(WASHINGTON) — The FBI on Thursday made a probable cause arrest in North Dighton, Massachusetts, in connection with the leaked documents probe.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Jack Teixeira was taken into custody in relation to the investigation into “alleged authorized removal, retention and transmission of classified national defense information.”
Teixeira, 21, is a member of the Massachusetts Air Force National Guard.
“FBI agents took Teixeira into custody earlier this afternoon without incident,” the attorney general said. “He will have an initial appearance at the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.”
Garland continued: “I want to thank the FBI, Justice Department prosecutors and our colleagues at the Department of Defense for the diligent work on this case. This investigation is ongoing. We will share more information at the appropriate time.”
The FBI said it was continuing to conduct law enforcement activity at the residence where Teixeira was arrested.
“Since late last week the FBI has aggressively pursued investigative leads and today’s arrest exemplifies our continued commitment to identifying, pursuing, and holding accountable those who betray our country’s trust and put our national security at risk,” the FBI said in a statement.
Earlier, at the Pentagon, spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, said, “It is important to understand that we do have stringent guidelines in place for safeguarding classified and sensitive information. This was a deliberate, criminal act — a violation of those guidelines.”
Media reports have described the documents as being shared among a small group of users on Discord before getting wider notice. The Washington Post interviewed one person, who said he was part of the group, who believes the alleged leaker, who he said goes by the moniker “OG,” worked on a military base.
President Joe Biden broke his silence earlier Thursday on the leak of apparently highly classified documents after the Washington Post report.
Biden told reporters in Dublin that the Justice Department was “getting close” in its criminal investigation into how the U.S. intelligence documents — which seem to contain top-secret information about the Ukraine war and other parts of the world — ended up online.
“Right now there’s a full-blown investigation going on and, you know, with the intelligence community and the Justice Department, and they’re getting close,” Biden said when asked if he could provide an update on the probe. “But I don’t have an answer.”
The disclosure has raised diplomatic issues over the apparent revelation that U.S. intelligence has been spying on its allies as well as on its adversaries. Asked whether he was concerned about the leak, Biden played down its potential impact.
“I’m concerned that it happened,” Biden said. “But there is nothing contemporaneous that I’m aware of that is of great consequence.”
The Washington Post characterized the alleged leaker as a “young, charismatic gun enthusiast” who began disseminating the documents in a private server group on Discord last fall.
The Washington Post cited an interview with a teenager who said he was part of the group, which he said he joined at the start of the pandemic and contained roughly two dozen members, some from foreign countries.
The teen referred to the leaker as “OG” and said he was in his early to mid-20s, though the minor denied to share his real name, where he lived or the military base where he said the person worked. The minor said “OG” had dubious views of law enforcement and the intelligence community, and would rant about “government overreach.”
Washington Post reporter Shane Harris described the leaker as someone who was “trying to impress his friends,” and the newspaper said it was unlikely he intended for the documents to spread across the internet.
ABC News has not independently confirmed the report.
A Pentagon spokesman, when asked for comment on the Washington Post report, referred ABC News to comments made by Department of Defense spokesman Chris Meagher during a press briefing on Monday.
Meagher said at the time that the department was “working around the clock to look at the scope and scale of the distribution, the assessed impact and our mitigation measures.”
A senior U.S. official told ABC News Thursday highly sensitive material has been shared too widely within the government for some time. The official had no information on the source of this leak but called it “a massive betrayal” by whoever is responsible.
After reports surfaced that authorities wanted to speak with a member of the Air National Guard, the National Guard Bureau issued a statement, saying, “We are aware of the investigation into the alleged role a Massachusetts Air National Guardsman may have played in the recent leak of highly-classified documents.
“The National Guard takes this issue very seriously and will support investigators. National security is our foremost priority and any attempt to undermine it compromises our values and degrades trust among our members, the public, allies and partners,” the statement said.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in his first public comments on the leak Tuesday, also said he was limited in what he could say about the matter amid the DOJ’s investigation.
He told reporters he was first informed of the apparent leak on April 6, after some documents were posted on popular social media sites, and that investigators were focusing on documents dated Feb. 28 and March 1.
“We take this very seriously and we will continue to investigate and turn over every rock until we find the source of this and the extent of it,” Austin said.
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