Good dog, people, the Discord document leak isn't that dire. And between yesterday's Post and the Times just now, I think we can all relax a bit.
Look, I haven't seen the leaked documents, nor have I sought to read them, because I don't believe I'm cleared to do so. But the only classification marking I've seen reported is "NOFORN," which just means that you can't share it with non-US citizens.
It's unlawful to disclose that you currently have or have ever had any security clearance above "Public Trust," which is the clearance you need to see, for example, social security numbers. I have worked on a military software project, and I spent time in the Pentagon and on several military bases. You may make whatever inferences from these statements you wish. I'm only saying I have some context for my analysis here.
People misunderstand classification levels, so let me try to provide some perspective. "Classified" just means a document has some notation about how sensitive it is, anything from "public trust" to "confidential" to "top secret/sensitive compartmentalized information" (TS:SCI). There are additional markings that color the overall sensitivity, like "NOFORN" (keep away from non-US citizens) or "FIVE EYES" (OK to share with the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, but not anyone else).
I can't say for certain what kinds of documents exist at each level, but I can speculate. "Confidential" might include an email sent to everyone on a destroyer telling them what time the ship will leave port. The drunk Bosun's Mate 2 might share this information (unlawfully) with a foreign police officer to try to stay out of jail, and might even get an Article 15 for doing so, but...everyone in the port already knew this information.
"Secret" might include, the actual top speed of a warship. Everyone with Wikipedia knows the top speed of an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is "in excess 30 knots," but only our allies, adversaries, other governments, merchant marines, Somali pirates, people with access to commercial satellite photos, and the tens of thousands of people who have served aboard one of these ships knows for sure how fast one can go. You know, a limited group of people.
"Top Secret" and above would include information that could actually get people killed, expose our methods, or ruin our day some other way. I won't speculate in this post about what could be in that category. But Duke University published an article in March 2012 revealing five declassified documents formerly marked "Top Secret," so you can draw your own conclusions.
Last night the Post published an interview with a dumbass kid who participated in the Discord community where a different dumbass kid leaked thousands of lightly-classified documents to impress other dumbass kids:
United by their mutual love of guns, military gear and God, the group of roughly two dozen — mostly men and boys — formed an invitation-only clubhouse in 2020 on Discord, an online platform popular with gamers. But they paid little attention last year when the man some call “OG” posted a message laden with strange acronyms and jargon. The words were unfamiliar, and few people read the long note, one of the members explained. But he revered OG, the elder leader of their tiny tribe, who claimed to know secrets that the government withheld from ordinary people.
This account of how detailed intelligence documents intended for an exclusive circle of military leaders and government decision-makers found their way into and then out of OG’s closed community is based in part on several lengthy interviews with the Discord group member, who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity. He is under 18 and was a young teenager when he met OG. The Post obtained consent from the member’s mother to speak to him and to record his remarks on video.
Bellingcat reports that some of the documents had "Top Secret" markings, but admits, "[a]s the channels were deleted following the controversy generated by the leaked documents, Bellingcat has not been able to confirm" what documents were actually leaked.
All of the other descriptions I've read suggest none the documents had anything in them that Al Jazeera didn't broadcast on its evening news cast later in the week. Embarrassing? Certainly. Anything that our allies and adversaries didn't already know about? Not a chance.
One more thing stood out. Clearly, the leaker was just a dumbass enlisted kid. My best guess: some dumbass Army E4 Specialist assigned to type up briefing papers for some O3 to give to some O5. In any event, I guessed he was no more than 22 years old and likely to get out of jail in his 30s.
It turns out, I wasn't too far from the mark:
The leader of a small online gaming chat group where a trove of classified U.S. intelligence documents leaked over the last few months is a 21-year-old member of the intelligence wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, according to interviews and documents reviewed by The New York Times.
The national guardsman, whose name is Jack Teixeira, oversaw a private online group named Thug Shaker Central, where about 20 to 30 people, mostly young men and teenagers, came together over a shared love of guns, racist online memes and video games.
The Times has been able to link Airman Teixeira to other members of the Thug Shaker Central group through his online gaming profile and other records. Details of the interior of Airman Teixeira’s childhood home — posted on social media in family photographs — also match details on the margins of some of the photographs of the leaked secret documents.
The Times also has established, through social media posts and military records, that Airman Teixeira is enlisted in the 102nd Intelligence Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard. Posts on the unit’s official Facebook page congratulated Airman Teixeira and colleagues for being promoted to Airman First Class in July 2022.
Airman First Class: a dumbass E3. And yes: his job was preparing briefing papers for officers. We'll see what the court martial says about his jail sentence in a couple of months.