US Air Force prosecutors seek court-martial for leaker Jack Teixeira

By Nate Raymond

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Massachusetts (Reuters) - U.S. Air Force prosecutors on Tuesday urged a military hearing officer to recommend a trial by court-martial for Jack Teixeira, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard accused of leaking a massive trove of classified military documents.

Teixeira, 22, appeared in uniform at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts for the first hearing to address the military charges, which were filed after he pleaded guilty in March to separate charges by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Air Force prosecutors argued he should face a court-martial for obstructing justice and failing to obey a lawful order while serving as an airman 1st class at Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

The prosecution called no witnesses to support its charges, and defense counsel argued the few documents presented during the hearing were insufficient to support finding there was probable cause Teixeira committed the offenses.

Defense counsel Major Luke Gilhooly argued the Air Force was seeking to inappropriately use evidence from the earlier case and Teixeira's own self-incriminating statements during his guilty plea in a bid to "to get their own pound of flesh."

Teixeira was arrested in April 2023 after being accused of carrying out one of the most serious U.S. national security breaches in years while working 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.

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

He pleaded guilty to wilfully retaining and transmitting classified information relating to national defense. He faces at least 11 years in prison when he is sentenced on Sept. 27, and federal prosecutors plan to seek over 16 years.

The Air Force announced on May 1 that it had decided to pursue separate military charges against him, which according to a spokesperson carry a combined maximum sentence of 10-1/2 years in prison.

During Tuesday's hearing, Captain Stephanie Evans, a prosecutor, said documents and Teixeira's guilty plea supported finding he ignored orders from his superiors to cease his "deep dives" into classified information not relevant to his job.

She said he accessed and printed hundreds of documents. When the leaks were uncovered, he disposed of an iPad, computer hard drive and iPhone and instructed people he communicated with online to delete their correspondence with him, Evans said.

"This was done with a malicious intent to cover his tracks," Evans told the preliminary hearing officer, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Raming, who appeared remotely.

Gilhooly countered that the case amounted to a violation of Teixeira's constitutional right to not be prosecuted twice for the same offense.

It will be up to Raming to decide whether probable cause exists to support the charges and whether to recommend that Teixeira face a trial by general court-martial. That recommendation will then go to a major general to review.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston, Editing by Alexia Garamfalvi and Bill Berkrot)