© 2024 WGLT
A public service of Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Washington Post reports it has learned details of the alleged leaker of documents

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The person who initiated the leak of a huge cache of highly classified Pentagon secrets that's revealed the state of war in Ukraine and who the U.S. spies on is a person who loves guns, military gear and God, and he worked on a U.S. military base. That's according to a Washington Post report that found and interviewed, on camera, a friend of that leaker. They were in the same gamer group on the online platform Discord, where the leaker went by the pseudonym OG. Shane Harris, The Washington Post intelligence and national security reporter, is one of the people who found and interviewed this friend, along with other companions in that invitation-only gamer group where this leaker allegedly first shared these documents.

Here's the friend, who agreed to be recorded by The Washington Post. The person is a minor and spoke on the condition of anonymity and with permission from his parents.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I want to keep OG's identity secret because I still care for him like he's a family member. He is not a Russian operative. He is not a Ukrainian operative.

FADEL: Shane Harris joins us now to talk about this reporting. Hi, Shane.

SHANE HARRIS: Hi. Good morning.

FADEL: So the first thing I was thinking when I read your report was, why did this person talk to you who's expressing loyalty and care for the alleged leaker? Why would he talk to you, and how did you find him?

HARRIS: He said that he was interested in speaking because he felt that people misunderstood why these documents were important and also were essentially saying his friend must somehow be some kind of foreign operative if he were releasing it. And he said he wanted to set the record straight. We found him through some of the same channels that these documents have been appearing, primarily in social media, and were able to reach out to him and then eventually talk to him directly in real life. And he was able to provide us with a number of different pieces of supporting information that corroborated his identity and demonstrated that he was, in fact, part of this group that was seeing these classified documents.

FADEL: So what did he tell you about the person who shared these documents?

HARRIS: This person, who he calls OG - and he said he and another person who we spoke to who was a member of the group do know the identity, the name and the location of the person, but they won't reveal it - described him as the kind of leader of this group that formed on this Discord server at the beginning of the pandemic. And they kind of all stuck together while they were in isolation. Said he's a younger person in his early 20s, that he works at a military base and that the nature of his job gave him access to these highly classified documents that they understood he was bringing home from work and then sharing with people in the Discord server.

They also indicated that he had worked some of the time in his job in a - as they kind of described it - a secure facility where this information could be accessed. We would know this as something called a SCIF. It would be something that you might see in a government installation that would kind of be like a secured room or area where someone could access classified information.

FADEL: Did he want this wider leak outside of this private group?

HARRIS: No, and he was actually quite distressed by that. When the information showed up on a different Discord server and then migrated onto Telegram and onto Twitter, where it's - where it got picked up by, you know, journalists and sort of the wider world, he and another member we spoke to said they felt essentially betrayed by another person who was in the group who shared that information and felt that it was never meant by OG to be shared beyond this group of a couple of dozens - a couple dozen people. So they essentially felt, you know, kind of ironically, that someone had leaked on them by sharing this classified information, which, of course, none of them were ever authorized to look at.

FADEL: Now, law enforcement is searching for who the leaker is. This has been embarrassing for the United States, in some cases, a lot of secrets shared. I'm sure they're interested in your anonymous sources at this point. Are they talking to the same people?

HARRIS: I can't say who law enforcement is talking to at this point. But we know from the sources we talked to, law enforcement, they say, has not contacted them yet.

FADEL: Shane Harris is The Washington Post intelligence and national security reporter. Thank you so much for your reporting and your time.

HARRIS: Thanks, Leila. 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.