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Mass. Guardsman arrested in leak of US intelligence documents

This image made from video provided by WCVB-TV, shows Jack Teixeira, in T-shirt and shorts, being taken into custody.Uncredited/Associated Press

This story was reported by Mike Damiano, Brian MacQuarrie, John Ellement, Shelley Murphy, and Travis Andersen of the Globe staff, and correspondents Nick Stoico and Jeremy C. Fox. It was written by Damiano.

DIGHTON — Federal authorities say they have traced one of the most serious leaks of US intelligence in years to a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, who was arrested at his mother’s home in Southeastern Massachusetts Thursday afternoon for alleged unauthorized possession and transmission of sensitive government information.

Jack D. Teixeira is a low-level technology staffer who worked in an intelligence unit and was stationed at Otis Air National Guard Base, part of the Joint Base Cape Cod complex, according to published reports and a Facebook post by his unit, the 102nd Intelligence Wing.


The leaked documents, allegedly posted over the course of months in private online messaging groups before bursting into public view last week, have disrupted US diplomacy and imperiled intelligence agencies’ ability to continue gathering critical information about the war in Ukraine.

On Thursday, the epicenter of the international controversy was, improbably, the village of North Dighton, with a population of just a few thousand.

This map shows North Dighton, Mass.Ryan Huddle

In an extraordinary scene captured by a television news crew in a helicopter, federal officials in tactical gear ordered Teixeira out of his family’s home and kept rifles trained on him as he walked backward toward their armored vehicle. Officers in FBI vests drove him away, handcuffed, in an SUV.

Teixeira is scheduled to make an initial appearance in federal court in Boston on Friday, officials said.

Officials say Jack Teixeira, a National Guard technology support staffer, is suspected of mishandling US military security secrets.Obtained by Washington Post/Obtained by The Washington Post

The leaked materials included detailed US intelligence assessments of the war, according to news reports. They documented potential weaknesses in Ukrainian defenses, which could be exploited by the invading Russian military, and revealed how deeply US intelligence agencies are able to peer into the Russian military’s chain of command.


The Associated Press reported that investigators believe Teixeira led the online messaging group where the documents first appeared. A Washington Post report Wednesday described how the group’s leader posted the classified documents on a regular basis for months, before they came to wider public attention last week.

Jack Teixeira is taken into custody outside a Dighton home. WBZ-TV

A key question that remained unanswered Thursday was how a young, low-level Guardsman could have accessed such sensitive US secrets.

“I can’t explain why the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s Intelligence Wing would have access to the kind of information that has been disclosed,” said Juliette Kayyem, who oversaw the state’s National Guard while serving as a homeland security adviser to then-governor Deval Patrick.

“This is a unit I knew,” she said. “Why a 21-year-old in the Air National Guard has access to intelligence about a war that we’re not fighting, and that poses no threat to the homeland, is the question that has to be answered.”

A former senior Defense Department official questioned whether Teixeira would have had access to the documents at all. “I would find it unusual that a young guy at the tactical level would have access to these documents,” the official said.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, speculated that it was more likely Teixeira received the materials from another source before posting them online.

Citing an unnamed US official, the Post reported that Teixeira would have had access to a Defense Department computer network for top-secret information.


Adding to the mystery is the breadth of documents posted to the messaging group. In addition to the assessments of the war in Ukraine, the documents also included intelligence reports about the Chinese balloon that traversed the United States in February, and American eavesdropping on allies.

The leaker also appeared to access or receive the highly classified documents for a long period of time. The leaker began posting transcripts of classified documents last year and was still posting new materials in February, according to the Post report on the messaging group. (Other reports indicated the classified materials first appeared online in January.)

Members of law enforcement assemble on a road, Thursday, in Dighton, Mass., near where FBI agents converged on the home of Jack Teixeira.Steven Senne/Associated Press

Teixeira graduated from Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School in 2020, according to Bill Runey, the district’s superintendent.

Classmates described him as quiet and bookish with an intense interest in the military.

“He was a huge history buff, especially when it came to wars,” said John Powell, who attended middle school and high school with Teixeira. “From a young age, I remember he would have a book on, I believe, US military aircrafts, armaments, like a real big textbook.”

High school classmate Kailani Reis said, “I remember him really being interested in joining the Army or the National Guard. He was always into that stuff and into [the] history of war and weapons.”

Powell and Reis also recalled him as an outcast. Although he had a small group of friends, “he was picked on a lot,” Powell said.

Officials say Jack Teixeira, a National Guard technology support staffer, is suspected of mishandling US military security secrets.Obtained by Washington Post/Obtained by The Washington Post

Teixeira has been a member of the Air National Guard since 2019, according to a Wall Street Journal report.


At a press conference after Teixeira was taken into custody, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said Teixeira had been arrested “in connection with an investigation into alleged unauthorized removal, retention, and transmission of classified national defense information.”

The language Garland used to describe the alleged conduct closely corresponds to a section of the Espionage Act dealing with military secrets. Violation of the act can result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years per count.

Since the leaks were publicized last week — initially by The New York Times — officials have estimated that up to several hundred people might have the necessary security clearances to access the documents. (Some of the most sensitive leaked documents would have been available to an even smaller number.)

Jack Weinstein, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who teaches at Boston University, said the first line of defense in protecting against leaks is thoroughly vetting service members before they are given security clearances.

“Obviously, there was a problem with this individual that wasn’t caught. He didn’t shoplift from Target,” Weinstein said. The disclosed documents “are classified top-secret for a reason.”

The leaks, he said, are an extremely serious breach of security.

“These are national secrets that the individual decided to post to an online server, and obviously there are foreign nationals on this server,” Weinstein said. “I don’t know how he thought this was going to end.”

The documents were online for months in the backwaters of the Internet before becoming visible to millions last week.


They first appeared in a private group on Discord, a messaging platform popular with video game enthusiasts. The group, called Thug Shaker Central, had around two dozen members, mostly teenage boys and young men, according to the Post.

The group’s leader — whom investigators believe is Teixeira but was known to other members as “the O.G.” — started posting transcripts of intelligence documents in their private Discord channel months ago. Later, “the O.G.” posted photographs of the documents.

The documents “were just sitting there,” a member of the group said in a video interview published by the Post.

Then, in late February, the documents began spilling out of the private group, first in two other Discord groups, and then, by April 5, they had spread much further, according to the published reports: 4Chan, an anonymous bulletin board; Russian-language channels on the encrypted messaging service Telegram; and also on Twitter, for millions to see.

On April 6, the O.G. messaged members of Thug Shaker Central in a “frantic” state, the group member told the Post.

Federal officials said Teixeira was being surveilled before his arrest.

On Thursday afternoon, as law enforcement vehicles swarmed the Teixeira household, Courtney Swanson, a North Dighton native, walked her dogs nearby.

She said she had heard about the intelligence leak on the news and was shocked to learn a neighbor might be involved.

“Dighton is a small town, and you don’t expect something so big to happen somewhere so small,” she said.

Mike Damiano can be reached at