Recently, a series of highly classified Pentagon documents were leaked online, revealing the extent to which the United States engages in surveillance of both its allies and enemies. U.S. officials have verified the authenticity of these documents, and they expose the extent of U.S. eavesdropping on several key allies, including Ukraine, Israel, South Korea, and Israel. The unauthorized disclosure of these materials has deeply concerned U.S. officials, who fear that the revelations could harm sensitive sources and important foreign relationships.
Several leaked Pentagon documents reveal how much the United States has infiltrated the Russian Ministry of Defense and the mercenary group Wagner Group. This was primarily accomplished through intercepted communications and human intelligence sources, which could now be compromised or cut off entirely.
Ukraine has reportedly changed its military plans after the recent document leak. The source, close to President Zelensky, revealed that the leak had raised concerns about the country’s ability to protect itself against foreign adversaries.#PentagonLeak #Zelensky #Ukraine pic.twitter.com/KgA6qXwUpS
— News Live (@NewsLiveFree) April 11, 2023
In addition, certain documents disclose vulnerabilities in Ukrainian military capabilities, including weaknesses in air defense, weaponry, and battalion sizes and readiness. The timing is particularly sensitive, as the United States and Ukraine have only recently begun to develop a more trusting relationship, particularly about intelligence-sharing. It comes at a critical juncture in the ongoing conflict as Ukrainian forces prepare to mount a counteroffensive against Russian troops.
Ukraine Changes Military Plans after the Leak, Pentagon Investigates
According to a source close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the leak of highly classified Pentagon documents has prompted Ukraine to modify some of its military plans. The Pentagon is taking the matter seriously, as the information disclosed in the leaked documents could potentially jeopardize important foreign relationships and compromise sensitive sources. Meanwhile, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh stated on Sunday that an “interagency effort” was established to evaluate the leak’s impact.
In response to the leaked Pentagon documents circulating on social media platforms, Singh stated that the Department of Defense is currently examining the accuracy of the records, which seem to contain highly classified and sensitive information. Furthermore, an interagency effort has been established to assess the potential impact of these documents on U.S. national security and the country’s allies and partners.
The leak of the classified Pentagon documents has prompted officials to reevaluate the distribution of highly sensitive information, typically available to hundreds of government personnel daily. A Defense official has revealed that the Joint Staff, which provides advice to the president and is composed of the most senior uniformed leadership in the Defense Department, is currently examining its distribution lists to determine who has access to these reports. The leaked documents, many of which were marked as briefing documents and produced by the Joint Staff’s intelligence unit, J2, have led the Pentagon to tighten the flow of sensitive information.
Diplomats’ Frustration After Leak
Based on screenshots reviewed by CNN, highly classified Pentagon documents surfaced on the social media platform Discord last month. The leaked documents were presented as photos of crumpled papers placed on top of magazines and surrounded by items such as zip-close bags and Gorilla Glue, suggesting that they had been quickly folded up and taken from a secure location before being leaked. According to an individual familiar with such documents, how the documents were shown indicates careless handling of the materials.
In a statement made on Sunday, a spokesperson for Discord confirmed that the company is working with law enforcement officials to investigate the leaked Pentagon documents. While it is common for the U.S. intelligence community to gather information through surveillance, diplomats from several countries mentioned in the papers expressed frustration and concern over the public exposure of sensitive information. They believe the leak could be detrimental to the reputation of the U.S.
U.S. allies are conducting damage assessments to ascertain whether their sources and methods have been compromised due to the Pentagon documents leak. Diplomatic officials from several countries that are part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreement, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, await a damage assessment report from the U.S. However, they also undertake their own assessments since they must immediately start the U.S. assessment. One official from a Five Eyes country disclosed this information.
Five Eyes Officials Concerned About Intelligence Leak
A second official from a Five Eyes country expressed apprehension about the leaked information on the Ukraine war, stating that it could potentially hinder the country’s operations on the battlefield. The official also raised concern about one of the documents titled “Russia-Ukraine: Fight for the Donbas Region Likely Steering for a Stalemate Throughout 2023,” dated February. The document points out the difficulties in assessing the endurance of Ukraine’s operations.
U.S. Spying on Friends
CNN has examined 53 leaked documents, apparently generated between mid-February and early March. One document reveals that the U.S. had been spying on President Zelensky. According to a source close to Zelensky, the surveillance is unsurprising, but Ukrainian officials are extremely dissatisfied with the leak. Based on signal intelligence, the U.S. intelligence report reveals that in late February, Zelensky proposed attacking Russian deployment sites in Russia’s Rostov Oblast using unmanned aerial vehicles since Ukraine lacks long-range weapons that can reach that far.
The National Security Agency defines signals intelligence as intelligence gathered from foreign targets through electronic signals and systems, such as weapons, radars, and communication systems. This type of intelligence may provide context for the U.S.’s reluctance to provide Ukraine with long-range missile systems. Ukraine has reportedly suggested using crewless aerial vehicles to strike Russian deployment locations in Rostov Oblast. Despite these concerns, Ukraine has assured the U.S. that it will not use US-provided weapons to strike inside Russia.
One leaked document provides a detailed account of a conversation between two high-level South Korean national security officials regarding their concerns about a U.S. request for ammunition. The officials worried that providing the ammunition, which would eventually go to Ukraine, would violate South Korea’s policy of not supplying lethal assistance to countries at war. In the document, one of the officials suggests a possible workaround to the policy without changing it by selling the ammunition to Poland.