The Massachusetts Air National Guardsman accused of leaking classified U.S. documents used his government computer to research mass shootings, amassed an “arsenal” of weapons, and debated turning an SUV into an “assassination vehicle,” according to new court filings.
Federal prosecutors say that Jack Teixeira, 21, had a previous history of violent and racial threats, and held “regular discussions about violence and murder” on the same online platform where he allegedly leaked the classified documents in one of the largest breaches of U.S. intelligence in years. They also allege that he tried to cover his tracks and obstruct the investigation by attempting to destroy electronic equipment and telling online associates to delete all of their messages with him.
The new details came as federal prosecutors argued that Teixeira poses a serious flight risk and should remain in jail pending trial ahead of his court appearance in Worcester, Mass., on Thursday afternoon. “The damage the defendant has already caused to the U.S. national security is immense,” U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins wrote in an 18-page memo. “The damage the defendant is still capable of causing is extraordinary.”
She noted that Teixeira, who allegedly posted highly classified intelligence documents in a chat group on Discord, many pertaining to Russia’s war in Ukraine, “may still have access to a trove of classified information that would be of tremendous value to hostile nation states,” and argued that he has “enormous incentive to flee, and there are numerous adversaries of the United States that could provide him the means to do so.”
Teixeira’s public defenders did not respond to TIME’s request for comment. In a filing, they argued that he had no previous criminal history and had made no attempts to flee before he was arrested “even after being publicly named as a suspect.” When FBI agents showed up at his house on April 13, he was waiting for them on his porch reading a Bible, according to the filing.
Teixeira has been charged with the alleged unauthorized removal, retention and transmission of classified national defense information. If convicted, he could face up to 25 years in prison.
‘Culling the weak’
The new disclosures show that Teixeira was suspended from high school in 2018 “when a classmate overheard him make remarks about weapons, including Molotov cocktails, guns at the school, and racial threats.” He was later denied a firearms license due to concerns from the local police department about these threats. But after enlisting in the U.S. Air National Guard, he applied for a firearms license again and “cited his position of trust in the United States government as a reason he could be trusted to possess a firearm,” according to the court filing.
Teixeira’s attorneys say the high school incident was “fully known and vetted” by the Air National Guard when he enlisted and obtained his top-secret security clearance.
The new filings also shed more light on the extent of Teixeira’s online postings. Records obtained from Discord show that he sent more than 40,000 messages between Nov. 1, 2022 and April 7 this year, according to an FBI affidavit. He accessed “hundreds” of classified intelligence documents, according to prosecutors, and the information he allegedly accessed “far exceeds what has been publicly disclosed on the Internet to date.” Federal prosecutors say be began posting classified U.S. intelligence documents in February 2022.
The new filings reveal that Teixeira frequently spoke of violence in his posts and shared violent fantasies. In one message last November, Teixeira said he hoped the Islamic State would “create a massacre” at the World Cup taking place in Qatar the following month. “If I had my way I’d kill a f–k ton of people,” he posted. “Seriously I would be forcibly culling the weak minded.” In another message in February, he spoke about turning an SUV into an “assassination van” and asked for advice on the proper kind of rifle to operate from the back of the vehicle. Last summer, he used his government computer to research mass shootings, including ‘Ruby Ridge,’ ‘Las Vegas shooting,’ ‘Mandalay Bay shooting,’ ‘Buffalo tops [supermarket] shooting,’ and ‘Uvalde,’ according to an FBI affidavit.
Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Pat Ryder on Thursday avoided questions from reporters about how Teixiera was able to search for these terms and content unrelated to his job on government computers, citing the investigation. “It’s important to obviously look at each of those cases individually,” he said. It’s unclear whether Teixeira’s searches set off any internal alerts. Asked about the vetting process that allowed Teixieira to receive a high level security clearance despite being suspended from high school for violent threats, Ryder said, “I’m not going to get into his individual case.”
The investigation has also revealed that his tendencies to talk about firearms and violence worried those around him. One colleague told an FBI agent that Teixeira “was very quiet, but often talked about guns.” He also told the agent that “he believed he would be the first person Teixeira would shoot if Teixeira were to shoot anyone in the workplace.”
Details and photographs released by prosecutors on Wednesday show Teixeira’s stash of weapons, including handguns, high-capacity rifles and “a bazooka,” which he kept in a locker “just feet from his bed.” They also found a gas mask and a military helmet.
‘Delete all messages’
When Teixeira was asked by a member of his online group if he was worried about sharing classified information, he said he had “plausible deniability” and that no one knew where he worked or would be able to identify him. Yet the filing also reveals new evidence that he was aware of the seriousness of his actions and indicates that he took steps to obstruct federal investigators.
After he was arrested, authorities found a tablet, a laptop, and an Xbox gaming console in the dumpster outside the house where he lives with his mother and stepfather, according to the filing. All of them had been smashed. He also told other online members of his Discord group to “delete all messages” and “[i]f anyone comes looking, don’t tell them s–t,” according to prosecutors. These efforts “appeared calculated to delay or prevent the government from gaining a full understanding of the seriousness and scale of his conduct,” they said in the filing.
Shortly before Teixeira’s arrest, he told a colleague he had a new phone number and email address. When the colleague asked him if he had been hacked, Teixeira responded “something like that” and “explained that his phone flew out of the window of his truck while he was driving and that it was run over by a semi-truck,” according to an FBI affidavit.
Teixeira’s case has raised questions about junior service members’ access to sensitive military intelligence documents as well as the security clearance process. He was working as a cyber transport systems journeymen, which entails repairing communication systems, according to his military records released by the National Guard. Two commanders on the base where Teixeira worked have also been temporarily suspended, the Air Force said on Thursday.
Last week, the 102nd Intelligence Wing to which Teixeira was assigned was ordered to halt its mission amid a comprehensive review of the military’s security programs, policies, and procedures. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has also ordered a top-to-bottom analysis of security protocols in response to the massive leak, with the initial findings due in 45 days.
-With reporting by W. J. Hennigan