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Home NewsCNN Suspect in Pentagon documents leak case makes first court appearance

Suspect in Pentagon documents leak case makes first court appearance

by Chanel Rowe
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Originally Published: 14 APR 23 10:03 ET

Updated: 14 APR 23 10:18 ET

By Hannah Rabinowitz and Jeremy Herb, CNN

    (CNN) — Jack Teixeira is making his first appearance in federal court Friday following his arrest in connection with the trove of leaked classified Pentagon documents posted on social media.

Teixeira entered the courtroom wearing a tan shirt and pants from the detention center, as well as hiking boots. He entered the courtroom in shackles, though his hands were uncuffed before he sat down at the defense table.

Nadine Pellegrini, the chief of the National Security Unit for the District of Massachusetts US Attorney’s Office, is sitting at the prosecutors’ table.

The Boston courtroom is entirely full, including three people sitting on a bench reserved for family. When Teixeira entered the courtroom, he did not look at his family members.

Teixeira is appearing in front of Magistrate Judge David Hennessy.

Teixeira, a 21-year-old airman with the Massachusetts Air National Guard, was arrested by the FBI in North Dighton, Massachusetts, on Thursday. Charges against him are expected to be unsealed at Friday’s arraignment.

Teixeira is believed to be the leader of a small group on Discord, a social media platform popular with video gamers, where the trove of classified documents had been posted, multiple US officials told CNN.

The leaked classified documents, 53 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 Ukraine war.

Charges expected to be unsealed today

The FBI said Thursday that Teixeira was arrested “for his alleged involvement in leaking classified US government and military documents.”

Investigators narrowed in on the potential members of the chat group with evidence collected following the discovery of the classified documents online. Teixeira was under surveillance for at least a couple of days prior to his arrest by the FBI on Thursday, according to a US government source familiar with the case.

More details about how federal investigators identified Teixeira as the suspected source of the leaked documents are expected to emerge after the charges against him are unveiled Friday at Teixeira’s arraignment.

Worked in IT in Air National Guard

Teixeira was an Airman First Class in the Massachusetts Air National Guard, where he worked as a low-ranking IT official.

It’s still not clear how Teixeira had access to the classified material, and whether he was authorized to view the documents in his role as a Cyber Transport Systems journeyman.

Several former high school classmates of Teixeira’s told CNN Thursday that he had a fascination with the military, guns and war. He would sometimes wear camouflage to school, carried a “dictionary-sized book on guns,” and behaved in a way that made some fellow students feel uneasy.

“A lot of people were wary of him,” said Brooke Cleathero, who attended middle school and high school with Teixeira. “He was more of a loner, and having a fascination with war and guns made him off-putting to a lot of people.”

Teixeira grew up in the suburbs of Providence, Rhode Island, according to public records. He attended Dighton-Rehoboth High School where he graduated in 2020, according to the superintendent of the regional school district.

Teixeira didn’t behave in a manner that rose to the level where “people felt the need to report him,” another former classmate said, but “he made me nervous.”

The same student said she took his fascination with the military as a form of American nationalism, and was therefore surprised by the allegations against him. “I didn’t think he would be capable of doing something like this,” she said.

Fallout of leaks continues

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Thursday that he is directing a review of intelligence access following Teixeira’s arrest.

The Pentagon is still conducting a damage assessment of the disclosure of the classified material, which could be used as evidence against Teixeira.

President Joe Biden, who hinted at the coming arrest while in Ireland on Thursday, was briefed regularly on the investigation as it proceeded over the past week, according to a US official.

Biden was also briefed regularly on the efforts by his top officials to engage with allies who have been identified within, or unsettled by, the content of the leaked information, one official said.

Before the arrest on Thursday, Biden downplayed the impact of the leaked documents. “I’m concerned that it happened, but there is nothing contemporaneous that I’m aware of that is of great consequence,” he told reporters.

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