A federal judge has delayed a decision on a detention hearing for the US air national guardsman suspected of leaking highly classified US intelligence documents.
Federal prosecutors urged Judge David Hennessy to keep Jack Teixeira, 21, behind bars, arguing he could still pose a grave risk to US national security and have access to secret national defense information, during a nearly 90-minute trial on Thursday in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Prosecutors also said Teixeira had kept an arsenal of guns and had said on social media that he would like to kill a “ton of people”.
Hennessy delayed an immediate decision on where Teixeira should remain until trial, but remained skeptical of arguments made by Teixeira’s defense team that he should be released.
In court papers filed late on Wednesday, justice department lawyers said releasing Teixeira while he awaits trial would present a grave threat to national security, arguing he may still have access to secret information.
Investigators are still trying to determine if Teixeira kept physical or digital copies of classified information, including files that have not yet surfaced publicly.
“There simply is no condition or combination of conditions that can ensure the defendant will not further disclose additional information still in his knowledge or possession,” prosecutors wrote.
“The damage the defendant has already caused to the US national security is immense. The damage the defendant is still capable of causing is extraordinary.”
Teixeira has been in jail since his arrest earlier this month on charges stemming from the highest-profile intelligence leak in years. Defense lawyers asked that he be released into the custody of his father, also named Jack Teixeira.
During Thursday’s hearing, Teixeira entered the courtroom wearing an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs and carrying rosary beads, CNN reported. His handcuffs were removed after he sat down.
Several individuals filled a section of the court reserved for friends and family. One individual began sobbing as Teixeira entered.
During Thursday’s hearing, Teixeira Sr told the presiding judge he would not hesitate to report his son to the court if he violated the terms of his release.
“My son is well aware of the fact that if he is released and does anything against probation, I will report it to his probation officer or anyone else,” said Teixeira.
The senior Teixeira said his house was equipped with several Ring cameras that would notify him if his son were to leave the house, as well as several cameras on the property.
But Judge David Hennessy appeared doubtful of arguments made by Teixeira’s defense team that the 21-year-old did not mean for the leaked information to be widely shared, the Associated Press reported.
“Somebody under the age of 30 has no idea that when they put something on the internet that it could end up anywhere in this world?” asked Hennessy.
Teixeira has been charged under the Espionage Act with unauthorized retention and transmission of classified national defense information. He has not entered a plea. After a hearing last week, his attorney declined to speak to reporters. If convicted, he faces up to 25 years in prison.
Teixeira is accused of distributing highly classified documents about top national security issues in a chatroom on Discord, a social media platform that started as a hangout for gamers.
The documents provided a wide variety of highly classified information on allies and adversaries, with details ranging from Ukraine’s air defenses to Israel’s Mossad spy agency.
In describing Teixeira as a danger to the community, prosecutors wrote that the suspect, who owns multiple guns, repeatedly had “detailed and troubling discussions about violence and murder” on the Discord platform. In February, he told another person he was tempted to convert a minivan into an “assassination van”, prosecutors wrote.
Teixeira is accused of searching for recent shootings and terms including “Las Vegas shooting”, “Buffalo tops shooting” and “Uvalde” not pertinent to his military base job.
An application for a firearms ID card that Teixeira filed “was denied due to the concerns of the local police department over the defendant’s remarks at his high school”, the Washington Post reported.
Prosecutors also disclosed that Teixeira was suspended from high school when a classmate overheard him discussing molotov cocktails, other weapons and racial threats.
Prosecutors alleged that Teixeira took steps to destroy evidence after news outlets began reporting on the documents leak. Authorities who searched a dumpster at his home found a smashed laptop, tablet and Xbox gaming console, they said.
The justice department has said its investigation is continuing, and the Pentagon has said it will conduct a review of access to sensitive intelligence to prevent a similar leak in the future.
Billing records the FBI obtained from Discord were among factors that led authorities to Teixeira, who enlisted in the air national guard in September 2019.
His role in the guard was as a “cyber transport systems specialist”, essentially an IT specialist responsible for military communications networks. In that role, Teixeira would have had a higher level of security clearance because he would have been tasked with responsibility to access and ensure protection for the network, a defense official told the Associated Press.
A Discord user told the FBI a username linked to Teixeira began posting what appeared to be classified information around December.
On Wednesday, the air force suspended the commander and a detachment commander in the squadron in which Teixeira was employed, NBC reported. The intelligence mission of Teixeira’s squadron has also been suspended.
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