Leaker of damaging U.S. intelligence files was reportedly administrator of a Discord chat room

Discord Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The U.S. is scrambling to contain the damage from the leak of potentially hundreds of classified documents discovered last week on social media sites. The Justice Department is investigating to figure out who leaked the documents and why, and the Pentagon is working with the State Department, White House, and intelligence agencies to determine how damaging the leak is, try and assuage angry allies, and figure out how to prevent future breaches.

At this point, "we don't know who is behind this; we don't know what the motive is," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Monday. "We don't know what else might be out there."

Users of the social media site Discord say an administrator of a closed group chat room, or server, called "Thug Shaker Central" posted hundreds of classified documents during arguments over Russia's Ukraine invasion. Most of the documents that have emerged are from February and March, but the open-source investigators at Bellingcat said they saw evidence of documents from January. Bellingcat traced a handful of leaked documents from Thug Shaker Central to two larger Discord servers in early March, then 4Chan, and finally, on April 5, pro-Russia Telegram channels. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was briefed on the leak April 6.

Bellingcat spoke with three members of the Thug Shaker Central server, which was deleted April 7, and they described it as a tight-knit community of about 20 active users who shared an interest in video games, music, and Orthodox Christianity. The server "was not especially geopolitical in nature, although its users had a staunchly conservative stance on several issues," Bellingcat recounted. "Racial slurs and racist memes were shared widely."

The Discord users all refused to identify the person who posted the classified files, and one user told The Associated Press he kept copies of "way past hundreds" of the documents posted by "O.G." He said Americans deserve to see the files, and "on the off chance that the O.G. gets arrested, I'm leaking them all." Discord said it is cooperating with law enforcement investigating the leak.

"A surprisingly large number of people potentially had access to the Pentagon intelligence documents," The New York Times reports, "but clues left online may help investigators narrow down the pool of possible suspects relatively quickly." Notably, the Times says, "the intelligence materials appear to have been first photographed and then uploaded online, a kind of sloppy procedure" that could yield promising digital fingerprints.

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