The Pentagon documents leak has been traced to users arguing over the war in Ukraine in closed video game chat groups hosted by Discord.
A damaging batch of documents leaked from the Pentagon appears to have been initially shared on the video game chat platform Discord in an effort to win an argument about the war in Ukraine, according to open-source intelligence analysts.
The bizarre provenance of the leak may seem unusual but it is far from the first time that a dispute between gamers has sparked an intelligence breach, with the overlapping communities causing problems for military and gaming platforms alike.
The existence of the leaked cache was exposed as documents showing estimated casualties in the Bakhmut theatre of battle began circulating on public social networks last week.
Two versions of those documents, one of which had been crudely digitally altered to understate Russian casualties and overstate Ukrainian ones, were passed around among observers of the war. One, with the correct figures, stemmed from a leak to 4chan, the chaotic image board best known for birthing the “alt right” movement.
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At the same time, a second set of documents, including the edited image, were being passed around pro-Russian Telegram channels.
Neither was the original source, however. Before they emerged on to the public internet, the documents had been shared on closed chatrooms hosted by Discord, a gamer-focused chat app. In one server, called “Minecraft Earth Map”, 10 of the documents were posted as early as 4 March, a month before they appeared on 4chan.
“After a brief spat with another person on the server about Minecraft Maps and the war in Ukraine, one of the Discord users replied: ‘Here, have some leaked documents’ – attaching 10 documents about Ukraine, some of which bore the ‘top secret’ markings,” said Aric Toler, an analyst at the investigative research group§ Bellingcat.
A senior Biden administration official said that Ukraine war plans have been leaked, which has prompted a Pentagon investigation.
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