Airman Accused of Leak Has History of Racist and Violent Remarks, Filing Says
WASHINGTON — Jack Teixeira, the Massachusetts Air National Guardsman accused of posting classified documents online, repeatedly tried to obstruct federal investigators and has a “troubling” history of making racist and violent remarks, Justice Department lawyers said in a court filing late Wednesday.
In an 18-page memo, released before a detention hearing scheduled for Thursday in a Massachusetts federal court, the department’s lawyers argued that Airman Teixeira needed to be detained indefinitely because he posed a “serious flight risk” and might still have information that would be of “tremendous value to hostile nation states.”
Airman Teixeira tapped into vast reservoirs of sensitive information, an amount that “far exceeds what has been publicly disclosed” so far, they wrote.
Prosecutors pointedly questioned Airman Teixeira’s overall state of mind, disclosing that he was suspended from high school in 2018 for alarming comments about the use of Molotov cocktails and other weapons, and trawled the internet for information about mass shootings. He engaged in “regular discussions about violence and murder” on the same social media platform, Discord, that he used to post classified information, the filing said, and he surrounded his bed at his parents’ house with firearms and tactical gear.
Airman Teixeira was also prone to making “racial threats,” prosecutors said.
This behavior — so disturbing it was flagged by local police when he applied for a firearms identification card — is certain to raise new questions about how Airman Teixeira obtained a top-secret security clearance that gave him access to some of the country’s most sensitive intelligence reports.
Mr. Teixeira’s court-appointed lawyers dismissed the claim that he would be in a flight risk, and proposed that he be released on a $20,000 bond to his family’s custody, in a response filed several hours before the hearing.
The episode in high school took place during his sophomore year and was never repeated, they said. The lawyers also played down the idea that he would have an opportunity to turn information over to the United States’ enemies.
The government provided “little more than speculation that a foreign adversary will seduce Mr. Teixeira and orchestrate his clandestine escape from the United States,” they wrote.
His legal team also offered a fleeting first glimpse at possible defense arguments, claiming that the government has not offered proof Mr. Teixeira ever intended for the information posted to a private social media server “to be widely disseminated.”
Mr. Teixeira’s lawyers described him as compliant — and said he sat on the porch reading a Bible as he waited to be arrested — but the government painted a starkly different picture.
In arguing for his confinement, prosecutors described a panicked effort by Airman Teixeira to cover up his actions as law enforcement closed in, including telling a member of a chat group to “delete all messages,” and instructing a user to stonewall investigators.
He also tried to destroy evidence, prosecutors said. The filing includes a series of photos of electronic equipment, including a tablet and an Xbox console, that he hurriedly smashed, then tossed in a dumpster near his home in North Dighton, Mass., before his arrest this month. A witness told the government that he threw his phone out the window of his truck as he was driving.
“These efforts appeared calculated to delay or prevent the government from gaining a full understanding of the seriousness and scale of his conduct,” the department wrote. “Any promise by the defendant to stay home or to refrain from compounding the harm that he has already caused is worth no more than his broken promises to protect classified national defense information.”
Airman Teixeira was arrested on April 13, and charged with two separate counts related to the unauthorized handling of classified materials. The government has yet to indict him before a grand jury, although prosecutors said in their filing on Wednesday that he could face 25 years — “and potentially far more” — in prison if convicted.
In a preliminary complaint unsealed after he was taken into custody, Airman Teixeira was accused of abusing his top secret clearance with an intelligence unit on Cape Cod to post documents bearing restrictive classification markings to a 50-member chat group on Discord.
Shortly before signing off in March, Airman Teixeira told a member of the small group he “was very happy” to share intelligence very few people get to see and solicited requests for information they wanted him to post, prosecutors said late Wednesday.
The material, some obtained through keyword searches of government files, was eventually distributed more widely. The trove of documents made public revealed the access Western intelligence agencies have to internal Kremlin deliberations, while baring concerns of the strained U.S.-led alliance trying to contain Russian aggression without prompting a wider conflict.
Last week, The New York Times reported that Airman Teixeira, who worked as a computer network specialist, had been sharing sensitive information far earlier than previously known and to a much larger group. According to online posts reviewed by The Times, he had begun doing so in February 2022, within 48 hours of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, to a chat group of about 600 members.
The filing provided little insight into what prompted Airman Teixeira to leak internal U.S. intelligence assessments, but it cast his actions, which had previously been seen as mainly motivated by his desire to show off to younger friends online, in a somewhat darker light.
Investigators found a small arsenal in his bedroom at the house he shared with his mother and stepfather. Inside a gun locker two feet from his bed, law enforcement officials found multiple weapons, including handguns, bolt-action rifles, shotguns, an AK-style high-capacity weapon and a gas mask. F.B.I. special agents also found ammunition, tactical pouches and what appeared to be a silencer-style accessory in his desk drawer.
Mr. Teixeira’s lawyers said his love of the military, and its hardware, impelled him to join the Air Force.
Prosecutors also made public a series of social media posts from 2022 and 2023 in which Airman Teixeira expressed his desire to kill a “ton of people” and cull the “weak minded,” and described what he called an “assassination van” that would cruise around killing people in a “crowded urban or suburban environment.”
How Airman Teixeira obtained the documents that he is accused of posting online has been a critical question for investigators. They believe he used administrator privileges connected to his role as an information technology specialist to retrieve the documents. In his posts, Airman Teixeira said his job gave him access to material that others could not see. “The job I have lets me get privilege’s above most intel guys,” he wrote.
Airman Teixeira had been scheduled for a detention hearing in federal court in Boston earlier this month. But his lawyer, Brendan Kelley, requested more time to address the government’s arguments, and the magistrate judge, David. H. Hennessey, quickly agreed.
The next major step is likely to be the filing of a grand jury indictment, which would include a much more detailed narrative of the allegations against Airman Teixeira, including a more specific accounting of the charges he will face.
Worcester, a city 50 miles west of Boston, is where Judge Hennessey’s courtroom is based. But the case will eventually be assigned to a federal judge in Boston, assuming it is not moved out of Massachusetts entirely, which remains a possibility, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
Officials at the Justice Department have considered asking that the case be moved to the Eastern District of Virginia, because its jurisdiction includes the Pentagon, and its lawyers have extensive experience in investigating such cases.
But it is not clear that the federal judges in Massachusetts, where Airman Teixeira lived and worked, will be willing to do so, and the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, Rachael S. Rollins, a Biden appointee, believes her office is capable of handling the matter, people familiar with the situation said.