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Friday, 14 April 2023

FBI arrests 21-year-old Air National Guardsman suspected of leaking classified Pentagon documents detailing extensive US spying of several countries

FBI agents have arrested Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, in connection with their investigation into classified documents that were leaked on the internet.

He was arrested by federal authorities on Thursday afternoon, April 13, "without incident," Attorney General Merrick Garland announced in brief remarks at the Department of Justice.

"Today, the Justice Department arrested Jack Douglas Teixeira in connection with an investigation into alleged unauthorized removal, retention and transmission of classified national defense information. Teixeira is an employee of the United States Air Force National Guard," Garland said.

Teixeira will have an initial appearance at the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, said Garland, who added that the investigation is ongoing.

U.S. officials had been searching for the source of the leak, which exposed potentially hundreds of pages of intelligence about Russian efforts in Ukraine and also spying on U.S. allies Ukraine, South Korea and Israel. 

Asked about the intelligence activities of the Massachusetts Air National Guard where Teixeira worked, Ryder said that, "In general, intelligence wings throughout the Air Force support what you might imagine — Air Force intelligence requirements worldwide to support a variety of types of intelligence missions and requirements, which include active guard and reserve components."

US President Joe Biden suggested on Thursday morning that officials appeared to be nearing a breakthrough in their investigation into who leaked the documents online.

"There’s a full-blown investigation going on as you know, with the Intelligence Committee and the Justice Department, and they’re getting close," Biden told reporters in Ireland.

The suspect’s identity was first reported on Thursday by The New York Times, which said he was the leader of a small online gaming group where the documents were first leaked.

The Washington Post reported it reviewed approximately 300 photos of classified documents that the suspect allegedly leaked, most of which the report said have not been made public.

According to Bellingcat, the online open-source investigative group, the documents appeared in early March on the Discord social media app. Some documents may have appeared as early as January, the group said.

Kirby said the Pentagon is "leading an interagency effort here to review whatever national security implications might come out of all this" and said the Department of Justice is leading a criminal investigation into the leaks.

He also said that it appears that some of the classified documents had been altered from their original form. Kirby said that Biden administration officials spent last weekend contacting "relevant allies and partners" and "at very high levels" to reassure them about the leaks.

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