The person behind a massive leak of classified US military documents worked on a military base and posted sensitive national security secrets in an online group of acquaintances, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
The Post reporting, which CNN could not independently verify, covers new ground in identifying the supposed leaker of highly classified documents – including some that paint a pessimistic US view of the war in Ukraine – and provides the first known details about who may be behind a major national security breach that has rocked Washington in recent days.
The leaker, described in the Post story as a lonely young man and gun enthusiast, was part of a chatroom of about two dozen people on Discord – a social media platform popular with video gamers – that shared a love of guns and military gear, The Post reported, citing an interview with the leaker’s friend who was also part of the group.
The friend told the Post he would not reveal the identity of the alleged leaker or their location to authorities.
The leaker, going by the moniker “OG,” began posting messages to the Discord chatroom last year that referenced military jargon, The Post reported. In the months that followed, the leaker posted messages in which he appeared to transcribe classified information from US documents, according to the report.
“They were, he recalled, what appeared to be near-verbatim transcripts of classified intelligence documents that OG indicated he had brought home from his job on a ‘military base,’ which the member declined to identify,” the Post reported, referring to messages posted by the anonymous user.
“OG claimed he spent at least some of his day inside a secure facility that prohibited cellphones and other electronic devices, which could be used to document the secret information housed on government computer networks or spooling out from printers,” according to the Post.
The report went on to describe the Discord server apparently controlled by “OG,” where recently leaked classified documents were posted, as a “pandemic refuge, particularly for teen gamers locked in their houses and cut off from their real-world friends.”
A Discord spokesperson told CNN on Sunday that the company is cooperating with law enforcement on the investigation but declined further comment. CNN has reached out to Discord following The Washington Post reporting.
“He wanted to ‘keep us in the loop,’” the group member told the Post. And “OG” “seemed to think that his insider knowledge would offer the others protection from the troubled world around them,” according to the Post report.
“If you could think it, it was in those documents,” the friend and member of OG’s Discord group told the Post.
The Discord chatroom, or “server,” disappeared from online after news of the leaks broke last week, according to a CNN review of Discord servers. Some of the documents were subsequently posted by Discord users to another invitation-only server. Some Discord users thought the documents were fake because they didn’t think anyone would be brazen enough to post them online, according to a CNN review of messages on the platform.
Bellingcat, an investigative outlet, first reported on the connection between the leaked documents and the two Discord servers.
Discord claims to have about 150 million monthly users, and its popularity has risen during a coronavirus pandemic that initially confined people to their homes.