Minecraft mines out Pentagon Papers
THU.| 5-25-23 | OPINION
The New York Times was the first U.S. outlet to report on the recent classified document leak through a Minecraft server. Bellingcat, an open source intelligence research firm, has been tracking the top-secret military documents that were leaked online. First seen on Twitter and Telegram, later found that their original source was Discord. This is a platform popular among video game enthusiasts where users can host their own chat rooms called servers and 4Chan, an anonymous message and imagine board. This leaves the public anxious to find out exactly how these documents were originally photographed.
According to Bellingcat, the set of documents were pictures taken of the papers that were sent through a Discord server. Ten documents titled “Top Secret” were posted to a Discord server called Minecraft Earth Maps. They were originally leaked after two users got into an argument about Minecraft maps and the war in Ukraine, one of the users
Graphic by Elliott Flinchbaugh
replies “here have some leaked documents,” attaching pictures of the documents. The Washington Post reported that an additional Discord server called WowMaoalso included over 30 classified documents before the forum was deleted. As if the story is not already bizarre enough, Bellingcat reports of a discord user who claims another server called Thug Shaker Central released documents as early as January 13. This server contained more documents than the ones leaked by WowMao, including how the CIA has recruited agents as well as detailed information about how the United States tracks Russian forces with satellite imagery.
The documents were not all from the same agency, but rather from a number of agencies. This included documents from the National Security Agency (NSA), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The set of documents is reported to contain information about Russia’s intelligence service, the Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravlenie (the Russian chief intelligenc office) and indications that the Ukrainian military has been suffering from over a year of conflict. The information found in the leaked documents is not only information about Ukraine and Russia’s governments and militaries, but also nuclear plans in Iran and North Korea as well as threat assessments on China.
I find it very difficult to understand how all of these “highly classified” documents have made their way to the general public, and more specifically, why of all places were they leaked through a Minecraft server. It is clear that whoever originally leaked the information is not worried about the potential outcomes of getting caught. I also find it strange that they have no way of tracking down exactly who is responsible for spreading the information or where the original source was. I would think that if this classified information is so important then it shouldn’t be difficult for the government to track down who sent them. Also, if they were sent in the form of photographed documents, could they not just check the cameras of the area in which they are located. I would assume that something of such importance would be under constant surveillance and it would not be easy to just go in and take pictures of it.
The entire story seems very odd and though there are definitely some unknowns, I feel that it is more of the internet wanting something interesting to report about and less of an actual issue for the United States.