Arrest after US data leak: Not a spy – just a show-off?


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Status: 04/14/2023 06:39 a.m

A 21-year-old military employee is said to be responsible for the spectacular leak of US secret documents. In the US, many are wondering how this could have happened – and how it can be prevented.

Von Arne Bartram, ARD-Studio Washington

This isn’t the first time classified US government information has been leaked. But this current case is special. Because the source is not a spy, not a whistleblower like Edward Snowden. According to investigators, behind the released secret government documents is a 21-year-old military man from the state of Massachusetts who worked for the National Guard at a military base.

Arne Bartram
ARD-Studio Washington

Jim Himes, a member of the US House Intelligence Committee, is stunned. “We’re dealing with a 21-year-old kid trying to impress his friends, not Beijing’s or Russia’s top cyberspies,” he told CNN. “There’s a lot of work ahead of us here to fix this system that keeps allowing information to leak out.”

The Ministry of Defense has already drawn consequences from the case and wants to give fewer people access to secret information in the future. “It was a premeditated crime, a violation of our policies,” said spokesman Patrick Ryder. It will be ensured that in the future only people who need it will have access to secret information. “We always learn something from such situations and continue to research.”

Secret documents published in chat group

The 21-year-old is said to have initially copied the secret documents, then photographed them at home and posted them in a chat group with around two dozen members. Most were teenagers or young men interested in video games, guns, and the military.

A member of the group told the Washington Post: “I don’t think he had any particular purpose in publishing it. He’s critical of the government, but that’s not uncommon for most right-wingers these days.”

Suspects face several decades in prison

After several days of investigation, the authorities found out about the 21-year-old. Police officers arrested him in the state of Massachusetts. TV footage showed FBI officials taking the young man in a T-shirt and shorts away.

He is now facing criminal prosecution. According to US Attorney General Merrick Garland, the allegations are unauthorized removal, storage and transmission of classified information. Depending on the charges, the 21-year-old faces several decades in prison if convicted.

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