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The latest on the U.S. intelligence document leaks


Now, this story is still developing, and we'll continue to follow it. And for more context on this leak case, we're going to go to our national security correspondent, Greg Myre. Hi, Greg.


FADEL: OK, so we just heard Shane Harris from The Washington Post describe an unidentified person believed to be behind the leaks. Does law enforcement know as much? Are we likely to see an arrest soon?

MYRE: Well, we don't know exactly, but this case, as we just heard Shane Harris describe, is a real bombshell. We know already in recent days the Justice Department and the FBI are investigating, but they have not publicly offered any indication that they have a suspect in their sights. Now, The Post described the alleged leaker as someone who worked on a military base, and so that should certainly help focus the investigation. You'd certainly want to know if anyone with access to these documents suddenly stopped showing up at work a few days ago. But the leak was reported a week ago, so the person responsible has had several days to plan some course of action, which could include things like fleeing the country.

FADEL: You know, this case makes a lot of people think of another prominent case involving secret documents - Edward Snowden. But it sounds like it was a different situation there. If you could just remind us of the specifics of that case.

MYRE: Right. Edward Snowden was a contractor with the National Security Agency, and he was working in Hawaii in 2013. He had sort of limited supervision in his role there, and he electronically copied a huge volume of classified documents and then fled the country and wound up in Russia, where he remains to this day. He's still sought by U.S. authorities and faces charges in the U.S. He shared all that data with several journalists, including one with The Washington Post. He said he acted to reveal how the NSA was conducting massive global surveillance, and this often meant sweeping up information on U.S. citizens as well. The NSA said Snowden revealed a huge quantity of valuable information gathered with their most advanced surveillance techniques and caused huge damage. In this current case, we're only aware of several dozen documents that were copied, though they do have a great level of military detail on the war in Ukraine.

FADEL: So Snowden intentionally wanting to get these documents out into the wider public - it's not clear that that was the intention with this leaker, according to The Washington Post's reporting, which points to another young person working at a relatively low level with access to highly sensitive documents. So what are the similarities that you're seeing if this turns out to be true?

MYRE: Yes, Leila, if The Post is describing the person responsible, then it is a pattern we've seen before. This was true in the case of Edward Snowden and another massive breach back in 2010 - Chelsea Manning and the WikiLeaks documents. Just a quick reminder, Manning was a private in the U.S. Army in Iraq. Manning worked in intelligence and gave a huge trove of secret diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. This was hugely embarrassing for the U.S., showed how widely the U.S. spied on allies and often talked about them in unflattering terms. Manning ultimately served seven years in prison.

FADEL: NPR's Greg Myre. Thank you so much, Greg.

MYRE: Sure thing, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.