Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guard employee, was arrested on Thursday on suspicion that he leaked key Pentagon documents online. He can face at least 10 years in prison if charged under the Espionage Act.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday confirmed the arrest. He indicated that Teixeira will face charges under 18 U.S.C. 793, also known as the Espionage Act. As per the law, ‘obtaining information, recording pictures, or copying descriptions of any information relating to the national defense with intent or reason to believe that the information may be used for the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation’ is prohibited.
Each leaked document can carry a penalty up to 10 years.
The Massachusetts airman reportedly led a discord group called Thug Shaker Central where the Pentagon documents were first shared. They included key details of Ukrainian air defenses.
Teixeira’s arrest has sparked a debate between Republicans and Democrats. Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene defended the Air National Guardsman.
“Jake Teixeira is white, male, christian, and antiwar. That makes him an enemy to the Biden regime. And he told the truth about troops being on the ground in Ukraine and a lot more,” she tweeted. “Ask yourself who is the real enemy?”
Several Democrats said that the 21-year-old should be punished. However, some social media users questioned if he can be protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act.
“The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) was established to ensure that employees who engage in protected disclosure are free from fear of reprisal for their disclosures. Whistleblower retaliation is the taking, failing to take, or threatening to take a personnel action because of an employee’s whistleblowing,” Dept of Homeland Security states.
“Should Jack Teixeira, the discord document leaker, be protected as a whistleblower for exposing Biden’s attack on the Nordstream pipeline?” a Twitter user asked.
Laws in the US state that crimes falling within the scope of the Espionage Act are of strict liability. For whistleblowers, it means that the court can only decide on guilty/not guilty.