Federal prosecutors will urge a judge Thursday to keep behind bars a Massachusetts Air National guardsman accused of leaking highly classified military documents, arguing he may still have access to secret national defense information he could expose.
In court papers filed late Wednesday, the Justice Department lawyers said releasing 21-year-old Jack Teixeira from jail while he awaits trial would be a grave threat to the U.S. national security. Investigators are still trying to determine whether he kept any physical or digital copies of classified information, including files that haven’t already surfaced publicly, they wrote.
“There simply is no condition or combination of conditions that can ensure the Defendant will not further disclose additional information still in his knowledge or possession,” prosecutors wrote. “The damage the Defendant has already caused to the U.S. national security is immense. The damage the Defendant is still capable of causing is extraordinary.”
A detention hearing is scheduled for Thursday in the federal court in Worcester, Massachusetts, for Teixeira, who has been in jail since his arrest earlier this month on charges stemming from the highest-profile intelligence leak in years.
Prosecutors said in their filing that Teixeira’s attorneys have indicated they will urge the judge to release him to his father’s home. As of late Wednesday, Teixeira’s attorneys hadn’t filed court papers arguing for his release.
Teixeira has been charged under the Espionage Act with unauthorized retention and transmission of classified national defense information. He has not yet entered a plea, and his attorney declined after last week’s hearing to speak to reporters.
He is accused of distributing highly classified documents about top national security issues in a chat room on Discord, a social media platform that started as a hangout for gamers. The leak stunned military officials, sparked international uproar and raised fresh questions about America’s ability to safeguard its secrets.
In describing Teixeira as a danger to the community, prosecutors wrote that the suspect, who owned multiple guns, repeatedly had “detailed and troubling discussions about violence and murder” on the platform where authorities say he shared the documents. In February, he told another person that he was tempted to make a minivan into an “assassination van,” prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors also disclosed that Teixeira was suspended during high school when a classmate overheard him discussing Molotov cocktails and other weapons and racial threats.
Prosecutors alleged in their filing that Teixeira took steps to destroy evidence after news outlets began reporting on the documents leak. Authorities who searched a dumpster at his home found a smashed laptop, tablet and Xbox gaming console, they said.
Teixeira’s detention hearing was supposed to be last week but was delayed at the last minute after defense attorneys said they needed more time to “address the issues presented by the government’s request for detention.” Teixeira, who has been in jail since his April 13 arrest, did briefly appear in court in Boston last week to waive his right to a preliminary hearing.
The leaked documents appear to detail U.S. and NATO aid to Ukraine and U.S. intelligence assessments regarding U.S. allies that could strain ties with those nations. Some show real-time details from February and March of Ukraine’s and Russia’s battlefield positions and precise numbers of battlefield gear lost and newly flowing into Ukraine from its allies.
Authorities have not disclosed an alleged motive. Members of the Discord group have described Teixeira as someone looking to show off, rather than being motivated by a desire to inform the public about U.S. military operations or to influence American policy.
The Justice Department has said its investigation is continuing, and the Pentagon has said it would conduct its own review of access to sensitive intelligence to prevent a similar leak in the future.
Billing records the FBI obtained from Discord were among the things that led authorities to Teixeira, who enlisted in the Air National Guard in September 2019.
His specialty in the Air National Guard was as a “cyber transport systems specialist,” essentially an IT specialist responsible for military communications networks. In that role, Teixeira would have had a higher level of security clearance because he would have also been tasked with responsibility to access and ensure protection for the network, a defense official told the AP.
Investigators say Teixeira was the leader of an online private chat group on Discord called Thug Shaker Central, where enthusiasts talked about their favorite types of guns, shared jokes and held a running discussion on wars that included talk of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A Discord user told the FBI that a username linked to Teixeira began posting what appeared to be classified information roughly in December.
Teixeira was detected on April 6 — the day The New York Times first published a story about the breach of documents — searching for the word “leak” in a classified system, according to court papers. The FBI says that was reason to believe Teixeira was trying to find information about the investigation into who was responsible for the leaks.