USA overwhelmed by the massive leaks of confidential documents

Tags : United States, leaks, confidential documents, sensitive information, Ukrania, Russia,

Joe Biden said he was « concerned » by the leak of confidential American documents, but it is the entire federal establishment which seems overwhelmed and which is trying to find out who could have organized these « leaks ».

The scenario is furiously reminiscent of a formidable Hollywood pochade, Burn After Reading (2008). In this spy comedy by the Coen brothers, a CD stuffed with confidential data navigated between nickel-plated feet in Washington, tossed between the CIA, the Russian embassy and a gym. We had a good laugh at the time in the spans of power, faced with the comical performance of George Clooney, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt and John Malkovich.

We’re not laughing at all and we’re very embarrassed in Washington since social networks and e-mails found themselves inundated overnight with top-secret documents from the American intelligence services: a critical assessment of the Ukrainian armed forces, glaring shortage of ammunition, doubts about its ability to carry out an effective counter-offensive, espionage « among friends » and in particular against Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, revelations about secret arms deliveries from Serbia to Ukraine, about the Egyptian projects to do the same for the benefit of Russia, and finally on the dissensions between Russian security services. In the latter case, the accuracy of the information, relating to internal quarrels about the amount of Russian losses suffered in Ukraine.

Gigantic stalking

Embarrassment on all levels, fury in European chancelleries, panic in kyiv where Washington’s duplicity and procrastination suddenly come to light. A gigantic hunt has been launched in the corridors of the federal establishment to discover who could have organized such leaks.

In a Washington Post investigation, journalists Shane Harris and Samuel Oakford traced the vein and believe they have identified the individual behind the scandal: he uses the nickname « OG » on a small Discord server, a popular tool for fans of video games, having formed around him a group of about twenty virtual acquaintances, mainly minors, united by the love of a holy trilogy, « God, arms and military equipment ». Aged about twenty, the leader works on a military base and has sufficient clearance to access various levels of classification. The documents he transcribed by hand during the early days were shared with his small coterie, to which he seems determined to make it clear that « the authorities hide many things from the average citizen ». Then he grew bolder and published scans of documents photographed on the fly, all stamped with the seal “secret” or “confidential”. We pinch ourselves in front of so much candor and low-level conspiracy. The protagonists compete with crude and racist memes and jokes.

The so-called OG, on the run, “mostly succeeded in making impressionable teenagers believe that he was the dream cross between a modern gamer and a Jason Bourne”, quipped Harris and Oakford. The catch is that foreign nationals were in the group and at least two were from Ukraine and Russia. It is still unknown at this time which of these individuals exported the documents to other forums frequented by thousands of Internet users. It was in March that the « bomb » exploded in the face of the American authorities, when certain pages failed on Twitter and Telegram. Aric Toler, of the Bellingcat investigation site, went up the slope to « OG ». Everything indicates that he was in no way a whistleblower on a mission, but simply a young employee of the Ministry of Defense wishing to open “his world” to moderately involved co-religionists. We pinch ourselves again in front of the vulnerability of the American security and IT edifice, and the naivety of the gamers projected into this conspiracy, a little too fed at the breast of another television classic, the Netflix series Stranger Things,

What is Discord?

Par Charles-Henri Van Loosveldt (St.)

Discord is an online discussion platform created in 2015 by Americans Jason Citron and Stan Vishnevskiy, allowing its users to exchange by written messages or video calls within communities. The goal when it was launched was twofold: to combine all the functionalities of existing chat software, while simplifying the setting up of private or public servers – these being hosted by the company, thus sparing Internet users this task.

More or less large communities are grouped around interests and hobbies of all kinds (from music to politics, hiking and cooking), public figures (influencers, YouTubers), but also in a large extent around online video gaming. Indeed, facilitating communication between players during their games was the original motivation of the founders, so the popularity of Discord among gamers is therefore not a surprise.

The company has grown rapidly in recent years: the number of registered users is around 500 million, while the number of monthly active users is estimated at 190 million. In 2020, the company generated $130 million in revenue according to The Wall Street Journal. Following Discord’s rejection of a $12 billion takeover plan formulated by Microsoft, the platform’s value has been assessed at amounts of up to $15 billion.

Le Soir (Belgium), 13/04/2023

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