Washington In their search for the author of the massive secret service data leak, US investigators seem to have found the leak. The FBI federal police arrested a 21-year-old member of the US military in the state of Massachusetts on Thursday (local time).
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the man was taken into custody in connection with the “unauthorized removal, storage and transmission of classified information.” He is a member of the National Guard and his name is Jack T.
US media had previously circulated the first details about the alleged mole. The man is said to have run a chat group on the Discord platform popular with video gamers. He initially shared the explosive documents with the group as copies and later uploaded photos of printed documents there.
Attorney General Garland said the arrested man must now appear in a Massachusetts court. Violations of the US Espionage Act can be punished with up to ten years in prison.
Secret documents from US agencies – allegedly from the CIA and the Pentagon – on the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine have been circulating on the Internet for weeks: information on arms deliveries, assessments of what is happening in the war, but also details on alleged US spying actions against partners.
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It is unclear what is authentic and what could possibly have been edited. A Pentagon spokesman called the release of classified information “a deliberate criminal act.”
Arrested a week after initial reports of leak
The 21-year-old was arrested by the FBI on Thursday around 2:30 p.m. (local time) in front of a residential building in North Dighton, a town between Boston and Providence in the eastern United States. The TV channel CNN showed video footage of the arrest.
There you could see how heavily armed emergency services led away a young, slim man in a T-shirt and shorts. The arrest was made without incident and police are continuing to investigate the home, the FBI said. Since the end of last week, the investigations have been pushed forward intensively.
US media first reported on the leak shortly before Easter without publishing the documents themselves. According to US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, he only found out about the data leak at this point in time, i.e. only about a week ago – even though the material had been floating around on the Internet for weeks.
After that, the government rotated to placate partners and most importantly to find the leak. The Justice Department launched an investigation that has now led to the arrest. Austin thanked investigators.
21-year-old is said to have received documents at the base
Shortly before the arrest, the Washington Post released extensive details about the alleged mole, who some called “OG”. Around two dozen young people with a penchant for weapons and military equipment had come together in his chat group. The group was founded in 2020 during the corona pandemic. “OG” was described there as a charismatic gun nut with dark views of the US government, intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies.
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“OG” told the group that he obtained the documents at a military base where he worked. There he said he spent parts of the day in a secure facility where cell phones and other electronic devices that could be used to take photos or videos were banned. Therefore, he initially copied the documents.
He posted his posts in the group throughout the winter. It was probably about “bragging to his friends” but also about informing them, said a member of the group.
Photos are said to have transferred suspects
According to the newspaper, when copying proved too tedious, he began posting pictures of previously printed papers – and apparently also took a great risk of being caught because such pictures gave investigators clues. The New York Times wrote that details of the 21-year-old’s childhood home, which were published in family photos on social media, matched details in the margins of some photos of the classified documents released.
“OG” stopped sharing documents with the chat group in mid-March, the Washington Post continued. The reason was that someone from the circle – to which users from Russia and Ukraine are said to have belonged – had posted documents in another group at the end of February and thus broken the agreed secrecy.
In early April, just before the New York Times reported the leak, OG seemed desperate. “He said something happened and he prays to God that this event doesn’t happen,” the newspaper quoted a minor member of the group as saying.
There is still no clear picture of the motivation, and the Minister of Justice did not give any details either. “OG” was not hostile to the US government despite his gloomy views, wrote the Washington Post, citing people close to him. According to the chat users, he was not a Russian or Ukrainian agent either.
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