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Morning news brief

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

New court filings show the National Guardsman who leaked classified information on a game chat platform was previously red-flagged, but nothing was done.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Massachusetts Air National Guard superiors allegedly knew months before his arrest that Airman Jack Teixeira was improperly accessing top-secret information. This comes on the eve of a detention hearing currently set for Friday. Federal prosecutors are seeking to keep Teixeira in custody while he awaits charges for leaking classified documents online.

MARTÍNEZ: WBUR's Ally Jarmanning joins us. Ally, so Jack Teixeira's superiors at the National Guard in Massachusetts supposedly knew something was going on with him.

ALLY JARMANNING, BYLINE: Yeah, it seems like Teixeira's bosses in the 102nd Intelligence Wing may have known he was accessing classified information he shouldn't have been. At least that's according to a court filing by prosecutors yesterday. So back in the fall - this is months before the leaks became public and Teixeira was arrested - he was admonished twice for accessing classified material. In one instance, he was actually seen taking notes in a secure facility and putting that note in his pocket. And he was told by his superiors to, quote, "cease and desist any deep dives into classified intelligence information" and to focus on his own job - apparently did not follow those instructions because in January, he was spotted on a computer, viewing intelligence information that he shouldn't have been looking at.

It's not clear if Teixeira was disciplined or investigated further before his arrest in April. Two commanders of the unit have been suspended, though we don't know who they are and if they're the same ones who knew about Teixeira's alleged snooping. The Air Force is also conducting a broader investigation of the unit. And the 102nd Intelligence Wing has been stripped for now of its intelligence mission during that probe. And an Air Force spokesman declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

MARTÍNEZ: When did people start to get wise about what he was doing?

JARMANNING: Yeah, so this all started a few months ago when a bunch of secret military documents detailing everything from the war in Ukraine to U.S. spying operations surfaced on social media. And that really caused an international firestorm. And then in April, the suspected leaker was identified as Teixeira. He's a 21-year-old airman from Massachusetts with top-secret clearance working on Joint Base Cape Cod. And prosecutors say he posted these documents in a private chat on Discord, and from there, they spread more widely. And prosecutors in their case say he shared these documents to essentially brag to his online friends about the access he had.

MARTÍNEZ: And I think a lot of people have been wondering why Jack Teixeira - specifically him - why he had such high security clearance.

JARMANNING: Right. Yeah, that's a big question that hasn't really been answered. Previous court filings have highlighted Teixeira's troubled past. In high school, he was suspended for making racial threats and talking about weapons. And that was enough to stop the local police from actually initially granting him a gun permit. Yet even with that background, he was able to enlist with the National Guard and get a top-secret clearance. And prosecutors - they highlighted some really disturbing remarks he made allegedly online, telling friends he wanted to kill a ton of people because that would be culling the weak-minded. Defense attorneys have said he's just a 21-year-old kid. He didn't realize what he posted online with a group of friends would end up spreading so widely.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So Teixeira - still in police custody. What's next specifically for him?

JARMANNING: So he faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted. He's been in jail since he was arrested last month. And a judge is weighing whether to keep him there pending trial. Prosecutors say he should stay there, he's a flight risk, that he could work with a foreign adversary to flee. Defense attorneys say that scenario is just speculation and that Teixeira doesn't have any more classified information. They want him released to his father with no access to weapons and the internet. And tomorrow Teixeira is going to be expected in court for a second detention hearing, and the judge has indicated he'll decide then whether to release him.

MARTÍNEZ: That's WBUR's Ally Jarmanning. Thanks for breaking it down.

JARMANNING: Thanks so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTÍNEZ: All right. There's a standoff happening right now in Pakistan. Security forces have surrounded the home of the former prime minister, Imran Khan.

FADEL: Yeah, they're threatening to storm it, accusing Khan of sheltering a few dozen men they call terrorists for their roles in recent protests. This is the latest in a political crisis that has engulfed Pakistan for over a year.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Diaa Hadid is in Islamabad. She's been following all this. Bring us up to speed. What's happening right now?

DIAA HADID, BYLINE: Well, A, the countdown is on. A senior government official warns they'll storm Khan's home after a deadline ends this afternoon, and Khan is telling media to come and film it. The fear is this could ignite more violence in Pakistan like what happened last week when paramilitary forces briefly detained Khan. That triggered unprecedented attacks by protesters on army installations. Now, officials claim Khan is sheltering some of those protesters. Last night as those forces began surrounding Khan's home, I spoke to him on Zoom, and he says he believes there's a plan to kill him, but that he's staying put.

IMRAN KHAN: This is where I will live and die. You know, I will be here till my last breath. There's no question of me leaving my country.

MARTÍNEZ: Wow. Sounds very, very tense. Let's step back a bit for a second, Diaa. What triggered all this?

HADID: Right. Well, Khan was the prime minister until April last year when the military signaled they no longer supported his rule. And then he lost a no-confidence vote in Parliament. The military here is the most powerful institution in the country. They were widely seen as propelling Khan to power until they had a falling out. But Khan's been fighting back, staging protests, court challenges, communicating over social media. He wants early elections, and if they were held, he'd probably win. But Khan's facing a swath of corruption cases, and if he's found guilty, he'll likely be disqualified from running. And Khan says that's the point of this whole crisis. He says Pakistan's army chief and the ruling coalition have decided he can't come back as prime minister.

KHAN: He, along with these 12-party coalition, have made up their mind that, whatever happens, Imran Khan can't win the elections.

MARTÍNEZ: So it sounds like a political fight. But you've been reporting that there have been bigger ramifications.

HADID: Yeah, this has caused the economy to unravel. Inflation's soaring. Millions are going hungry. This is a nuclear-armed country with 240 million people. It has a problem with extremism and now this political crisis. And it even intensified again this week with a crackdown against Khan's supporters and advisers. Some of them are being released from detention only to step out of courthouses and be taken again. And the army says it's going to use secret military trials to prosecute some of them. So this is Khan again.

KHAN: I mean, it's a total banana republic right now. Are we headed for out-and-out martial law?

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So what's the government saying?

HADID: For now, the government supports this crackdown. They say Khan's dangerous. The army, though, hasn't spoken to journalists yet, but one analyst tells me the military has turned on nearly every Pakistani prime minister once they don't do their bidding. That analyst's name is Mosharraf Zaidi, and he says this crisis is squarely the army's fault.

MOSHARRAF ZAIDI: This is something that the military is going to have to seriously consider, what it's doing to any potential the country has left.

HADID: But few people are hopeful this standoff between the army and Khan will end any time soon.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Diaa Hadid in Islamabad. Thanks.

HADID: You're welcome, A.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTÍNEZ: Montana has become the first state to ban TikTok.

FADEL: It's seen as a test case as other states and Washington debate the future of the hit video-sharing app. There are many questions like how is the ban going to work? Is it even legal? On the app, Montana-based creators have started saying their goodbyes, promoting other social media platforms.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I have my YouTube linked, and I'm also going to start an Instagram this summer.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: I am going to keep posting. I do have a YouTube account.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: See you. I'll be on YouTube.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn joins us now to discuss all this. Bobby, can an app be banned in a state? I mean, how does that work?

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: Yeah. So supporters of the bill point to online gambling. They say online gambling sites are blocked in states where it's illegal. It is possible to design a digital firewall, you know, something known as a geofence, to prohibit a site or app from being accessed within a state. And that's what Montana is trying to do here - right? - with stiff penalties. The law makes it illegal to download TikTok, and any entity that provides access to TikTok, like an app store, could be fined up to $10,000 a day for making TikTok available. Now, some experts say it's going to be pretty tough to enforce this ban, but, you know, they have some time to work out the kinks because the law doesn't go into effect until January.

MARTÍNEZ: But what got Montana to this place, banning TikTok?

ALLYN: Yeah, well, Montana and dozens of other states have shared a concern that many in Washington have with TikTok. And it's been described to me as the China problem, right? TikTok's parent company is ByteDance, which is based in Beijing. And state and federal officials fear that the Chinese government could request the data of millions of Americans and then use that data to try to influence the views of Americans or spy on U.S. citizens. So because of this fear, Montana and many other states banned TikTok on government-issued devices. We heard a lot about that. But what happened yesterday - the governor signing a bill outright banning TikTok within the state's borders - I mean, that, A, is so much more. It's a much more drastic step.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. Safe for me to say that TikTok will be fighting this.

ALLYN: Oh, yeah. It's widely expected that it will be in the courts soon. TikTok says the ban is an unconstitutional violation of Americans' free speech rights. And, you know, groups like the ACLU are backing TikTok's fight. The ACLU says the government can't impose a total ban on a social media platform unless there is an immediate harm to national security. And if TikTok and the ACLU are to be believed, you know, they say there just is not enough evidence to support the idea that TikTok is a threat to national security.

MARTÍNEZ: Well, what is the evidence that it would pose a threat?

ALLYN: Yeah, there isn't any direct evidence that the Chinese government has ever accessed TikTok user data. But critics of TikTok point to intelligence laws in China that allow the government kind of unfettered access to a company's customer records. On top of that, ByteDance has used its other social media apps in China to amplify and promote stories pushing the official Chinese government line. So there's a fear that they might do that with TikTok.

MARTÍNEZ: All right, so Montana banning TikTok - has the Biden White House made any decision on TikTok?

ALLYN: Yeah. You know, White House officials have threatened to ban TikTok nationally unless ByteDance finds an American buyer. But negotiations are kind of at a standstill right now. You know, TikTok, for its part, says it has a new data security plan that will keep Americans' data outside of the reach of Chinese authorities. But Biden officials are just not convinced. And, A, as these talks continue between the White House and TikTok, you can bet that White House officials will be watching to see how this Montana case plays out in federal courts.

MARTÍNEZ: We would never ban NPR tech reporter Bobby Allyn. Bobby, talk again soon.

ALLYN: I hope not. Thanks, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.