WASHINGTON — Federal authorities arrested 21-year-old Jack Teixeira, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, on Thursday in connection with an investigation into classified documents leaked online.
FBI agents took Teixeira into custody Thursday afternoon “without incident,” Attorney General Merrick Garland announced in brief remarks at the Justice Department, which is conducting a criminal investigation into the matter.
“Today, we arrested Jack Douglas Teixeira, Jack Douglas Teixeira, an employee of the United States Air National Guard, on investigation into the unauthorized possession and dissemination of national security information,” Garland said.
Teixeira will make a preliminary appearance in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Garland said, and the investigation is ongoing. He refused to take questions from reporters.
U.S. officials have been searching for the source of the leak, which exposed hundreds of pages of intelligence about Russian efforts in Ukraine and spying on U.S. allies.
Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder declined to confirm the leaker’s identity at a press conference Thursday and referred reporters to the Justice Department because it was a “law enforcement matter” and an ongoing investigation, he said.
The Department of Defense is “working around the clock” with the intelligence community, Ryder said, “to better understand the scope, the extent, of these leaks.” Ryder also said the Pentagon is “very limited” in what it can say about the documents.
A July Facebook post from the 102nd Intelligence Wing, headquartered at Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod, congratulated a man with the same name as Teixeira on his promotion to Air Force 1st Class.
Asked about the intelligence operations of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, where Teixeira worked, Ryder said, “In general, intelligence units throughout the Air Force support what you would imagine — the intelligence needs and requirements of the Air Force worldwide to support a wide variety of intelligence missions, including active defense and reserve components.”
Secret Defense Department documents found online last month — it’s unclear how long the documents have been online and the total number released — and detail U.S. spying on Russia’s war efforts in Ukraine, classified assessments of Ukraine’s war power, as well as intelligence from U.S. allies including South Korea and Israel. collection, NBC News previously reported.
President Joe Biden suggested Thursday morning that authorities are nearing a breakthrough in the investigation into who leaked the documents online.
“As you know, there’s a full-scale investigation going on with the FBI and the Department of Justice, and they’re getting closer,” Biden told reporters in Ireland.
The suspect’s identity was first reported The New York Times on Thursday said the documents were originally leaked by the head of a small online gaming group.
The Washington Post reported about the gaming group, and identified him only as “OG.” The main source of the story is a small person who remains anonymous and was a member of this group on the Discord platform. The Post said it reviewed approximately 300 photos of the suspect’s alleged leaked classified documents, most of which have not been made public, the report said.
NBC News has yet to verify details about the gaming group and the source of where the confidential documents were first shared.
Administration officials said Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were briefed on the disclosure last week. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters earlier this week that the White House was first aware of the documents’ existence in the public domain.
According to Bellingate, an online open-source investigative group, the documents appeared on the Discord social media app in early March. Some of the documents may have surfaced as early as January, the group said.
Kirby said the Pentagon is “leading an interagency effort here to review whatever the national security implications are from this,” and said the Justice Department is leading a criminal investigation into the leaks.
He also said that some of the classified documents appear to have been altered from their original form. Kirby said Biden administration officials contacted “concerned allies and partners” late last week to reassure them about the leaks at the “highest level.”