Judge orders Jack Teixeira, Mass. Air National Guardsman accused of intelligence leak, held without bail
A federal judge in Worcester ordered the Massachusetts Air National Guard member accused of leaking secret government intelligence documents be held in custody without bail while he awaits trial.
Jack Teixeira, 21, has been jailed since he was arrested by federal agents on April 13 at his family's home in Dighton. He is facing multiple charges under the Espionage Act and up to 25 years in prison if convicted.
Teixeira allegedly accessed classified documents pertaining to the war in Ukraine and U.S. spy operations, and posted some of them in an online chat group. From there, the documents spread to more public social media sites. It is widely seen as the most significant U.S. intelligence leak in a decade.
In court Friday, U.S. Magistrate Judge David Hennessy said he was concerned about whether Teixeira would follow any conditions placed on him if he were to be released on bail.
Hennessy quoted an apparent reply by Teixeira to another user in an internet chat who asked if Teixeira was worried about sharing classified information online.
“IDGAF," Teixeria responded, using a profane shorthand for not caring. The judge said the sentiment was emblematic of an attitude that made him worry that, as prosecutors suggested, Teixeira could collude with a foreign government to share more top-secret information.
The judge acknowledged that scenario "smacks of a spy novel or something," but said it remained a possibility nonetheless.
After the decision, Teixeira looked back at his family and appeared close to tears as he was re-handcuffed and led out of the courtroom.
Former Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said earlier this week he expected Friday's ruling.
"Here's someone who was willing to steal from the government and distribute classified information without taking a lot of steps to cover his tracks," Lelling told WBUR. "There's a reckless quality to it, and you don't know what else he has."
Defense attorneys had asked for him to be released to the care of his father, where they said he would have no access to guns or the internet and could be put on electronic monitoring.
"He remains a 21-year-old kid living in the only community he has known all his life," federal public defender Brendan Kelley said. "The only place he has called home."
They pointed to nine other Espionage Act cases where defendants were released on bond with conditions, such as surrendering passports or pledging not to possess weapons.
Hennessy called Teixeira's family support "remarkable," and noted that most defendants come to his courtroom alone.
Before the hearing, former federal prosecutor Robert Fisher, now an attorney with the firm Nixon Peabody, said he also anticipated the judge's decision. He noted earlier the judge would likely consider the fact that Teixeira has no prior criminal record, and that he is young and a member of the armed services, but added "the evidence that Judge Hennessy has heard so far is rather overwhelming, and it's likely that he will be detained."
Investigations by the New York Times and Washington Post into Teixeira's online presence suggested he was readying for a "race war" and was obsessed with conspiracy theories, weapons and racist ideas.
In court filings, prosecutors detailed some of Teixeira's alleged online activity, including chats where he said he wanted to "kill a (expletive) ton of people" saying it would be "culling the weak minded."
The judge said those words made him concerned for the safety of the community.
"It’s a little bit more than a fascination with guns," Hennessy said. "It reflects planning."
Months before his arrest, Teixeira's superiors were alerted that he was accessing top secret information, according to new information in a recent court filing arguing for his continued detention. He was caught as recently as January viewing intelligence not needed for his job, despite an order to "cease-and-desist any deep dives into classified intelligence information."
The Air Force has launched a broad investigation of the leak and security practices at Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod, where Teixeira worked. So far, two commanders there have been suspended, and the base's 102nd Intelligence Wing has been stripped, for now, of its intelligence mission.
This article was originally published on May 19, 2023.