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U.S. officials arrest 21-year-old Air National Guardsman suspected of leaking classified documents

WASHINGTON — Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard was arrested Thursday, a U.S. law enforcement official confirmed to NBC News, in connection to the investigation of classified documents that were leaked on the internet.

U.S. officials had been searching for the source of the leak, which exposed potentially hundreds of pages of intelligence about Russian efforts in Ukraine and spying on U.S. allies.

Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen Pat Ryder declined to confirm the leaker’s identity at the press briefing on Thursday and referred reporters to the Department of Justice, which is conducting a criminal investigation because it’s a “law enforcement matter” and ongoing investigation, he said.

The Defense Department is “working around the clock” with the intelligence community, Ryder said, “to better understand the scope, scale of these leaks.” Ryder also said that the Pentagon is also “very limited” in what it can say about the documents themselves.

Asked about the intelligence activities of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, Ryder said that, “In general intelligence wings throughout the Air Force support what you might imagine — Air Force intelligence requirements worldwide to support a variety of types of intelligence missions and requirements, which include active guard and reserve components.”

The classified documents from the Department of Defense were found online last month — it remains unclear how long the documents had been on the internet and the total number that have been posted — and revealed details of U.S. spying on Russia’s war efforts in Ukraine, secret assessments of Ukraine’s combat power, as well as intelligence gathering on America’s allies, including South Korea and Israel, NBC News previously reported.

A Facebook post in July from the 102nd Intelligence Wing, which is headquartered at Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod, congratulated an individual with the same name as Teixeira on a promotion to airman first class.

President Joe Biden suggested on Thursday morning that officials appeared to be nearing a breakthrough in their investigation into who leaked the documents online.

“There’s a full-blown investigation going on as you know, with the Intelligence Committee and the Justice Department, and they’re getting close,” Biden told reporters in Ireland.

The suspect’s identity was first reported on Thursday by The New York Times, which said he was the leader of a small online gaming group where the documents were first leaked.

The Washington Post reported about the gaming group, and only identified him as “OG.” The main source of the story was a minor who was granted anonymity and was a member of this group on the platform Discord. The Post said it reviewed approximately 300 photos of classified documents that the suspect allegedly leaked, most of which the report said have not been made public.

NBC News has not yet verified the details about the gaming group and that it was the source of where the classified documents were first shared.

Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were briefed about the disclosure last week, administration officials said. That was when the White House first learned about the existence of the documents in the public domain, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters earlier this week.

According to Bellingcat, the online open-source investigative group, the documents appeared in early March on the Discord social media app. Some documents may have appeared as early as January, the group said.

Kirby said the Pentagon is “leading an interagency effort here to review whatever national security implications might come out of all this” and said the Department of Justice is leading a criminal investigation into the leaks.

He also said that it appears that some of the classified documents had been altered from their original form. Kirby said that Biden administration officials spent last weekend contacting “relevant allies and partners” and “at very high levels” to reassure them about the leaks.

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