Air National Guardsman Teixeira Pleads Guilty to Leaking Classified Info, Faces Up to 16 Years in Prison

by Braxton Taylor

A Massachusets Air National Guardsman who was arrested last year after being accused of leaking highly classified Department of Defense information online pleaded guilty Monday morning to six counts under the Espionage Act.

Airman 1st Class Jack Teixeira, 22, an Air National Guardsman with the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base, entered his guilty plea in federal court in Boston, Massachusetts, on Monday. As part of his plea agreement, prosecutors will ask a judge to impose a sentence of no less than 11 months and up to 200 months, or a little more than 16 years — which could mark one of the stiffest sentences imposed for similar crimes in recent history.

“Jack Teixeira will never get a sniff of a classified piece of information for the rest of his life,” Josh Levy, the U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said Monday at a news conference following Teixeira’s guilty plea.

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Teixeira was arrested in early 2023 following long-running leaks on an online platform used by gamers that disclosed classified information about the war in Ukraine and U.S. relations with allies. He was charged in April with unauthorized retention, removal and transmission of national defense information and classified documents. He faced six counts for the unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and remained in jail after having filed an initial plea of not guilty in June.

Teixeira had a top-secret security clearance, as well as access to sensitive compartmented information — a more restrictive designation for some of the government’s most closely guarded secrets — since 2021, according to an affidavit from the Justice Department.

Federal documents allege that Teixeira began posting the classified information as paragraphs of text starting in December 2022 on the platform Discord.

By January 2023, federal authorities claim he started posting pictures of the intelligence and secret information, because he was worried he would be discovered making transcripts of the documents at his job. They allege he began taking the documents to his home, where he photographed them.

As federal investigators closed in on Teixeira, he reportedly called members of the online Discord chat group to tell them he never expected this situation to happen, according to The New York Times. He reportedly claimed the documents were not meant to be widely distributed but only shared with a close-knit group of friends in the private chat.

“Guys, it’s been good — I love you all,” Teixeira said, one listener recounted to The New York Times. “I never wanted it to get like this. I prayed to God that this would never happen. And I prayed and prayed and prayed. Only God can decide what happens from now on.”

Teixeira’s actions also caused a major shake-up for the unit he served in.

The 102nd Intelligence Wing, which is based out of Joint Base Cape Cod in Massachusetts, had its mission paused and divided among other units following his arrest, and airmen who served alongside Teixeira were stuck with busywork unrelated to their mission as the service investigated the leaks, Military.com reported.

Military.com also reported that the Air Force announced in December that 15 Air National Guard enlisted troops and officers had been punished in connection with the incident, citing a “lack of supervision” that enabled the leaks.

The announcement coincided with the release of an Air Force inspector general report that found members of Teixeira’s unit failed to take proper action after becoming aware of him seeking the intelligence, but it found no evidence that any of his supervisors knew that he was allegedly leaking the information online.

Starting in September, “Air National Guard leaders initiated disciplinary and other administrative actions against 15 individuals, ranging in rank from E-5 to O-6, for dereliction in the performance of duties,” Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokeswoman, told Military.com in December.

Punishment ranged from relieving personnel from their positions, including command positions, to nonjudicial punishment under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Col. Sean Riley, commander of the 102nd Intelligence Wing, and Col. Enrique Dovalo, commander of the 102nd Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group, a subordinate unit at the base, both received administrative action.

Riley was relieved of command for cause, and Dovalo’s punishment was not disclosed. Other prior commanders from the 102nd Intelligence Support Squadron who had previously been suspended in the wake of the Teixeira leak investigation were permanently removed, the Air Force said.

The service said indirect factors that allowed the leaking included “the failure of commanders to adequately inspect areas under their command, inconsistent guidance for reporting security incidents, inconsistent definitions of the ‘Need to Know’ concept, conflation of classified system access with the ‘Need to Know’ principle, inefficient and ineffective processes for administering disciplinary actions, lack of supervision/oversight of night shift operations, and a failure to provide security clearance field investigation results.”

Prior to Monday’s guilty plea, Teixeira was still a member of the Air National Guard in an unpaid status, media outlets reported. Air Force officials did not respond when asked by Military.com whether that was still the case Monday.

Additionally, Air Force officials did not have any details when asked whether the 102nd Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing would have its mission reinstated or if new officers have filled the command posts that were vacated late last year.

Traditionally, individuals who leak or otherwise disclose classified information are charged with violations of the Espionage Act of 1917. Such cases include Edward Snowden, who famously used his ability to access hundreds of thousands of files and documents as a systems administrator for the National Security Agency and was charged with violating two sections of law shortly after he revealed his identity in 2013. More recently, Reality Winner, a contractor and former airman who was charged with leaking a report on Russian hacking efforts connected with the 2016 election, was also charged with violating the law.

Snowden was never arrested or tried for his charges, and became stuck in Russia on his way to Ecuador. He was granted Russian citizenship in 2022. Winner, however, served more than four years after her conviction.

Outside the federal courthouse in Boston, CNN reported that Teixeira’s attorney Michael Bachrach said Teixeira pleaded guilty to “do the right thing” and is “absolutely not” selling classified secrets to foreign governments.

In a statement to CNN, Teixeira’s family told the news outlet that “it is unfathomable to think your child would ever be involved in something so serious, but he has taken responsibility for his part in this, and here we are.”

Teixeira’s sentencing hearing will be in six months, in September, officials said during Monday’s press conference.

“This guilty plea brings accountability, and it brings a measure of closure to a chapter that created profound harms for our nation’s security,” Matt Olsen, the assistant attorney general for national security at the Justice Department, said during the press conference.

Related: Air Force Punishes 15 Service Members in Wake of Teixeira Leak at Massachusetts Guard Base

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