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US attorney general says member of US Air Force National Guard arrested in relation to leak of military intelligence.
Authorities in the United States have arrested a man in relation to the leak of classified US military intelligence documents, the US Justice Department has announced.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Thursday that Jack Teixeira was arrested in connection with a probe into “alleged unauthorised removal, retention and transmission of classified national defence information”.
“Teixeira is an employee of the United States Air Force National Guard,” Garland told reporters during a brief news conference.
“FBI agents took Teixeira into custody earlier this afternoon without incident.”
The leak of the classified Pentagon documents, which were shared online, has dominated headlines in recent days as US President Joe Biden’s administration promised to get to the bottom of what happened.
The files have purported to show American military assessments of the war in Ukraine, as well as issues related to some of the US’s top allies, such as Israel and South Korea.
They have also raised questions about alleged spying by Washington, as one of the latest leaks indicated the US was monitoring United Nations chief Antonio Guterres because it believed he was too soft on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.
On Thursday, The New York Times reported that about half a dozen FBI agents armed with rifles pushed onto Teixeira’s Massachusetts property to make the arrest.
The newspaper said the 21-year-old is believed to be the leader of a small, gaming chat group where the documents were leaked over the past few months.
The arrest is expected to raise questions about how one of the most high-profile US intelligence leak in years could have been caused by such a young, low-ranking servicemember.
“One of the strange things about the leaks from the very beginning was that this was a really odd place for them to show up,” David Silbey, an associate professor at Cornell University who specialises in defence policy and military history, told Al Jazeera before news of the arrest.
“If it had been a sort of espionage act, why put them on a random Discord server? You wouldn’t reveal it publicly anyway; you’d just pass it back to Russia. If it was a leak to share with the public, it’s about the worst possible way to leak it.”
But regardless of the intent, Silbey added that the leak remains “significant”.
During a news conference earlier on Thursday, a spokesman for the US Department of Defense said the leak was “a deliberate, criminal act”.
“We continue to work around the clock along with the interagency and the intelligence community to better understand the scope, scale and impact of these leaks,” Pat Ryder told reporters, stressing that the department could not comment on the Department of Justice’s ongoing investigation.
“We continue to review a variety of factors as it relates to safeguarding classified materials,” he said. “This includes examining and updating distribution lists, assessing how and where intelligence products are shared, and a variety of other steps.”
This is a developing story. More to follow.