Guardsman in leak case wanted to kill a “ton of people”: USA
WORCESTER, Mass. (AP) – The Massachusetts Air National Guardsman accused of leaking top secret military documents an arsenal of weapons and said on social media that he would like to kill a “ton of people,” prosecutors argued on Thursday that 21-year-old Jack Teixeira should remain in jail for his trial.
But the judge at Teixeira’s detention hearing postponed an immediate decision on whether he should remain in custody awaiting trial or be released on house arrest or other conditions. Teixeira was led away from the court in handcuffs and with black rosaries around his neck until the verdict was reached.
The Court records raise new questions about why Teixeira had such high security clearance and access to some of the nation’s top secrets. They said he may still have material that has not been published that could be of “tremendous value to enemy nation-states who may offer him a safe haven and attempt to facilitate his escape from the United States.”
At Teixeira’s detention hearing, Judge David Hennessy expressed skepticism about the defense’s arguments that the government had not accused Teixeira of widely disseminating leaked information.
“Anyone under 30 has no idea that if they put something on the internet, it could end up anywhere in the world?” asked the judge. “Seriously?”
Teixeira entered his Worcester hearing in orange prison garb and smiled at his father in the front row. His handcuffs were removed before he sat down and put back on when he was taken out.
The judge could order Teixeira locked up at his father’s house or conditionally released while he awaits trial if he is not being held in prison.
“You’re looking at a young man who didn’t escape, who has nowhere to go,” said Brendan Kelley, the defendant’s attorney. “He will face the charges, he will be convicted by his fellow citizens.”
But Nadine Pellegrini of the Massachusetts US Attorney’s Office told the judge that the information prosecutors provided to the court about the defendant’s threatening words and behavior “is not speculation, it is not an exaggeration, and it is not caricature.” It is based… directly on the words and actions of this defendant.”
The defense claimed Teixeira no longer had access to top-secret information and had accused prosecutors of “providing little more than speculation that a foreign adversary will seduce Mr. Teixeira and orchestrate his clandestine escape from the United States.”
The prosecution’s file is reviewing what it says, Teixeira social media posts declaring in November that he “would kill an (expletive) ton of people” if he had his way because it would “weed out the imbeciles.” .
Court filings ordering a federal judge to take Teixeira into custody contained a disturbing story stretching back to high school, where he was suspended when a classmate heard him talk about Molotov cocktails and other weapons, as well as racial threats spoke. More recently, prosecutors said he used his government computer to research past mass shootings and standoffs with federal agents.
He remains a serious national security threat and a flight risk, prosecutors wrote. Investigators are still trying to determine if he kept physical or digital copies of classified information that has not yet surfaced.
“There is simply no condition or combination of conditions that will ensure that the defendant will not disclose additional information of which he is aware or possessed,” prosecutors wrote. “The damage the defendant has already caused to US national security is immense. The damage that the defendant can still cause is extraordinary.”
Teixeira has been in jail since his arrest earlier this month on charges of making the most consequential intelligence leak in years.
Teixeira was charged under the Espionage Act with unauthorized storage and transmission of secret national defense information. He has not yet submitted a plea.
His lawyers argued in court records that even if the court finds he is at risk of absconding, appropriate conditions can be set for his release – such as being held at his father’s house and his whereabouts monitored.
“The government’s allegations … provide no support that Mr. Teixeira currently or ever intended for information allegedly intended to be shared on the private social media server to be widely shared,” they wrote. “Therefore, his argument that Mr. Teixeira will continue to release information or destroy evidence if he is not arrested rings hollow.”
Prosecutors wrote that he kept his gun cabinet within easy reach of his bed, which contained handguns, bolt-action rifles, shotguns, a high-powered AK-style weapon and a gas mask. Ammunition and tactical bags were found on his dresser, they said.
He is accused of sharing top-secret documents about important national security issues in a chat room on Discord, a social media platform that started as a meeting place for gamers. The leak stunned military officials, sparked an international uproar and raised new questions about America’s ability to protect its secrets.
The leaked documents appear to describe US and NATO aid to Ukraine and US intelligence assessments regarding US allies that could strain ties with those nations. Some show real-time February and March details of Ukraine’s and Russia’s battlefield positions and accurate counts of lost battlefield equipment that flowed into Ukraine from their allies.
Prosecutors wrote that Teixeira has repeatedly had “detailed and disturbing discussions about violence and murder” on the platform, where authorities say he shared the documents. In February, he told another person that he was trying to convert a minivan into an “assassination van,” prosecutors wrote.
They allege that Teixeira was suspended in 2018 after a classmate “overheard him making comments about guns, including Molotov cocktails, guns at school and racial threats.” His first application for a gun license that same year was denied due to police concerns about those statements.
The Justice Department said it also learned through its investigation that Teixeira used its government computer in July to look up mass shootings and agency standoffs, including the terms “Ruby Ridge,” “Las Vegas shooting,” “Mandalay Bay shooting.” “Uvalde” and “Buffalo Tops Shooting” — an obvious nod to 2022 Racist mass shooting at a Buffalo convenience store.
According to Dan Meyer, a security clearance attorney, these searches should have prompted the computer to generate an immediate security referral, which could then have led to a more thorough review of Teixeira’s file. The Air Force investigation will likely reveal whether a referral was generated — and whether security officials did anything with the information.
The Air Force has suspended the commander of the 102nd Intelligence Squadron where Teixeira worked and an administrative commander pending further investigation.
Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Gen. Pat Ryder declined to discuss the details of Teixeira’s case. “We want the investigation to run its course,” Ryder said.
Teixeira’s lawyers said he had no criminal record. The incident at his high school was “thoroughly investigated” and he was allowed to come back after a few days and a psychological assessment, they wrote. This investigation was “fully known and reviewed” by the Air National Guard before he enrolled and when he received his top-secret security clearance, they said.
Months later, after news outlets began reporting the leaked documents, Teixeira took steps to destroy evidence. Authorities searching a dumpster at his home found a smashed laptop, tablet and Xbox games console, they said.
Authorities have not claimed a motive. Members of the Discord group have described Teixeira as someone who wanted to show off rather than informing the public about military operations or influencing US policy.
Accounting records obtained by the FBI from Discord helped lead authorities to Teixeira, who joined the Air National Guard in September 2019. A Discord user told the FBI that a username linked to Teixeira began releasing what appeared to be classified information around December.
Tucker and Copp reported from Washington.