A US Air Force officer accused of leaking classified intelligence and defense documents has been formally charged in court in Boston.
Jack Teixeira, 21, was wearing a prison uniform as he stood before a federal judge.
After a man shouted “Love you, Jack” in the courtroom, the defendant replied, “You too, Dad.”
Mr Teixeira faces up to 15 years in prison on charges of unauthorized dissemination of security information.
It has also been accused of removing and retaining confidential documents without permission.
The airman faces up to 10 years in prison on the first charge and up to five years on the second charge.
Dozens of leaked documents have revealed important secrets about US assessments of the war in Ukraine and US allies.
The leaks embarrassed Washington and raised new questions about the security of classified information.
Mr Teixeira was arrested by armed FBI agents at his family home in Massachusetts on Thursday.
The judge ruled that the suspect qualifies for a public defender — a lawyer who works at public expense in criminal trials for people who can’t afford legal fees.
Mr Teixeira remains in custody until April 19. US prosecutors have asked that he be detained pending trial at a later date.
The BBC’s American news partner, CBS, reported that a man in court shouted “Love you, Jack” as the trial ended.
A CNN reporter inside the courtroom reported that Mr. Teixeira did not look back and replied, “You too, Dad.”
US President Joe Biden thanked law enforcement in a statement for their “quick action” to investigate the source of the leaks. He also said he had ordered the US military and intelligence agencies to protect sensitive information and control its distribution.
‘Top Secret Clearance’
The leaked intelligence material first appeared in a Discord chat room, of which Mr Teixeira is said to be the administrator, where members often discuss geopolitical issues and wars.
FBI Special Agent Patrick Luckenhoff testified in court that the suspect began posting the leaked documents sometime in December.
The initial leaks were in the form of paragraphs of text, but Mr Teixeira began posting photos of the documents in January, according to the affidavit.
It wasn’t until intelligence information was released outside the chat room group that Pentagon officials learned of the leak, prompting a search for the culprit.
Mr. Teixeira worked as an IT Specialist in the Intelligence Division of the Massachusetts National Guard at Otis Air National Guard Base on Western Cape Cod.
The National Guard is the reserve arm of the United States Air Force. They do not work full-time in the military, but can be recruited when needed.
Mr Teixeira’s official title was cyber defense operations journeyman, according to the criminal complaint filed in a Boston court. He held the rank of Airman 1st Class – a relatively junior rank.
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The affidavit noted that Mr Teixeira held a “top secret” security clearance until 2021 and that he had “signed a lifetime non-disclosure agreement” to take on his role.
Mr Luekenoff added that the suspect “must acknowledge that unauthorized disclosure of protected information could result in criminal charges”.
The affidavit also said that on April 6, the day public reports of the documents first emerged, Mr. Teixeira used his government computer to search for the classified intelligence report for the word “leaked.”
Prosecutors alleged that Mr Teixeira searched for the word to see if US intelligence had information about the identity of the person behind the leaks.