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Leaker who posted Pentagon docs 'in his 20s, works at a military base'
REVEALED: Leaker who posted top secret Pentagon documents in a Discord group ‘works at a military base and is in his 20s’ – as close friend describes him as ‘fit, strong, armed and trained… like something out of a crazy movie’
- The man who leaked a trove of U.S. military and intelligence documents from the fall of 2022 until mid March this year has been described by those who knew him
- He is referred to as ‘OG’ by members of a chat room he administered on Discord, and said to be in his early 20s with a job on a U.S. military base
- The FBI and Pentagon are now hunting for ‘OG’ – described as ‘a young, charismatic man who loves nature, God, shooting guns and racing cars’
The man behind the most significant leak of classified documents in a decade is a 20-something video game and gun enthusiast who worked at a secure military site, according to a report, and shared the files in a chat room with a group of around 20 like-minded young people.
Two members of the chat room, known as ‘Thug Shaker Central’, described to The Washington Post the person who had shared the documents.
‘He’s fit. He’s strong. He’s armed. He’s trained. Just about everything you can expect out of some sort of crazy movie,’ one of the members said.
He described him as ‘a young, charismatic man who loves nature, God, shooting guns and racing cars.’
Amid an intense search for the source of the leaks, The Washington Post reported they had seen video and photos of the man, as well as recordings of his interactions with members of the group.
In a video seen by The Post, the man is seen at a shooting range with a large rifle, wearing safety glasses and ear coverings. The man looks into the camera and yells racial and antisemitic insults, then fires multiple rounds at a target.
One of the leaked documents, which have been posted online – sparking a FBI hunt for the leaker, and a Pentagon investigation
This document appears to show the state of Ukraine’s air defenses in February and in May, when it is anticipated they’ll be badly depleted
Ukraine’s air defenses could be depleted within weeks – making the country vulnerable to Russia President Vladimir Putin’s fighter jets, newly leaked Pentagon documents suggests
Images circulating online reveal clues that point to the leaker’s identity. This picture shows an English-language instruction manual for a hunting scope in the background
The leaks – which began six to eight months ago and stopped in mid March, and were first reported by The New York Times on April 6 – have sparked a manhunt across multiple U.S. agencies.
What is the encrypted app Discord?
Discord is a messaging service which is invite-only and encrypted – meaning data is concealed by being converted into code.
The platform can only be accessed with a log-in and password with chat groups known as ‘servers’ – of which many remain small and exclusive.
Any Discord user is able to start a server for free and invite their friends.
There are also larger, more open communities, which usually focus on specific topics such as popular games like Minecraft and Fortnite.
The app estimates it is being used worldwide by tens of millions aged 13+.
Discord says the server is: ‘A place where they can be themselves and spend time with other people who share their interests and hobbies’.
The two chat room members told The Washington Post they expected the leaker to be caught, but denied he was an Edward Snowden-type whistleblower.
Instead, they said, he was sharing the documents with his group of friends, believing they may find them interesting, and ‘wanting us to be super soldiers’.
‘If you had classified documents, you’d want to flex at least a little bit, like hey, I’m the big guy,’ the member said.
‘There is a little bit of showing off to friends, but as well as wanting to keep us informed.’
The documents included analyses of Ukraine’s military campaign; revelations that the U.S. spied on the leaders of Ukraine and South Korea, among others; and insight from within Russia’s military intelligence agency. Other documents showed U.S. concern about Egypt potentially supplying Russia with weapons, and detailed U.S. efforts to spy on Iran’s secret weapons programs. They also discussed nuclear weapons.
‘If your tax dollars are funding these atrocities, then we should be able to know about it,’ the member said.
The two members of ‘Thug Shaker Central’ referred to the leaker as ‘OG’ – slang for Original Gangster.
Both said they know his real name, and in which state he lives and works, but refused to say.
They said he was older than them, aged in his early to mid 20s.
One of the two was under 18, and spoke to The Washington Post with his mother’s permission. His version of events was corroborated by the second chat room member.
He spoke to The Washington Post for a series of video interviews, with his face obscured but his real voice used.
‘I want to keep OG’s identity secret because I still care for him, like a family member,’ the teenager said.
The documents – while up to several months old – offer detailed insights into which Russian intelligence agencies have been most compromised, and clues as to how the United States has gleaned so much secret Kremlin information
The intelligence breach could have a drastic impact upon the landscape of the conflict in Ukraine. Biden seen pictured meeting Ukrainian President Zelensky in February 2023
Thug Shaker Central formed in 2020, with OG acting as an unofficial leader.
A channel within the group was named ‘Bear v Pig’ – a reference to the Russian war on Ukraine – and it was in this channel that OG shared the documents.
READ MORE: Leaked Pentagon documents show spies are deeply ingrained in Russian intelligence services and Putin’s army is ravaged after a year of fighting
‘He is not a Russian operative. He is not a Ukrainian operative,’ the member said. ‘Any claims that he is a Russian agent are categorically false. He is not interested in helping any foreign agencies with their attacks on the US.’
‘There is some anti-government sentiment. But that is not uncommon among most right-wingers.’
The teenager member told The Washington Post there were around 25 people who were in their group, about half of them located overseas.
Members were from Europe, Asia, and South America. There were several Russians and Ukrainians, he said.
He saw the group like a family, and said that OG counseled him when he was depressed.
‘We all grew very close to each other, like a tight-knit family,’ the member said. ‘We depended on each other.
‘There was no lack of love for each other.’
The teenager said they all looked up to OG, who he described as being ‘like an uncle’ and a father figure.
He was impressed by what he saw as OG’s ability to predict global events, which he said was down to his access to information which ‘only someone with this kind of high clearance’ would know.
On Wednesday night, The Wall Street Journal reported that the documents were believed to have come from the Central Intelligence Agency’s Operations Center and the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The documents are usually briefed to senior-level decision makers at the Pentagon.
‘I was one of the very few people in the server that was able to understand that these [documents] were legitimate,’ the member said.
‘It felt like I was on top of Mount Everest.
‘I felt like I was above everyone else to some degree and that I knew stuff that they didn’t.’
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is seen on April 5. Some of the leaked documents discussed Iran’s secret weapons programs
OG posted several documents a week, and became annoyed when the others in the channel did not seem to pay attention to them.
‘He got upset, and he said on multiple occasions, if you guys aren’t going to interact with them, I’m going to stop sending them,’ the member said.
OG had originally spent many hours, he said, transcribing the documents: when the group became disinterested, OG switched ‘in anger’ to uploading photos of the documents instead.
‘He was a very smart man – there is no way, in any world, that he would not know that these were illegal.’
The change in tactics was risky: the photos provide clues to those trying to track the leaker down, such as household items, paper used, and backgrounds.
OG was critical of what he saw as ‘government overreach’, and ‘was critical of Waco and Ruby Ridge’.
Waco was the scene of a 1993 law enforcement stand-off with members of a cult; Ruby Ridge was an 11-day siege of preppers, in Idaho, in 1992.
He also spread conspiracy theories – arguing that the federal government knew in advance that a white supremacist was planning to murder black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, but deliberately let the attack happen, so they could ask for more funding.
The member said that, for several months, the documents were safe.
‘Most people in the server were smart enough as to kind of realize that they shouldn’t be posted anywhere else,’ the member said.
Yet on February 28, another member of the group shared the files in a chat room hosted by YouTuber ‘wow_mao’.
They then began spreading across the internet.
On April 6 – hours before The New York Times published their first report about the leak – OG came into the chat room ‘frantic, which is unusual for him,’ the member said.
‘He said something had happened, and he prayed to God that this event would not happen. But now it’s in God’s hands.’
The Chinese army is pictured on parade on Thursday. The leaked documents also detailed U.S. assessments of China
The chat room member said he remains in contact with OG until two days before he spoke to The Washington Post.
Thug Shaker Central was closed, but OG opened another room to communicate with the 25.
He ‘seemed very confused and lost as to what to do,’ the member said.
‘He’s fully aware of what’s happening and what the consequences may be. He’s just not sure on how to go about solving this situation. He seems pretty distraught about it.’
OG sent a final message to the group, telling them to ‘keep low and delete any information that could possibly relate to him.’
The group, realizing that OG had to disappear, ‘full-on sobbed and cried,’ the young member said.
‘It is like losing a family member.’
The teenager said he thought OG could be assassinated, or sent to Guantanamo Bay.
‘Maybe we should have had better opsec,’ he said – referencing ‘operations security.’
The teenager added: ‘I think I might be detained eventually. I think there might be a short investigation on how I knew this guy and they’ll try to get something out of me. They might try to threaten me with prison time if I don’t reveal their identity.’
The FBI is hunting for the source, and the Pentagon has opened an investigation.
‘An interagency effort has been stood up, focused on assessing the impact these photographed documents could have on U.S. national security and on our Allies and partners,’ said Sabrina Singh, Pentagon deputy press secretary.
Discord said in a statement that it is cooperating with law enforcement and has declined to comment further.
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