Military documents — In recent weeks, social media has been flooded with leaks of US military documents.
As a result, the Justice Department has set up an investigation.
The probe follows the release of further documents on Friday revealing US support for Ukraine as well as major US allies such as Israel.
A serious investigation
The Pentagon declared on Thursday that it was investigating the matter after military documents related to the Ukraine war emerged online.
“They look real,” said a US official.
According to US officials, extensive investigations into what the military files disclosed and how they were disseminated are being conducted.
So far, there has been no reason to dispute the military records.
Public disclosure, according to US officials, is a severe infraction.
Open-source intelligence researchers revealed the military documents on Friday.
They also appeared to be online for several weeks.
The documents appeared to include sensitive information on a number of topics, including:
- Mercenary Wagner Group’s operations in Africa
- Israel’s pathways to provide aid to Ukraine
- Intelligence on the United Arab Emirates’ ties to Russia
- South Korean concerns about ammunition supply to the US for Ukraine
It’s hard to say whether the military documents were altered, but they follow the pattern of sensitive Ukrainian material that’s gone viral on the internet.
On Friday morning, US officials confirmed the authenticity of the papers.
Meanwhile, photographs of recently discovered documents revealed crumpled, printed-out documents with classified and top-secret markings.
They also appeared to have been made between the middle of February and the beginning of March.
It is unknown who printed the leaks or where they originated.
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Officials in shambles
Pentagon officials, notably those on the Joint Staff of the Defense Department, were concerned about military document leaks.
The president is advised by the Department of Defense’s most senior uniformed executives.
The majority of the documents were developed by J2, the Joint Staff’s intelligence arm.
Comparable documents on Ukraine, according to US officials, were part of the Pentagon’s larger daily intelligence briefing deck for high-level commanders covering the issue.
According to authorities, an internal investigation will also be performed, with suspects coming from within the Pentagon.
Given the enormous number of government personnel who have access to the same data, a source said the investigation will reach beyond the Pentagon.
Some of the military documents seemed to have been shared with members of the Five Eyes intelligence partnership, which includes the nations listed below:
- New Zealand
- The United Kingdom
- The United States
According to one insider, the alliance is awaiting a damage assessment while undertaking its own internal investigations.
“We expect the US to share a damage assessment with us in the coming days, but we cannot wait for their assessment; right now, we are doing our own,” said the official.
“We are poring over these documents to figure out if any of the intelligence originated from our collection.”
Some intelligence may have come from Five Eyes allies, according to the official.
Based on the markings, the stolen files appeared to have been taken from someone with access to the US intelligence system.
They claimed that the material had not been shared with the United States’ closest intelligence allies.
The official went on to say that determining the leaker’s intentions was difficult owing to the data’s wide variety of topics.
Other indicators linked to the material of other agencies, such as:
- The State Department’s intelligence arm
- The Defense Intelligence Agency
- The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
- The National Security Agency
Many of the records also indicated that they were obtained by human intelligence and that they were not meant to be shared with other countries, particularly close US allies.
Other publications alluded to confidential CIA information.
“We are aware of the social media posts and are looking into the claims,” said a CIA spokesperson.
Flying under the radar
According to images of the post, some of the classified military documents were shared on the social networking site Discord in early March.
“This shit was sitting in a Minecraft Discord server for a month and no one noticed,” said Aric Toler.
Toler is a Bellingcat researcher who investigated the timing of the documents disclosed.
It wasn’t until lately, courtesy to a 4chan post that showed portions of the documentation, that the military documents garnered additional attention.
Toler claims that a Russian speaker altered a document and posted it on Telegram.
Authorities in the United States believe the paper was tampered with in order to increase the number of Ukrainians killed in the fighting.
The Pentagon stated on Thursday that it was aware of the social media comments and was investigating them.
Members of Discord were worried when the US government initiated its investigation, believing they might be imprisoned for disseminating the material.
A Discord and Twitter user who leaked the military documents has canceled his accounts.
When asked if the FBI or other government agencies had approached Discord as part of their investigation, Discord spokesperson Madeline Sarver stated that the company had no comment.
Meanwhile, Thomas Rid, a state-sponsored information operations specialist, observed:
“The fact that unedited and edited – doctored – versions of some files are available online makes me skeptical that this is a professional Russian intelligence operation.”
According to Rid, when intelligence agencies have access to sensitive data from adversaries and decide to fake it, they frequently do not make both versions of the papers public.
“That only makes it easier to detect the faces, and thus defeats the purpose,” he added.
The leak was unlikely to have been originated by the Russian government, according to Jim Sullivan, a former top cyber officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency.
He stressed how important access to US secrets would be lost if the military documents were released to the public.
“It’s very unlikely that Russia would compromise a major source used to inform the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff for a minor disinformation victory,” said Sullivan.
However, there is concern that the leaked military documents will have a significant impact.
According to Dmitri Alperovitch, executive chairman of Silverado Policy Accelerator and a Russian expert:
“If real, the leaking of these documents can do significant damage to Ukrainian counteroffensive since this information effectively provides Russia with Ukrainian order of battle – extensive information on capabilities of brigades that would be involved in upcoming counteroffensive.”