Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira agreed to a plea deal on Monday that could see the 22-year-old sentenced up to 16 years in prison. According to the plea agreement, Teixeira agreed to plead guilty to all six counts charging him with willful retention and transmission of national defense information.

In exchange for his plea, prosecutors agreed not to charge him with additional counts under the Espionage Act.

Teixeira, who joined the Air National Guard in September 2019, was stationed at Otis Air National Guard Base as a “Cyber Transport Systems Journeyman,” and he held the highest-level security clearance granted by the government to review top-secret information.

In addition to serving in the Air National Guard, Teixeira was also the leader of a small online gaming chat group on the social messaging platform Discord, where several classified documents had been posted. He is believed to have first shared classified information in January 2022. As many as 53 documents that shed light on the war in Ukraine and threatened to upend the U.S. government with its allies around the globe were apparently posted on the platform, which is a popular service with video gamers.

As part of his plea agreement, Teixeira will sit for a debrief with the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Justice Department (DoJ) and return any sensitive materials that might remain in his possession.

Consistent Sentence

Formal sentencing is set for September 27, and as part of the plea Teixeira could serve as much as 16 years in prison but no fewer than 11 years.

“This sentence is one of the harsher penalties for a non-spy case under the Espionage Act, but is certainly consistent with prior cases,” said D.C.-based attorney Mark S. Zaid, whose practice is focused on national security law, freedom of speech constitutional claims, and government accountability.

“It absolutely is intended to send a message to the younger generation who frequent and tend to have friends, including overseas, who they have never met in person within online systems,” Zaid told ClearanceJobs.

It could also be argued that the sentence could have been much worse for the young Air National Guardsman.

“The plea deal is about what you get when the Government has an overwhelming case; the prison term is long, but only half of what an actual spy-with-good-behavior might get,” explained Dan Meyer, national security law partner at the Tully Rinckey law firm in Washington, D.C.

“For the Feds, they get his cooperation in plumbing the damage done,” Meyer also told ClearanceJobs. “If I were in Teixeira’s circle of trust, I’d be worried. There may be other prosecutions in the offing.”

Not a Whistleblower

When Teixeira was arrested last year after he posted the classified documents on Discord, the issue of whether his arrest might dissuade some whistleblowers from coming forward was discussed. However, as The Washington Post reported last April, the documents leaked by Teixeira were only intended to benefit his online community.

Yet, even if he were casting himself as a whistleblower – which by all accounts he didn’t – his actions wouldn’t be protected by current whistleblower protections Zaid explained.

“While there are no true indicators that Teixera was attempting to be a whistleblower, the law does not allow for any protection when classified information is leaked in the process,” Zaid explained, who added, “I have no concerns that lawful whistleblowers will be chilled.”

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.