US airman Jack Teixeira pleads guilty to leaking classified documents, facing years in prison

Jack Teixeira, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard charged with leaking classified military documents on a social media platform, pleaded guilty on Monday to carrying out one of the most serious U.S. national security breaches in years.

Teixeira, who has remained in custody since his arrest last April, admitted wrongdoing during a hearing in federal court in Boston after striking a plea deal, opens new tab with prosecutors who plan to ask a judge to sentence him to over 16 years in prison.

The 22-year-old pleaded guilty to six counts of willful retention and transmission of classified information relating to national defense over a leak last year of a trove of classified records to a group of gamers on the messaging app Discord.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, who heads the U.S. Department of Justice's National Security Division, at a press conference said the plea "brings a measure of closure to a chapter that created profound harms for our nation's security."

In exchange for his plea, prosecutors agreed not to charge Teixeira with further violations of the Espionage Act.

The plea deal calls for a sentence of at least 11 years in prison, and prosecutors plan to ask U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani to sentence Teixeira to 16 years, eight months in custody. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 27.

Before his arrest at his mother's house in North Dighton, Massachusetts, Teixeira had been an airman 1st class at Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, where he worked as a cyber defense operations journeyman, or information technology support specialist.

Despite being a low-level airman, Teixeira held a top-secret security clearance, and starting in January 2022 began accessing hundreds of classified documents related to topics including Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to prosecutors.

He did so even though his superiors admonished him twice in 2022 about his handling of classified information and warned him against conducting “deep dives” into intelligence information, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Casey said in court on Monday.

Under the username "TheExcaliburEffect," Teixeira shared classified information on Discord in private servers - a kind of chat room - while bragging he had access to "stuff for Israel, Palestine, Syria, Iran and China."

The leaked documents held highly classified information on allies and adversaries, with details ranging from troop movements in Ukraine to Israel's Mossad spy agency.

Michael Bachrach, a lawyer for Teixeira, told reporters that his client was "unfortunately very much a kid" whose youth played a significant role in his actions.

"He is significantly remorseful for his conduct," Bachrach said.

In December, the U.S. Air Force announced it had moved to discipline 15 personnel over the leak and relieved Colonel Sean Riley of the command of the unit to which Teixeira belonged.

It did so after an Air Force inspector general report on the incident found that some members of Teixeria's unit and leadership "had information about as many as four separate instances of his questionable activity."

A smaller number of people had a more complete picture of his intelligence-seeking behavior and "intentionally failed to report the full details of these security concerns/incidents," the report said.

Olsen, the Justice Department official, told reporters the Defense Department is now undertaking a "thorough review" of how it monitors access to classified information. The Defense Department had no immediate comment.