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US airman pleads guilty to leaking classified documents

Jack Teixeira, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard charged with leaking classified military documents on a social media platform, has pleaded guilty to carrying out one of the most serious US national security breaches in years.

Teixeira, who has remained in custody since his arrest last April, admitted wrongdoing during a hearing in federal court in Boston after striking a plea deal with prosecutors who plan to ask a judge to sentence him to over 16 years in prison.

The 22-year-old pleaded guilty to six counts of wilful retention and transmission of classified information relating to national defence over a leak of a trove of classified records last year to a group of gamers on the messaging app Discord.

In exchange for pleading guilty, prosecutors agreed not to charge Teixeira with further violations of the Espionage Act or other crimes. He agreed to be sentenced to at least 11 years in prison, and prosecutors said they would recommend 16 years, eight months in prison.

US District Judge Indira Talwani scheduled sentencing for 27 September.

Relatives of Jack Teixeira pictured leaving court after a hearing last year

Before his arrest at his mother’s house in North Dighton, Massachusetts, Teixeira had been an airman 1st class at Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, where he worked as a cyber defence operations journeyman, or information technology support specialist.

Despite being a low-level airman, Teixeira held a top-secret security clearance, and starting in January 2022 began accessing hundreds of classified documents related to topics including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to prosecutors.

He did so even though his superiors admonished him twice in 2022 about his handling of classified information and warned him against conducting “deep dives” into intelligence information, Assistant US Attorney Jason Casey said in court today.

Under the username ‘TheExcaliburEffect’, Teixeira shared classified information on Discord in private servers – a kind of chat room – while bragging he had access to “stuff for Israel, Palestine, Syria, Iran and China”.

The leaked documents held highly classified information on allies and adversaries, with details ranging from troop movements in Ukraine to Israel’s Mossad spy agency.

In December, the US Air Force announced it had moved to discipline 15 personnel over the leak and relieved Colonel Sean Riley of the command of the unit to which Teixeira belonged.

It did so after an Air Force inspector general report on the incident found that some members of Teixeria’s unit and leadership “had information about as many as four separate instances of his questionable activity”.

A smaller number of people had a more complete picture of his intelligence-seeking behaviour and “intentionally failed to report the full details of these security concerns/incidents,” the report said.


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