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FBI agents arrested a 21-year-old suspect for leaked U.S. intelligence documents


Now to a major break today in the investigation into the leak of secret U.S. intelligence documents. This afternoon, FBI agents arrested a 21-year-old suspect who is a member of the Air National Guard. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas is covering this, and he joins us now. Hey, Ryan.


LIMBONG: All right. So this has been a fast-moving story since it broke last week. Now a suspect is in custody. What can you tell us?

LUCAS: Well, the suspect has been identified as Jack Teixeira. He's a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard. Attorney General Merrick Garland gave a brief statement today to reporters confirming the arrest.


MERRICK GARLAND: FBI agents took Teixeira into custody earlier this afternoon without incident.

LUCAS: Now, TV footage of the arrest shows Teixeira - dressed in an olive green T-shirt, red athletic shorts - being taken into custody in his driveway by what looks like a heavily armed SWAT team. Now, Garland said this is an investigation into the unauthorized removal, retention and transmission of classified national defense information. He said it's very much an active investigation. The FBI, meanwhile, says it is still searching Teixeira's home in North Dighton, Mass.

LIMBONG: All right. But what else can you tell us about Teixeira at this point?

LUCAS: Well, officials tell our colleague Tom Bowman that Teixeira worked at the 102nd Military Intelligence Wing based at Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod. Now, that unit's job is to provide worldwide intelligence for combat support and homeland security. What's still unclear, though, is how Teixeira got his hands on the materials that were leaked. We don't know exactly what Teixeira's job was on the base, but people familiar with this sort of military intelligence say it's a little unusual that someone with Teixeira's rank would have access to the sort of materials that we've seen in this leak. And that, of course, raises questions of how he allegedly got his hands on it. That's a question without a clear answer yet, at least publicly.

LIMBONG: And just remind us. What was in these documents?

LUCAS: Well, remember - these are dozens of pages of intelligence materials that were posted online on a gamer site. They eventually made their way to other social media. And then The New York Times broke this story last week. NPR has reviewed some of these leaked documents. A lot look like briefing slides with maps and charts - the sort of thing that are cobbled together for senior Pentagon officials. Most of the materials are related to the war in Ukraine - things like Ukrainian and Russian troubles with troops and supplies. There were details on Ukraine's dwindling supplies of air defense missiles. But these documents don't just deal with Ukraine. There are other parts of the world as well and, in some instances, what appears to be examples of the U.S. spying on its allies.

LIMBONG: Oh. Wow. All right. But big picture, like, how bad is this leak from a national security perspective?

LUCAS: It's not clear yet, and that's because the full scale of this intelligence brief - breach really still isn't clear. Obviously, the intelligence community and the military never like to see their secrets spilled in public. So from their perspective, it's bad that this stuff is out there. President Biden, for one - he's downplaying so far the import of this leak. He says he's concerned, of course, but he says, in essence, that there's nothing in here that's really all that consequential.

Talking to sources of mine, I've heard similar things. They say that certainly this isn't good for national security. There's no doubt about that. But the biggest issue really may be the diplomatic discomfort, the embarrassment that comes from public revelations about the U.S. spying on its allies. But, you know, as one source said, everybody does it, but nobody likes to be seen with their hand in the cookie jar. Big picture, though, from what's known at this point about this leak, this leak doesn't appear to rival the big cases that we've seen of leaked secrets in the past, most notably those of, let's say, Edward Snowden or WikiLeaks.

LIMBONG: NPR's Ryan Lucas. Thanks so much.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.