By Zachary Stieber
FBI agents on April 13 arrested a man suspected of being involved in the leak of classified documents, officials said.
Agents took Jack Teixeira, 21, into custody “without incident,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in prepared remarks from the Department of Justice headquarters in Washington.
Teixeira was arrested by agents at a home in North Dighton “in connection with an investigation into alleged unauthorized removal, retention, and transmission of classified national defense information,” Garland said.
Aerial footage showed about half a dozen heavily armed and outfitted FBI agents arresting a man wearing red shorts and a T-shirt.
An FBI spokesperson told The Epoch Times in an email that agents took Teixeira into custody.
“The FBI is continuing to conduct authorized law enforcement activity at the residence. Since late last week the FBI has aggressively pursued investigative leads and today’s arrest exemplifies our continued commitment to identifying, pursuing, and holding accountable those who betray our country’s trust and put our national security at risk,” the spokesperson said.
President Joe Biden had said earlier Thursday that the government was “getting close” to finding the leaker or leakers after a “full-blown investigation” was launched by the Department of Justice earlier in April.
Teixeira, a Massachusetts Air National Guard member, could not be reached and it was not clear whether he’d retained legal counsel. He is expected to make his first court appearance in federal court in Massachusetts.
The National Guard declined to comment. The Massachusetts National Guard did not respond to inquiry.
Secret Pentagon documents relating to the Russia–Ukraine war were leaked earlier this year, appearing on platforms such as Discord, a messaging service popular with video game players.
Among the documents were estimated numbers of Russian and Ukrainian casualties that conflict with official estimates, including showing a lower number of Russian deaths than portrayed in public.
Another document listed U.S. troops as being in Ukraine.
U.S. officials have confirmed some of the details, including acknowledging that there are troops there.
But they’ve warned against disseminating the information.
John Kirby, a White House spokesperson, said the information “is not intended for public consumption” and Vedant Patel, a State Department spokesperson, said the leaks “present a risk to national security.” They’ve also said that some of the materials appeared to be manipulated.
Russian officials have said the leak could be part of a disinformation campaign.
“Given that the United States is a party to the conflict in Ukraine and is waging a hybrid war against us, it’s possible that such ploys may be used to mislead … the Russian Federation,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said recently.
The documents were photographed as opposed to scanned, analysts with Bellingcat said. The first images may have appeared in a Discord group called Thug Shaker Central. In addition to Discord, some were posted to Telegram and 4chan.
‘Deliberate Criminal Act’
Defense Department spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters at the Pentagon, as the arrest was happening, that whoever leaked the documents was in violation of military rules.
“We have procedures, we have protocols in place, we receive regular training on the proper handling of classified information. We sign non-disclosure agreements. So those rules are very clear and anyone who has a security clearance knows that. Anyone who violates those rules is doing so willfully,” he said.
“This was a deliberate criminal act to violate those guidelines and rules in the same way that if you locked your front door, and somebody came into your house and took something, you followed your procedures and you locked your door, but somebody went into your house and took something and put it out on the street,” he added later.
The military has been reviewing who receives classified information to try to make sure distribution lists only include people who need to know the information, officials said. They wouldn’t say whether fewer people are receiving the information after the leak.
Ryder said the military is working hard to look at the impact of the leaks.
“We continue to work around the clock along with the interagency and the intelligence community to better understand the scope, scale, and impact of these leaks,” he said.
Asked how a 21-year-old would have gained access to the documents, he said that many members have a lot of responsibility at a young age.
“We entrust our members with a lot of responsibility at a very early age,” Ryder said. “Think about a young combat platoon sergeant, and the responsibility and trust that we put into those individuals to lead troops into combat.”