Prosecutors say leaks suspect has history of making violent threats and possessed an ‘arsenal of weapons’
Apr 29, 2023, 11:00 AM
(CNN) — 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. 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.
The detention hearing, which took place in Massachusetts, was originally scheduled for last week but postponed at the last minute.
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.”
“The Defendant knows where the information is,” prosecutors wrote. “He knows how to access it. And based on his specialized IT skills, he presumably knows how to disseminate that information without being immediately noticed.”
“Put simply, there is nothing a court can do to ensure the Defendant’s compliance with his conditions of release other than take the Defendant at his word. And the Defendant’s history of honoring similar types of agreements is abysmal,” they continued in the filing.
On Wednesday evening, prosecutors argued 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.
Teixeira’s family released a statement Friday saying that they support him during “this very difficult and confusing ordeal.”
“We know there are more questions now than answers and are hopeful that Jack will receive the fair and just treatment to which he is entitled during this investigation,” the family said.
Pennant with Russian military insignia
The motion filed Wednesday night by the Justice Department included photos taken inside the house Teixeira lived in with his parents.
One photo showed a pennant bearing the insignia of the Russian military’s General Staff hanging in a bedroom in the house.
Investigators did not describe or identify the pennant in the documents.
CNN was able to identify the insignia after reviewing Russian websites that sell identical pennants, which pay tribute to the Russian Armed Forces General Staff.
Alongside a shooting target full of bullet holes, an orange and black pennant hangs from a bulletin board, that includes a double-headed eagle that is national emblem of the Russian Federation. Black and orange are the colors of the St. George’s ribbon, seen often on Russian soldiers in Ukraine and commonly worn to show support for Russia’s military.
The pennant also has a white, blue and red tassel, the colors of Russia’s tricolor flag.
Many of the documents leaked by Teixeira included top-secret American intelligence assessments of the war in Ukraine. But officials have not indicated publicly or in court documents that they believe he had ties with or affinity for Russia.
It’s unclear why Teixeira has the pennant his lawyers declined to comment when asked why he had it.
CNN reached out to the FBI and the Department of Defense, but did not immediately receive a response.
Bellingcat was first to identify the insignia as the Russian military’s General Staff.
Texiera’s lawyers response
Texiera’s lawyers responded said the government was being “hyperbolic.”
In a filing Thursday morning arguing for 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.
Defense lawyers suggested 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.
Teixeira was arrested by the FBI earlier this month after a furious scramble by federal authorities to determine the identity of the leaker following reports that the classified documents had been sitting in a Discord chatroom.
Teixeira, an airman first class, was stationed at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts, where he worked on a classified computer network. He obtained a top secret security clearance in 2021.
According to charging documents, Teixeira began posting classified information to the Discord chatroom in December 2022, and he began uploading photos of the classified documents in January 2023.
The fact that the documents sat online for months before being discovered has revived questions about how classified information is handled across the government.
The Pentagon has limited access to classified materials in the wake of the leak, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has directed a 45-day review of classified intelligence handling across in the Defense Department.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby previously said that at least some of the classified documents allegedly leaked by Teixeira have been doctored or contain false information, but acknowledged that intelligence officials are still scrambling to get their arms around the vastness of the leak.
“We’re taking this seriously. We still don’t know the full scope of what’s out there, what has been disclosed inappropriately, and we want to get our hands around this matter,” Kirby told CNN’s Jim Sciutto earlier this month. He added that Ukrainian officials “don’t see any impact to their future defensive and offensive operations in the weeks and months ahead,” because of the leaks.
This story has been updated with additional information.