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Accused Pentagon leaker was warned about handling of classified info, prosecutors say

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

New court filings show the National Guardsman who leaked classified information on a game chat platform was previously red-flagged, but nothing was done.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Massachusetts Air National Guard superiors allegedly knew months before his arrest that Airman Jack Teixeira was improperly accessing top-secret information. This comes on the eve of a detention hearing currently set for Friday. Federal prosecutors are seeking to keep Teixeira in custody while he awaits charges for leaking classified documents online.

MARTÍNEZ: WBUR's Ally Jarmanning joins us. Ally, so Jack Teixeira's superiors at the National Guard in Massachusetts supposedly knew something was going on with him.

ALLY JARMANNING, BYLINE: Yeah, it seems like Teixeira's bosses in the 102nd Intelligence Wing may have known he was accessing classified information he shouldn't have been. At least that's according to a court filing by prosecutors yesterday. And so back in the fall - this is months before the leaks became public and Teixeira was arrested - he was admonished twice for accessing classified material. In one instance, he was actually seen taking notes in a secure facility and putting that note in his pocket. And he was told by his superiors to, quote, "cease and desist any deep dives into classified intelligence information" and to focus on his own job - apparently did not follow those instructions because in January, he was spotted on a computer, viewing intelligence information that he shouldn't have been looking at. It's not clear if Teixeira was disciplined or investigated further before his arrest in April. Two commanders of the unit have been suspended, though we don't know who they are and if they're the same ones who knew about Teixeira's alleged snooping. The Air Force is also conducting a broader investigation of the unit. And the 102nd Intelligence Wing has been stripped for now of its intelligence mission during that probe. And an Air Force spokesman declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

MARTÍNEZ: When did people start to get wise about what he was doing?

JARMANNING: Yeah, so this all started a few months ago when a bunch of secret military documents detailing everything from the war in Ukraine to U.S. spy operations surfaced on social media. And that really caused an international firestorm. And then in April, the suspected leaker was identified as Teixeira. He's a 21-year-old airman from Massachusetts with top-secret clearance working on Joint Base Cape Cod. And prosecutors say he posted these documents in a private chat on Discord. And from there, they spread more widely. And prosecutors in their case say he shared these documents to essentially brag to his online friends about the access he had.

MARTÍNEZ: And I think a lot of people have been wondering why Jack Teixeira - specifically him - why he had such high security clearance.

JARMANNING: Right. Yeah, that's a big question that hasn't really been answered. Previous court filings have highlighted Teixeira's troubled past. In high school, he was suspended for making racial threats and talking about weapons, and that was enough to stop the local police from actually initially granting him a gun permit. Yet even with that background, he was able to enlist with the National Guard and get a top-secret clearance. And prosecutors - they highlighted some really disturbing remarks he made allegedly online, telling friends he wanted to kill a ton of people because that would be culling the weak-minded. Defense attorneys have said he's just a 21-year-old kid. He didn't realize what he posted online with a group of friends would end up spreading so widely.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So Teixeira - still in police custody. What's next specifically for him?

JARMANNING: So he faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted. He's been in jail since he was arrested last month. And a judge is weighing whether to keep him there pending trial. Prosecutors say he should stay there, he's a flight risk, that he could work with a foreign adversary to flee. Defense attorneys say that scenario is just speculation and that Teixeira doesn't have any more classified information. They want him released to his father with no access to weapons and the internet. And tomorrow to share is going to be expected in court for a second detention hearing. And the judge has indicated he'll decide then whether to release him.

MARTÍNEZ: That's WBUR's Ally Jarmanning. Thanks for breaking it down.

JARMANNING: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ally Jarmanning