The Massachusetts Air National Guardsman accused of leaking highly classified military documents kept an arsenal of guns and said on social media that he would like to kill a “ton of people”, prosecutors said.
The judge at 21-year-old Jack Teixeira’s detention hearing put off an immediate decision on whether he should be kept in custody until his trial or released to home confinement or under other conditions.
Teixeira was led away from the court in handcuffs, black rosary beads around his neck, pending that ruling.
They said he may still have material that has not been released, which could be of “tremendous value to hostile nation states that could offer him safe harbour and attempt to facilitate his escape from the United States”.
In Teixeira’s detention hearing, Magistrate Judge David Hennessy expressed scepticism about defence arguments that the government has not shown Teixeira ever intended leaked information to be widely disseminated.
“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?” the judge asked. “Seriously?”
Teixeira entered his hearing in Worcester in orange prison garb, smiling at his father in the front row. His handcuffs were removed before he sat down and put back on when he was taken out.
The judge could order Teixeira to be confined at his father’s home while awaiting trial, if not held in jail.
Under questioning at the hearing, his father, Jack Michael Teixeira, said he was aware that if his son were to violate conditions of release or home confinement, he would have to report him. The elder Teixeira said he owns firearms but no longer has any in his home.
But Nadine Pellegrini, chief of the national security division in the Massachusetts US attorney’s office, told the judge the information prosecutors submitted to the court about the defendant’s threatening words and behaviour “is not speculation, it is not hyperbole, nor is it the creation of a caricature. It is based on what we know to date… directly based upon the words and actions of this defendant”.
The prosecution’s filing contains a review of what it says are Teixeira’s social media posts, stating in November that he would “kill a (expletive) ton of people” if he had his way, because it would be “culling the weak minded”.
Late on Wednesday, the Air Force announced it had suspended the commander of the 102nd Intelligence Support Squadron where Teixeira worked and the administrative commander “overseeing the support for the unit mobilised under federal orders”, pending further investigation. It also temporarily removed each leader’s access to classified systems and information.
Court papers urging a federal judge to keep Teixeira in custody detailed a troubling history going back to high school, where he was suspended when a classmate overheard him discussing petrol bombs and other weapons as well as racial threats.
More recently, prosecutors said, he used his government computer to research mass shootings and standoffs with federal agents.
He remains a grave threat to national security and a flight risk, prosecutors wrote, and investigators are still trying to determine whether he kept any physical or digital copies of classified information, including files that have not already surfaced publicly.
“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 greatest known intelligence leak in years.
He has been charged under the Espionage Act with unauthorised retention and transmission of classified national defence information. He has not yet entered a plea.
His lawyers are urging the judge to release him from jail, arguing in court papers filed on Thursday that appropriate conditions can be set even if the court finds him to be a flight risk — such as confinement at his father’s home and location monitoring.
The defence said Teixeira no longer has access to top-secret information and accused prosecutors of providing “little more than speculation that a foreign adversary will seduce Mr Teixeira and orchestrate his clandestine escape from the United States”.
“The government’s allegations… offer no support that Mr Teixeira currently, or ever, intended any information purportedly to the private social media server to be widely disseminated,” they wrote. “Thus, its argument that Mr Teixeira will continue to release information or destroy evidence if not detained rings hollow.”
They said FBI special agents also found ammunition and tactical pouches on his dresser, what appeared to be a silencer-style accessory in his desk drawer and a military-style helmet in a dumpster.
He is accused of distributing highly classified documents about top national security issues in a chat room on Discord, a social media platform that started as a hangout for gamers.
The leak stunned military officials, sparked an international uproar and raised fresh questions about America’s ability to safeguard its secrets.
The leaked documents appear to detail US and Nato aid to Ukraine and US intelligence assessments regardingallies that could strain ties with those nations.
Some show real-time details from February and March of Ukraine’s and Russia’s battlefield positions and precise numbers of battlefield gear lost and newly flowing into Ukraine from its allies.
Prosecutors wrote that Teixeira, who owned multiple guns, repeatedly had “detailed and troubling discussions about violence and murder” on the platform where authorities say he shared the documents.
In February, he told another person he was tempted to make a minivan into an “assassination van”, prosecutors wrote.
The Justice Department’s filing outlines a pattern of troubling behavior that officials say began well before he entered the military and continued in recent months, even as his position afforded him access to government secrets.