America’s Department of Justice just launched an investigation into the leaking of classified documents from the U.S. Department of Defense, reports the Washington Post.
“On Wednesday, images showing some of the documents began circulating on the anonymous online message board 4chan and made their way to at least two mainstream social media platforms, Telegram and Twitter.”
Earlier Friday, The Washington Post obtained dozens of what appeared to be photographs showing classified documents, dating to late February and early March, that range from worldwide intelligence briefings to tactical-level battlefield updates and assessments of Ukraine’s defense capabilities. They outline information about the Ukrainian and Russian militaries, and include highly sensitive U.S. analyses about China and other nations. The materials also reference highly classified sources and methods that the United States uses to collect such information, alarming U.S. national security officials who have seen them…. The material that appeared online includes photographs of documents labeled “Secret” or “Top Secret,” and began appearing on Discord, a chat platform popular with gamers, according to a Post review.
In some cases, it appears that the slides were manipulated. For instance, one image features combat casualty data suggesting the number of Russian soldiers killed in the war is far below what the Pentagon publicly has assessed. Another version of the image showed higher Russian casualty figures. Besides the information on casualties that appeared to be manipulated to benefit the Russian government, U.S. officials who spoke to The Post said many of the leaked documents did not appear to be forged and looked consistent in format with CIA World Intelligence Review reports distributed at high levels within the White House, Pentagon and the State Department….
The documents appear to have been drawn from multiple reports and agencies, and concern matters other than Ukraine. Two pages, for example, are purportedly a “CIA Operations Center Intelligence Update,” and includes information about events concerning Russia, Hungary and Iran…. Rachel E. VanLandingham, a former Air Force attorney and expert on military law, said that whoever is responsible for the leak “is in a world of hurt.” Such breaches, she said, constitute “one of the most serious crimes that exist regarding U.S. national security….”
Skepticism abounded Friday among both Russian and Ukrainian officials aware of reports about the leaks, with each side accusing the other of being involved in a deliberate act of disinformation.
The Post notes one defense official told them “hundreds — if not thousands” of people had access to the documents, so their source “could be anyone.”
But the photographs received by the Post were apparently taken from printed documents, and “classified documents may only be printed from computers in a secure facility, and each transaction is electronically logged, said Glenn Gerstell, a former general counsel with the National Security Agency who emphasized that he was speaking only about general procedures. “The fact that the documents were printed out should significantly narrow the universe of the initial inquiry.”