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US Department of Defense Investigates Leak of Classified Documents on US Spying on Russia and Ukraine

The US Department of Defense (DOD) is investigating the recent leak of classified documents that were posted online, revealing details of US spying on Russia's war machine in Ukraine and secret assessments of Ukraine's combat power, as well as intelligence gathering on America's allies, including South Korea and Israel. The leaked documents reportedly show the US has intimate knowledge of Russia's intelligence service, the GRU, but also indicate Ukraine's military has been suffering from over a year of conflict.[0] It's not just sensitive documents about Russia and Ukraine in the leaked files, however.[0] The New York Times reports that leaked images include intelligence evaluations of nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, as well as threat assessments concerning China.[0]

The documents were reportedly leaked from the DOD in recent weeks and were posted on numerous social media sites, including Twitter, Telegram, and Discord. Many of the papers detail US national security secrets about Ukraine, China, and the Middle East.[1] The documents reportedly show just how far the Pentagon has infiltrated Russian intelligence.[1] Other documents include analysis from US intelligence agencies about Russia and several other countries, all based on information gleaned from classified sources.[2]

The Justice Department has opened an investigation into reports that a trove of apparently classified US intelligence documents was leaked online from the Pentagon, the Defense Department said on Sunday night. On Sunday, a spokesperson for the Defense Department announced that the Department of Justice had initiated a criminal probe regarding the leakage of documents that “seem to contain delicate and exceptionally confidential data.”[3] According to the spokesperson, the validity of the documents was still under evaluation by the Pentagon.[4]

The New York Times was the first US outlet to report on the existence of the leaked documents on Thursday, which appeared to include military assessments about the war between Russia and Ukraine.[5] At first, it looked like the documents originally appeared on Twitter and Telegram—the latter being a social media site that's very popular in Russia.[0] However, newer evaluations suggest that the records initially appeared in far more peculiar locations.[0] For instance, a Feb. 23 overview of fighting in Ukraine's Donbas region forecasts a “grinding campaign of attrition” by Russia that “is likely heading toward a stalemate, thwarting Moscow's goal to capture the entire region in 2023.”[2]

This leak is a significant breach of military intelligence comparable to the Russian invasion in 2022, and it occurs just as Ukraine is getting ready to initiate the spring offensive.[6] The documents “represent a significant breach in security, which could compromise US and NATO support for Ukraine,” said Mick Mulroy, a former DOD official and CIA officer.[6]

On Thursday, the Pentagon announced that it is examining the leak that was initially disclosed by the New York Times, as per the Department of Defense. According to another official, the Pentagon is currently investigating the source and severity of the leaked material.[7] Another included “a secret plan to prepare and equip nine brigades of the Armed Forces of Ukraine by the US and NATO for the spring offensive,” a Telegram account that posted documents said. According to the Telegram account, there are documents that reveal a confidential strategy to ready and supply nine brigades of the Ukrainian Armed Forces for a spring assault, with the aid of the US and NATO.

0. “Top Secret Pentagon Documents Were Leaked To Online Forum About Minecraft: Report” Forbes, 9 Apr. 2023, https://www.forbes.com/sites/mattnovak/2023/04/09/top-secret-pentagon-documents-were-leaked-to-online-forum-about-minecraft-maps-report/

1. “Russian fighter jet nearly shot down British spy plane, according to leaked US military documents” New York Post , 9 Apr. 2023, https://nypost.com/2023/04/09/russian-fighter-jet-nearly-shot-down-british-spy-plane-leaked-docs

2. “Intelligence leak exposes U.S. spying on adversaries and allies” The Washington Post, 9 Apr. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2023/04/08/intelligence-leak-documents-ukraine-pentagon/

3. “DOJ opens investigation into leaks of apparent classified US military documents” CNN, 9 Apr. 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/04/07/politics/pentagon-leaked-ukraine-documents/index.html

4. “Justice Department opens criminal investigation into leaked Pentagon documents that “appear to contain sensitive and …” CBS News, 10 Apr. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/pentagon-leaked-classified-documents-ukraine-criminal-investigation

5. “Leaked secret Pentagon documents lift the lid on U.S. spying on Russia’s war in Ukraine” NBC News, 10 Apr. 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/national-security/leaked-documents-show-us-spying-russia-war-ukraine-rcna78876

6. “Leaked military documents on Ukraine battlefield operations circulated as early as March” POLITICO, 7 Apr. 2023, https://www.politico.com/news/2023/04/07/leaked-military-documents-on-ukraine-battlefield-operations-circulated-as-early-as-march-00091073

7. “Pentagon investigating how Ukraine war document marked top-secret appeared online” CBS News, 9 Apr. 2023, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/military-slide-ukrainian-troop-document-leaked-posted-social-media/