Did the Press Find the Leaker Before Law Enforcement? Or Did the Law Use the Press To Flush Him Out?

Accused leaker Jack Teixeira, 21, is arrested shortly after the New York Times showed up at his mother’s doorstep, with Teixeira then arriving at the house in a pickup truck.

AP/Evan Vucci
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice Thursday. AP/Evan Vucci

The press appears to have discovered the identity of the young man who released highly classified information related to national security — and published his name — before he was arrested.  

The bizarre situation has left people slack-jawed, wondering if the government’s mole-hunting operation was simply incompetent, or if it instead used the press to pursue the leaker by means that would not be admissible in court, then swooped in to make an arrest.

Or is the answer a combination of both?

The alleged leaker is a 21-year old Massachusetts Air National Guardsman named Jack Teixeira, who was arrested in Massachusetts. He allegedly posted top-secret documents on Discord, an online platform used mostly by video game players to create chat rooms for friends and like-minded individuals. In Mr. Teixeira’s case, he ran a group called Thug Shaker Central, which has been in use since the isolating days of the pandemic. 

The young man allegedly had access to the documents through his work as a member of the intelligence division of the National Guard, and shared them for months with his small circle of Discord friends until someone in the group, in a betrayal, leaked it out.

Two law enforcement officials told the Times that they were trying to reach Mr. Teixeira, but by Thursday, press outlets had already appeared outside of his mother’s home in Massachusetts. According to the Times, a man who was standing in Mrs. Teixeira’s driveway told reporters that the airman would return soon.

“He needs to get an attorney if things are flowing the way they are going right now,” the man said. “The Feds will be around soon, I’m sure.”

A few hours later, Mr. Teixeira was arrested.

The Pentagon’s press secretary, Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, said at a press conference that he was “aware of press reports” about Mr. Teixeira, but could not comment on the ongoing investigation as it falls under the purview of the Department of Justice and the FBI. He declined to answer multiple questions about how the documents were accessed, what the impact of those leaks are, and what changes will be made to prevent this in the future. 

Federal law enforcement’s apparent inability to find Mr. Teixeira before national media outlets highlights some of the enterprising reporters who have helped find suspects or solve cold cases in recent years. 

The killer of college co-ed Kristin Smart — who disappeared in 1996 — was finally convicted of her murder in March of this year, thanks in part to a local musician with no journalistic or law enforcement background who interviewed witnesses and dug into the circumstances of her disappearance for a 2019 podcast series. 

The podcast, “Your Own Backyard,” painted a damning portrait of the longtime prime suspect in the case, Paul Flores, relying on a torrent of highly incriminatory hearsay information about Mr. Flores that unlikely would be admissible in court.  

Eventually prosecutors moved in and arrested Mr. Flores, after he and his family, under enormous pressure due to the podcast, made a series of mistakes that exposed them to prosecution. 

Another journalist helped to uncover the identity of the so-called Golden State Killer. Michelle McNamara — who coined the moniker for that serial murderer — was working on a book about her investigation into who the killer was when she unexpectedly died. Her widower, comedian Patton Oswalt of “Ratatouille,” worked with true crime writers to finish his late wife’s book.

Joseph James DeAngelo was convicted on hundreds of counts of murder, rape, and burglary just months after Ms. McNamara’s book was released. All of his crimes were committed in the 1970s and 1980s.

In solving cold case murders such as these, law enforcement is believed to have worked hand in hand with the journalists and armchair detectives who weren’t bound by the same legal strictures, then pounced once enough evidence was accumulated. 

Was this the same case with the media and Mr. Teixeira? Or are journalists simply better at mole hunting? It remains to be seen.

The New York Sun

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