Military hearing officer deciding whether to recommend court-martial for Pentagon leaker

Jack Teixeira: Facebook

BEDFORD, Massachusetts (AP) — A Massachusetts Air National Guard member who pleaded guilty in March to federal crimes for leaking highly classified military documents appeared Tuesday before a military hearing officer who will recommend whether the guardsman should face a court-martial.

Jack Teixeira, of North Dighton, Massachusetts, is facing three charges in the military justice system: one alleging he failed to obey a lawful order and two counts of obstructing justice.

Capt. Stephanie Evans said at Tuesday’s hearing that a court-martial was appropriate given that obeying orders “is at the absolute core of everything we do in the U.S. military” and that Texeira acted with “malicious intent to cover his tracks.” But one of Teixeira’s attorneys, Maj. Luke Gilhooly, argued that further action would amount to prosecuting him twice for the same offense.

Teixeira was arrested just over a year ago in the most consequential national security leak in years. He pleaded guilty on March 4 to six counts of willful retention and transmission of national defense information under a deal with prosecutors that calls for him to serve at least 11 years in prison.

Referring to that agreement, Gilhooly said the government has now taken its “big feast of evidence” from the criminal courthouse and walked it “down the street here to Hanscom Air Force Base to get their own pound of flesh.”

Dressed in military uniform, Teixeira did not speak at the hearing other than to indicate he understood the proceedings, and family members in attendance declined to comment. In court, he admitted to illegally collecting some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets and sharing them with other users on Discord, a social media platform popular with online gamers.

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.

On Tuesday, military prosecutors sought to include evidence they said showed Teixeira used Discord to ask others to delete his messages as the basis for one of the obstruction of justice charges. But his attorneys objected, saying they wanted the raw data that purportedly connected Teixeira to the messages.

“The government wants you to take a leap of logic and connect the dots when there are no dots,” Lt. Col. Bradley Poronsky said.

The hearing officer, Lt. Col. Michael Raming, initially agreed. He said he wouldn’t consider the documents in making his recommendation, but later said he would consider an amended version submitted by prosecutors. Raming’s recommendations, to be issued at a later date, will be sent to Maj. Gen. Daniel DeVoe, who will decide whether the case should continue.

Until both sides made brief closing statements, the three-hour hearing shed little light on the case as neither Teixeira’s attorneys nor military prosecutors called any witnesses. Instead, they spent the bulk of the three-hour hearing discussing objections raised by Teixeira’s lawyers to some of the documents prosecutors submitted as evidence.

The military charges accuse Teixeira of disobeying orders to stop accessing sensitive documents. The obstruction of justice charges allege that he disposed of an iPad, computer hard drive and iPhone, and instructed others to delete his messages on Discord before his arrest.

“His actions to conceal and destroy messages became egregious,” Evans said.

Authorities in the criminal case said Teixeira 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, including information about troop movements in Ukraine and the provision of supplies and equipment to Ukrainian troops. Teixeira also admitted posting information about a U.S. adversary’s plans to harm U.S. forces serving overseas.

The stunning security 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 the diplomatic and military fallout. The leaks embarrassed the Pentagon, which tightened controls to safeguard classified information and disciplined members it found had intentionally failed to take required action about Teixeira’s suspicious behavior.

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