National Guardsman who leaked US defense secrets on Discord agrees to 16-year plea deal

National Guardsman who leaked US defense secrets on Discord agrees to 16-year plea deal
By: Engadget Posted On: March 04, 2024 View: 14

Jack Teixeira, the Massachusetts Air National Guardsman accused of leaking classified defense secrets on Discord, has pled guilty. The New York Times reports the 22-year-old withdrew his not-guilty plea on Monday, trading a guilty admission for up to around 16 years in prison. Had he gone to trial and lost, he could have faced up to 60 years.

In a Boston federal court, Teixeira pleaded guilty to six counts of “willful retention and transmission of national defense information” under the Espionage Act. Federal authorities arrested the airman at his mother’s house last April.

The Air National Guardsman is accused of sharing classified documents on a Minecraft-focused Discord server in late 2022. The posted files included volumes of information about the war in Ukraine (including details about military equipment and Russian and Ukrainian troop movements), as well as Russia’s attempts to stockpile more weapons from Egypt and Turkey. The content eventually landed on 4chan, Telegram and other Discord servers.

The leaked docs also contained a report about the hacking of an unnamed American company by “a foreign adversary” and details about a plot to assault US troops serving abroad.

The government said it didn’t find evidence of deliberate espionage motives, nor did it accuse Teixeira of acting as a whistleblower in the mold of Edward Snowden. Instead, prosecutors concluded he wanted to gain status with his online friends. The New York Times reports that a senior federal law enforcement official, speaking anonymously to the paper, said the DOJ wouldn’t have agreed to the reduced sentencing if it had uncovered more malicious motives.

The judge presiding over the case, Indira Talwani, scheduled a hearing in September to finalize her endorsement of the deal. The sentencing guidelines range from 11 to more than 16 years in prison. His lawyer, Michael K. Bachrach, told reporters Teixeira’s immaturity played a pivotal role while promising he would push for the lowest sentence. “He is very much a kid,” the attorney reportedly said. “We will be able to establish why his youth played a substantial role.”

A NYT investigation of more than 9,500 of Teixeira’s messages, published last May, revealed an obsession with “weapons, mass shootings, shadowy conspiracy theories — and proving he was in the right, and in the know.”

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