Suspect in US documents leak appears in court

By Maureen Chowdhury and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 4:28 PM ET, Thu April 27, 2023
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4:01 p.m. ET, April 27, 2023

Suspected leaker's pretrial custody ruling still to be decided. Here's what happened today

From CNN's Zachary Cohen and Hannah Rabinowitz

Court room sketch showing Jack Teixeira, in orange, and his father,  Jack Michael Teixeira, on stand.
Court room sketch showing Jack Teixeira, in orange, and his father,  Jack Michael Teixeira, on stand. (Sketch by Margaret Small)

Prosecutors are arguing that the Air National Guardsman accused of posting a trove of classified documents to social media should remain in jail during the course of his legal case, in part, because he has a history of violent threats and possessed an “arsenal of weapons.”

In comments cited in court filings late Wednesday night, Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, spoke of wanting to “kill a [expletive] ton of people” because it would be “culling the weak minded,” and discussed wanting to make a minivan into an “assassination van.”

At his home in Massachusetts, prosecutors say, Teixeira had access to an “arsenal” of weapons and accessories — including handguns, bolt-action rifles, shotguns, an AK-style high-capacity weapon, a gas mask, ammunition, tactical pouches, and a “silencer-style accessory” — all of which he kept in his bedroom.

Those filings came ahead of Teixeira’s court appearance Thursday where a judge was expected to decide whether he should continue to be detained as he faces charges under the Espionage Act.

Awaiting ruling: Magistrate Judge David Hennessy however, said he would not yet issue a ruling on whether Teixeira will stay in jail while he awaits trial, opting to consider arguments and later issue a ruling.

Hennessy did not say whether he would issue a written ruling or would convene another hearing.

Teixeira is accused of posting classified intelligence — including sensitive information on the war in Ukraine — on social media platform Discord in a series of leaks that revealed the scope of US intelligence gathering on both its allies and adversaries.

He has not yet entered a formal plea.

Federal prosecutors previewed arguments that Teixeira should stay behind bars while he awaits trial in a court filing late Wednesday, saying that he posed a flight risk and that the government was still grappling with the amount of stolen classified information.

Teixeira, prosecutors alleged, viewed hundreds of classified documents — which the government said he may still have access to — and conducted hundreds more keyword searches “in what appears to be a deliberate effort to disseminate this country’s secrets.”

Read more.

4:06 p.m. ET, April 27, 2023

Pentagon intelligence review will include how the military vets security clearances, spokesperson says

From CNN's Haley Britzky

The Pentagon declined to comment Thursday on how the suspected leaker was able to obtain a top secret clearance despite issues in his past, but said the department is "looking at the process by which we clear and vet individuals for security clearances and that work is ongoing."

“Without getting into specific hypotheticals … we do have a continuous vetting process when it relates to holding a security clearance that we're looking at a variety of things to include public records, financial records," spokesperson Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said Thursday at a press briefing.

"But in terms of individual searches, and what those are in the context of what those searches may be and why it's important to obviously look at each of those cases individually and as it relates to the airman, that's something that the investigation will have to tell us,” Ryder added.

The official said the Pentagon’s process “continues to be continuous vetting,” which is “the near real-time monitoring of cleared individuals supported by automated record checks.”

Jack Teixeira, the former Massachusetts Air National Guard who is suspected of leaking the trove of US classified documents, is awaiting a decision on whether he will remain in jail until he has a trial. The leak of documents prompted investigations within the Pentagon, among other places where people have access to classified information.

Ryder said Thursday service members who obtain security clearances face “pretty stringent requirements."

“First of all, there is going to be a background check, you're going to take training and you're going to sign a nondisclosure agreement. So you know, at the end of the day, it is not something that you just get, it's something that you have to essentially earn, and then maintain that,” Ryder said. “However, if an individual decides to break the law well, willfully, that's a different story.” 

While Ryder declined to comment specifically about the background process for Teixeira, he said that the “vast, vast majority of people” who obtain security clearances “come to work every day and do the right thing.” 

The official said that among the things that are considered before awarding someone a security clearance is any conduct in their past, their age and maturity at the time of that conduct, the seriousness of it, and any “pertinent behavioral changes” as a result of the conduct.

Ryder did not specifically comment on Teixeira's case, but said that there is a “very prescribed process” for investigators with the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency to determine if someone is eligible for a clearance.

According to court filings, Teixeira was suspended in high school because of violent and racist comments, yet he was still able to obtain a top secret security clearance with the Air National Guard. 

Ryder emphasized that there is “no difference” in the process of getting a security clearance for the National Guard versus the active duty military.

3:00 p.m. ET, April 27, 2023

Judge does not issue immediate ruling on whether suspected leaker will remain in custody before trial

From CNN's Hannah Rabinowitz

Magistrate Judge David Hennessy said he would not yet issue a ruling on whether suspected leaker Jack Teixeira will remain in custody or be released pending trial — opting to consider arguments and later issue a ruling.

Hennessy did not say whether he would issue a written ruling or would convene another hearing. 

The hearing, which lasted nearly an hour and a half, has now concluded.

Teixeira was escorted out of the courtroom and remains in custody.

2:28 p.m. ET, April 27, 2023

Judge to Teixeira's lawyer: "I find it a little incredible" he didn't foresee spread of classified info online

From CNN's Hannah Rabinowitz

Magistrate Judge David Hennessy challenged Jack Teixeira’s defense lawyer Brendan Kelley over arguments that the alleged leaker did not expect classified information that he posted online on Discord to be further spread around the internet.

“Someone under the age of 30 has no idea that if they put something on the internet that it could end up anywhere in this world?” Hennessy asked during Thursday's detention hearing. “Seriously?” 
“I don’t know the exact circumstances,” Kelley responded.
“But the circumstances of this event are that that… he had no idea that it would go beyond this little circle of people on the server,” Hennessy interrupted, adding: “That is like someone arguing, ‘I pulled the trigger, but I had no intent to kill him.’ I find it a little incredible that the defendant could not foresee that possibility."

Hennessy also pushed Kelley on the idea that even if Teixeira no longer had copies of classified information, he likely remembers details from the classified records he read and copied down.

“I’m not so sure that the government's concern is entirely imaginative. Information about the Russia-Ukraine war is extremely relevant, and perhaps valuable,” Hennessy said. “It sounds like a legitimate concern.”

Kelley said that while he agrees that could be a risk “in the abstract…the question here is how serious is the risk that this is going to happen.”

2:06 p.m. ET, April 27, 2023

Prosecutors argue Jack Teixeira will "flee" or "obstruct" classified leaks investigation if he is released

From CNN's Hannah Rabinowitz

Prosecutors doubled down on their allegations against alleged leaker Jack Teixeira during the hearing Thursday, saying that defense lawyers were trying to minimize his alleged conduct.

“The information we have provided is not speculation, it is not hyperbole, nor is it based on a caricature,” Prosecutor Nadine Pellegrini argued during the hearing, “they are directly based on the words and the actions of this defendant.”

Teixeira is accused of posting a trove of classified documents to social media. Prosecutors are arguing that he should remain in jail during the course of his legal case.

“What is past may not only be prologue, but in this case, it is a very good indication that the defendant will either try to flee this jurisdiction or continue in the steps that he has already taken to obstruct this investigation," Pellegrini said.

She also hit back at defense lawyers’ arguments that Teixeira has matured since a high school suspension for talking about guns and making racist threats, citing a letter Teixeira wrote to a local police officer.

“He is not the person he described in the letter, who upholds and applies the core values of the Air Force — Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence In All We Do,” she said.

Pellegrini reiterated the idea that Teixeira “constantly and consistently put himself before all else,” and that Teixeira “uses what he can to gain what he wants.”

In addition, Pellegrini argued that any promise from Teixeira to follow court rules shouldn’t be trusted. She pointed to agreements that Teixeira had to sign to join the military pledging to properly handle classified documents, saying that he broke that promise “time and time again.”

“He liked being the gatekeeper, the giver of information,” she said, and he “became a one-stop shop for people who wanted access to that which they shouldn’t.”    

3:25 p.m. ET, April 27, 2023

Father of accused leaker says he wouldn't hesitate to report son to court if he broke conditions of release

From CNN's Hannah Rabinowitz

Jack Teixeira, father of Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira, arrives at federal court in Worcester, Massachusetts, on Thursday.
Jack Teixeira, father of Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira, arrives at federal court in Worcester, Massachusetts, on Thursday. (Steven Senne/AP)

Jack Teixeira’s father, also named Jack Teixeira, told Magistrate Judge David Hennessy that he would not hesitate to report his son to the court if he were to break his conditions of release.

Defense lawyers have asked Hennessy to release the younger Teixeira into his father’s custody. 

“It was reported that after the proceedings you called out to your son, understandably, that you love him,” the judge said to the elder Teixeira in Thursday's hearing.

“Yes,” he responded, audibly emotional. Teixeira confirmed, however, that he would not hesitate to report his son if he broke any rules the court imposed.

“My son is well aware of the fact that if he is released and does anything against probation, I will report it to his probation officer or anyone else,” he said.

The elder Teixeira, who formerly worked as a correctional officer, said that his house has Ring doorbells at every exit at his home, and would receive a text message every time someone left his house, as well as an additional camera inside the house.

He also committed to disconnecting the television and internet inside the house if necessary and said that all firearms have been removed from his house.

1:06 p.m. ET, April 27, 2023

NOW: Detention hearing for leaks suspect underway in Massachusetts court

From CNN's Zachary Cohen and Hannah Rabinowitz

A detention hearing for suspected document leaker Jack Teixeira is underway now in Massachusetts. A judge will decide whether he should continue to be detained as he faces charges under the Espionage Act.

He is accused of posting a trove of US classified documents to social media.

The hearing was originally scheduled for last week but was postponed at the last minute.

What both sides are saying: Federal prosecutors previewed arguments that Teixeira should stay behind bars while he awaits trial in a court filing late Wednesday, saying that he posed a flight risk and that the government was still grappling with the amount of stolen classified information.

Meanwhile, the suspect's lawyers argued that he no longer has access to classified documents and accused prosecutors of exaggerating Teixeira’s danger to national security, according to a Thursday morning court filing.

Defense lawyers suggested that Teixeira be released into the custody of his father, a military veteran and former correctional officer.

1:12 p.m. ET, April 27, 2023

Accused leaker of classified documents has entered the courtroom for detention hearing

From CNN's Hannah Rabinowitz

Jack Teixeira, the 21-year-old Air National Guardsman accused of posting a trove of classified documents to social media, has entered a Massachusetts courtroom for his detention hearing.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. ET in front of Magistrate Judge David Hennessy.

Teixeira entered the room in handcuffs, an orange jumpsuit from the Plymouth County Correction Facility, and rosary beads. 

Several individuals sat in an area of the courtroom reserved for Teixeira’s friends and family. 

As Teixeira entered, one woman in the family section began audibly sobbing.

Prosecutors argued in court filings that Teixeira poses a flight risk and continues to pose a threat to national security should he be released.

12:43 p.m. ET, April 27, 2023

Lawyers for accused military documents leaker ask for pre-trial release

From CNN's Hannah Rabinowitz

Jack Teixeira is seen in a photo taken from Instagram.
Jack Teixeira is seen in a photo taken from Instagram. (From Instagram)

In a filing Thursday morning arguing for Jack Teixeira’s release, lawyers for the 21-year-old argued that he no longer has access to classified documents and accused prosecutors of exaggerating Teixeira’s danger to national security.

“There is no allegation in the affidavit that Mr. Teixeira had any intent for these documents to become widely available on the internet or desired to disrupt the geopolitical affairs of the United States,” Teixeira’s lawyers wrote.

The filing came just hours before Teixeira is scheduled to appear in a Massachusetts federal court for a detention hearing.

Defense lawyers suggest that Teixeira be released into the custody of his father, a military veteran and former correctional officer. Teixeira could also be subject to location monitoring, have no access to the internet, and not be allowed to talk to any witnesses in the case. 

On Wednesday evening, prosecutors argued said that the information Teixeira allegedly took "far exceeds" what has been reported, and that Teixeira is an "attractive candidate" for a foreign government to recruit in an effort to procure classified information. 

Tiexiera’s lawyers, however, say the government is being “hyperbolic.”

There is no evidence that Teixeira, his lawyers say, ever intended for the information he posted to the private Discord chat to be shared more widely on social media.

In fact, defense lawyers argue that instead of fleeing when Tiexiera’s was publicly identified, “he sat on his mother’s porch reading a Bible in his uniform-compliant undershirt, awaiting the arrival of law enforcement.”

Additionally, defense lawyers said that Teixeira no longer has access to top-secret information, and that “nothing in the government’s exhaustive searches of his parents’ houses, his vehicle, nor its interviews to date, support its speculation that an undiscovered trove of documents exists.”

Teixeira’s defense lawyers slammed the government for painting their client, who they say has no criminal history, as violent because he was suspended in high school for talking about guns and making racist threats and made violent comments online. 

As for the messages, defense lawyers said that “the government presents messages it contends were posted by Mr. Teixeira without any indication that he ever committed even a single act of violence.”