(Washington) A 21-year-old young man, Jack Teixeira, suspected of being at the origin of one of the most serious scandals of leaks of confidential documents for ten years in the United States, should be presented to justice on Friday the next day of his arrest.
The junior Air National Guard employee “was arrested without incident” Thursday in Dighton, a small rural town south of Boston, in northeast Massachusetts, according to Attorney General Merrick Garland. His arrest was broadcast live by American television channels.
He is suspected of having posed a “very serious” risk to the national security of the United States, according to the Pentagon, by disclosing confidential documents online about the war in Ukraine and which also suggest that Washington collects intelligence on its most important close allies, including Israel and South Korea. A most embarrassing affair for the government of President Joe Biden.
The young man is expected to appear in a Massachusetts court on Friday, according to a Justice Department source.
Television channels broadcast aerial footage on a loop Thursday showing his arrest. We could see a man, hands on his head and wearing a gray t-shirt and red shorts, slowly retreating towards armed officers and in camouflage before being arrested and then escorted to a vehicle.
Joe Biden, visiting Ireland, has been kept informed of the arrest, according to the White House. “I’m concerned this happened,” he said earlier of the leaked secret documents that the US Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation into.
The Washington Post daily reported on Wednesday that the leak was the work of a young man who worked on a military base, who shared his information on a private online group on the social network Discord. Under the pseudonym “OG”, the suspect is said to have published documents from the military base where he works for months.
The National Guard said Jack Teixeira enlisted in September 2019, worked as a computer and communications specialist and achieved the rank of Airman First Class, the third lowest in the hierarchy.
“OG” had asked other members of the Discord group not to distribute the materials, saying he had no intention of being a whistleblower, according to the Washington Post. He was critical of the state – whose “abuse of power” he denounced -, law enforcement and the intelligence community.
The group, made up of around 24 people, including some from Russia and Ukraine, was formed in 2020 around their mutual passion for firearms, military equipment and religion. Jack Teixeira was the leader of the group, reported The New York Times.
According to The Washington Post, “OG” allegedly told other members of the group that he had work-related access to “a secure facility that prohibits cell phones and other electronic devices.”
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said the United States was examining the “implications” of the leak “for national security.” The Pentagon has also decided to further restrict access to this type of sensitive information, Jean-Pierre told reporters.
The spokeswoman added that the US government wants social networks to “avoid facilitating” the distribution of such confidential materials, believing that they have “a responsibility to their users and to the country.”
A Discord spokesperson told AFP that the safety of its users was the platform’s priority, ensuring that it cooperated with law enforcement.
The fact that these documents are circulating online represents “a very serious risk to national security and has the potential to fuel disinformation”, said on Monday a spokesman for the United States Department of Defense, Chris Meagher.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a statement on Thursday hailed the “swift arrest” of the suspect, adding that he had ordered an “audit of access to our intelligence […] and vetting procedures within the department to better guide our efforts to prevent this kind of incident from happening again.”
The documents posted online reveal in particular the concerns of the American intelligence services about the viability of a Ukrainian counter-offensive against Russian forces.
A document reviewed by AFP also noted US concerns about Ukraine’s ability to continue to defend against Russian strikes.
Dozens of photos of these documents have been relayed on Discord, but also Twitter and Telegram, some having undoubtedly circulated for weeks, if not months, before attracting the attention of the press.
However, US authorities have not publicly confirmed the authenticity of these documents posted online, and it has not yet been independently verified.
Many of these documents are no longer available on the sites where they originally appeared.