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Jack Teixeira pleads guilty to leaking sensitive national defense information

<i>From Instagram via CNN Newsource</i><br/>Jack Teixeira
From Instagram via CNN Newsource
Jack Teixeira

By Hannah Rabinowitz, CNN

(CNN) — The Massachusetts Air National Guardsman accused of posting a trove of highly classified intelligence reports and other documents on social media pleaded guilty on Monday to willfully retaining and disseminating national defense information.

Jack Teixeira, 22, pleaded guilty to all six counts he faced under the Espionage Act during a hearing Monday morning.

Teixeira has agreed to sit for a debrief with members of the intelligence community and the Department of Defense, court documents say, as well as turn over all relevant documents he has or knows the location of.

In exchange, prosecutors have said that they will ask a judge to impose a sentence of 200 months in prison, or over 16 years. The hefty sentence recommendation is far less time than the potential decades-long prison sentence he could have faced had he not struck a deal. Prosecutors have also promised not to charge Teixeira with additional counts under the Espionage Act, according to court documents.

“Jack Teixeira will never get a sniff of a classified piece of information for the rest of his life,” the US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Josh Levy said at a news conference following Teixeira’s guilty plea.

“This guilty plea brings accountability, and it brings a measure of closure to a chapter that created profound harms for our nation’s security,” said Matt Olsen, the assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice.

The final sentence will ultimately be decided by a federal judge in September. The Massachusetts native has been in custody since he was first arrested in April 2023.

The document leak rocked the intelligence world when it first came to light last year. The leak raised questions about the US government’s classified vetting process, as officials grappled with how a 21-year-old computer specialist who prosecutors say had an arsenal of weapons and history of violent rhetoric could obtain a top-secret security clearance.

It also revealed what defense and intelligence sources said at the time were glaring weaknesses in how the Pentagon safeguards its most sensitive secrets.

Teixeira stood between his two defense lawyers as he pleaded guilty Monday morning. He wore an orange prison jumpsuit and rosary around his neck. Behind Teixeira sat family members and supporters, including his father.

According to court documents, Teixeira ran an obscure chat room on the social media platform Discord called “Thug Shaker Central,” where members posted memes and talked about guns and religion.

While at work at a military base on Cape Cod, Teixeira allegedly conducted unauthorized searches of government databases despite repeated warnings from his superiors not to. Teixeira first began posting messages that included classified information in the Discord chat, according to prosecutors, and eventually posted photos of documents marked as classified.

The documents, some of which have been reviewed by CNN, included a wide range of highly classified information, including eavesdropping on key allies and adversaries and blunt assessments on the state of the Russia-Ukraine war. Prosecutors allege that the documents Teixeira posted also include information about an unnamed US company’s accounts that were compromised by a “foreign adversary,” as well as a document discussing a “plot by a foreign adversary to target United States forces abroad.

Judge Indira Talwani read aloud details of the actions Teixeira is accused of taking – and the information he is accused of leaking – during the hearing on Monday, and asked Teixeira whether had “any disagreements” with the allegations.

“No, your honor,” Teixeira said.

“Any disagreement … that each of those documents was classified as top secret, and that unauthorized disclosure could reasonably affect national security,” the judge asked.

Teixeira responded, “No, your honor.”

Prosecutors say that after the leak was publicized, Teixeira destroyed his electronics and obtained a new phone number and email address. He was taken into custody at his home in Massachusetts about a week later.

After he was charged, the US Air Force punished 15 individuals who “intentionally failed” to report documented concerns about Teixeira’s behavior preceding the leaks, including the commander of Teixeira’s unit who was relieved of his command.

Outside the federal courthouse in Boston, Teixeira’s attorney Michael Bachrach said that his client pleaded guilty to “do the right thing” and is “absolutely not” selling classified secrets to foreign governments.

In a statement to CNN, Teixeira’s family said that “it is unfathomable to think your child would ever be involved in something so serious, but he has taken responsibility for his part in this, and here we are.”

This story has been updated with additional developments.

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