Teixeira is a cyber transport systems journeyman, a sort of information technology specialist, according to service details released by the Air Force on Thursday, based at Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts.
He has served in the Air National Guard since September 2019 and earned the Air Force Achievement Medal.
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Teixeira was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, at the time of the leaks, which occurred earlier this year but were first acknowledged by the Pentagon on April 7.
Prior to Garland’s announcement, Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to confirm Teixeira’s identity, including whether he was in a federal status and thus within the Defense Department’s chain of command at any point during this year.
Asked how such a junior service member would have access to high-level documents, including intelligence on the war in Ukraine, Ryder said that even very young troops are given security clearances in some cases.
“We entrust our members with a lot of responsibility at a very early age,” he said. “So you receive training and you will receive an understanding of the rules and requirements that come along with those responsibilities.”
That training includes social media conduct and operational security policies, which Ryder said the leaker certainly knew when those documents were photographed and uploaded to a Discord server called Thug Shaker Central.
“This was a deliberate criminal act, a violation of those guidelines,” he said.
In the wake of the leaks’ discovery, the Pentagon has tamped down on access to such classified information.
“We continue to review a variety of factors as it relates to safeguarding classified materials,” Ryder said. “This includes examining and updating distribution lists, assessing how and where intelligence products are shared, and a variety of other steps.”
Defense Department leadership sent a memo to the force Wednesday reminding troops of their responsibilities in handling classified information. The one-page memo, signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and obtained by Military Times, is addressed to senior Pentagon leadership, combatant command heads and “defense agency and DOD field activity directors.” Pentagon press officials confirmed the memo’s authenticity, and multiple servicemembers told Military Times they had received it in their inboxes this week.
The Senate Armed Services Committee chairman called for the leaker to be punished.
“Leaking this trove of classified information endangered our military and intelligence professionals and undermined the security of our allies and partners,” Sen. Jack Reed, D-RI, said in a statement Thursday. “Anyone with a security clearance who betrays their country by purposefully mishandling classified documents or disclosing classified materials must be held accountable.”
Teixeira was known as “OG” and the de facto leader of the Discord server, a group of about two dozen young men and teenage boys which was focused on a “their mutual love of guns, military gear and God,” a member of the channel told The Washington Post, where they swapped racist memes and watched movies.
Members said he posted hundreds of messages on a regular basis, sometimes transcribing classified documents and posting them to the server, under the handle jackthedripper.
“He wanted to ‘keep us in the loop,’ the member said, and seemed to think that his insider knowledge would offer the others protection from the troubled world around them,” the Post reported.
Discord told the outlet that they are cooperating with law enforcement.
Geoff Ziezulewicz contributed to this report.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.