Watch CBS News

Jack Teixeira pleads guilty to leaking hundreds of highly classified Pentagon documents

Jack Teixeira pleads guilty to Pentagon leak
Jack Teixeira pleads guilty to leaking military documents 02:29

BOSTON - Jack Teixeira pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston Monday to leaking highly classified military documents about Russia's war in Ukraine and other national security secrets. He now faces 11 to more than 16 years in prison at his sentencing in the fall.

Jack Teixeira's plea agreement

The former member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard pleaded guilty to six counts of willful retention and transmission of national defense information under the Espionage Act. The Department of Justice indicted him on all six of those charges last year. Teixeira's plea came nearly a year after he was arrested at his home in Dighton in the most consequential national security leak in years.

"For those of us who have spent our careers seeing firsthand the sacrifice and dedication of our intelligence community and our national security professionals and their efforts to keep the American people safe, it has been shocking, shocking to witness the public disclosures that resulted from Mr. Teixeira's crimes," Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew Olsen said at a Monday press conference.

Each count carries a maximum of 10 years in prison, but DOJ and defense attorneys have agreed to a sentencing range of 11 to more than 16 years in prison. The DOJ said they will seek the upper limit of that agreement, which is 200 months (16.6 years) in prison. 

Teixeira will be sentenced on September 27. If he had gone to trial and was convicted he could have been sentenced to 60 years in prison.  

As part of the agreement, Teixeira agreed to continue to protect the national defense information to which he once had access.

"Jack Teixeira will never get a sniff of a classified piece of information for the rest of his life," acting U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Josh Levy said.

Outside the courthouse Monday afternoon, Teixeira's attorney told reporters his client agreed to the deal in order to "do the right thing."

Jack Teixeira in federal court in Boston, March 4, 2024. Sketch by Christine Cornell

What did Jack Teixeira do?

Teixeira, 22, admitted illegally collecting military secrets and sharing them with other users on Discord, a social media platform popular with people playing online games.  

"He put himself out and put documents and information out about a raging war in Europe," Levi continued. "It purports to have over 100 million users. That's where Jack Teixeira decided to share some of our nation's most guarded secrets."

The stunning breach raised alarm over America's ability to protect its most closely guarded secrets and forced the Biden administration to scramble to try to contain diplomatic and military fallout. The leaks embarrassed the Pentagon, which tightened controls to safeguard classified information and disciplined members found to have intentionally failed to take required action about Teixeira's suspicious behavior.

Teixeira, who was part of the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts, worked as a cyber transport systems specialist, essentially an information technology specialist responsible for military communications networks.

Authorities said he first typed out classified documents he accessed and then began sharing photographs of files that bore SECRET and TOP SECRET markings. The leak exposed to the world unvarnished secret assessments of Russia's war in Ukraine, the capabilities and geopolitical interests of other nations and other national security issues.

"It risked the live of the men and women in uniform and those in the intelligence community who work every day to defend our nation," Olsen said.

Teixeira has been in jail since his April arrest. The judge denied his request for release from jail last year after prosecutors revealed he had a history of violent rhetoric and warned that U.S. adversaries who might be interested in mining Teixeira for information could facilitate his escape.

Why did he do it?

Prosecutors have said little about a motive. But members of the Discord group described Teixeira as someone looking to show off, rather than being motivated by a desire to inform the public about U.S. military operations or to influence American policy.

"He didn't care at all about the consequences. He was really acting for himself," Levy said.

Jack Teixeira CBS News

Prosecutors have said Teixeira continued to leak government secrets even after he was warned by superiors about mishandling and improper viewing of classified information. 

"As he admitted today, Mr. Teixeira repeatedly and flagrantly discarded these warnings," Olsen said.

In one instance, Teixeira was seen taking notes on intelligence information and putting them in his pocket.

The Air Force inspector general found that members "intentionally failed to report the full details" of Teixeira's unauthorized intelligence-seeking because they thought security officials might overreact. For example, while Teixeira was confronted about the notes, there was no follow-up to ensure the notes had been shredded and the incident was not reported to security officers.

It was not until a January 2023 incident that the appropriate security officials were notified, but even then security officials were not briefed on the full scope of the violations.

"He is significantly remorseful for his conduct. He's accepted full responsibility for his conduct," Defense Attorney Michael Bachrach said.

What the Teixeira family said about the plea

Following the plea agreement, the Teixeira family released a statement, writing in part "To say the events of the past year have been challenging doesn't even scratch the surface of what this family has had to endure."

As parents, it is unfathomable to think your child would ever be involved in something so serious, but he has taken responsibility for his part in this, and here we are. 

However, what remains are more questions spurred by the shocking details revealed by the Inspector General's investigation of the 102nd Intelligence Wing on how the lackadaisical work atmosphere, lack of adequate training and oversight, combined with a complete disregard for policy and procedure "directly and indirectly contributed" to what happened. The issues described are not new problems at the base; they are woven into the fabric of the culture. We hope the IG report is taken seriously by the Air Force and the leadership at the 102nd Intelligence Wing and substantive changes are made to stop this from ever happening again.

The Teixeira family said Jack is "a good person" and asked for privacy.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.