Leaked Pentagon documents provide rare window into depth of US intelligence on allies and foes



Highly classified Pentagon documents leaked online in recent weeks have provided a rare window into how the U.S. spies on allies and enemies, deeply troubling U.S. officials, who fear the disclosures could expose sensitive sources. can jeopardize and compromise important foreign relations.

Some of the documents, which US officials say are authentic, expose the extent of the US cover-up on key allies including South Korea, Israel and Ukraine.

Others reveal the degree to which the US has infiltrated the Russian Ministry of Defense and the Russian mercenary organization Wagner Group, largely through intercepted communications and human resources, which may now be cut or compromised. .

Still others reveal major weaknesses in Ukrainian weapons, air defenses, and battalion size and readiness at a critical point in the war, just as Ukrainian forces are poised to launch a counteroffensive against the Russians — and as the U.S. and Ukraine has begun to develop a A relationship of mutual trust more than intelligence sharing.

A source close to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN that Ukraine has already changed some of its military plans because of the leak.

The leaks have also led the Pentagon to take steps to tighten the flow of such highly sensitive documents, which are typically available to hundreds of people in government on any given day, officials said.

A defense official said the Joint Staff, which includes the Defense Department’s most senior uniformed leadership that advises the president, is examining the distribution lists of who receives the reports. Many of the documents were marked to indicate they were produced by the intelligence arm of the Joint Staff, known as J2, and appeared to summarize the documents.

Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said Friday that the department was continuing to review the matter and had referred it to the Justice Department, which separately confirmed to CNN that it had opened an investigation into the source of the leak. have done

The documents appeared online on the social media platform Discord last month, according to screenshots of the posts reviewed by CNN. The posts are photos of crumpled documents placed on top of magazines and surrounded by other random objects, such as zip-close bags and gorilla glue. It is as if they were hastily folded and pocketed before being removed from a secure location, a source familiar with these types of documents told CNN.

While spying is an integral part of how the US intelligence community gathers information globally, diplomats from some of the countries mentioned told CNN it was disappointing — and damaging to the US reputation — to share that information. to bring forth in public.

U.S. allies are assessing the damage, scrambling to determine whether their own resources and methods have been compromised by the leak.

“We expect the US to share a damage assessment with us in the coming days, but we cannot wait for their assessment. At the moment we are doing our job,” said an official from one of the countries that is part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing arrangement with the US, which includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

“We are going through these documents to find out if any intelligence has arisen from our collection,” the official said.

A second Five Eyes Nation official expressed concern about leaked Ukraine war information putting the country on the battlefield.

The official also pointed out that it was alarming to see one of the documents from February titled “Russia-Ukraine: Battle for the Donbass Region Likely Heading to Stalemate During 2023”. The document notes the challenges of assessing the “sustainability of Ukraine’s operations.”

“It will be hard for Ukraine to realize the gains, but that doesn’t help the private U.S. assessment pointing to a possible year-long standoff from public exposure,” the official said.

CNN reviewed 53 leaked documents, all of which appear to have been produced between mid-February and early March.

A document reveals that the US has been spying on Zelensky. A source close to Zelensky said it was not surprising, but that Ukrainian officials were very disappointed about the leak.

The US intelligence report, which is the source for the intelligence signals, says that Zelensky in late February “suggested the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to Russian deployment sites in Russia’s Rostov Oblast” because Ukraine has long-range There are no weapons capable of reaching

Signals intelligence includes intercepted communications and is defined by the National Security Agency as “intelligence obtained from electronic signals and systems used by foreign targets, such as communications systems, radars, and weapons systems.”

The intelligence may explain public US comments about not giving Ukraine long-range missile systems out of fear that Kiev would use them to launch strikes inside Russia. But Ukraine has pledged not to use US-supplied weapons to do so.

Relatedly, another intelligence report said that China could use Ukrainian attacks on targets deep inside Russia “as an opportunity to portray NATO as an aggressor, and if it perceives that the attacks were significant May increase its support for Russia.”

Mykhailo Podoliak, adviser to the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said on his Telegram channel on Friday that he believes that the documents that have been circulated are unauthentic, they have “nothing to do with the real plans of Ukraine.” is not” and “based on that. Massive amount of disinformation” spread by Russia.

Yet another document describes, in remarkable detail, a conversation between two senior South Korean national security officials about concerns raised by the country’s National Security Council over a US request for munitions.

Officials worry that the munitions supply, which the U.S. will then send to Ukraine, would violate South Korea’s policy of not supplying lethal aid to countries at war. According to the document, one official then suggested a way to get around the policy without actually changing it — by selling weapons to Poland.

The document has already sparked controversy in Seoul, with South Korean officials telling reporters they plan to raise the issue with Washington, according to The New York Times.

Several diplomats said officials from other countries also plan to raise the matter with Washington, but have not yet held those talks as they wait to see what the Biden administration leaks in the coming days. What does the documentation say?

An intelligence report on Israel, meanwhile, has sparked outrage in Jerusalem. The report, prepared by the CIA and designed to signal intelligence, said Israel’s main intelligence agency, the Mossad, was encouraging protests against the country’s new government — “many clear including actions,” the report alleged.

The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office reacted on behalf of the Mossad on Sunday morning, calling the report “unfortunate and without any foundation”.

“The Mossad and its senior officials have not – and do not – encourage agency personnel to engage in demonstrations, political demonstrations or any political activity against the government,” the statement said. “The Mossad and its serving senior personnel have not been involved at all in the issue of demonstrations and are dedicated to the value of service to the state that has guided the Mossad since its inception.”

Another classified document, also sourced for indicating intelligence, offers a window into how the US assesses the policies of its allies – and how the US can exert its influence to change them.

The document, titled “Israel: Pathways to Providing Lethal Aid to Ukraine,” said Jerusalem “will likely consider providing lethal aid under increased US pressure or a perceived deterioration in its relations with Russia.” “.

Another document describes what the US thin ks about the intentions of some European countries to donate fighter jets to Ukraine, which has been asking for the planes for more than a year.

On February 23, the report said, Bulgaria expressed its willingness to donate its fleet of MiG-29 jets to Ukraine — a “challenge,” the report assessed, as it plans to keep its air force until the US builds them. The police will leave Bulgaria without fighter jets to complete the mission. The F-16s are delivered, “which is at least a year away.”

The massive leak also reveals that US infiltration of Russia’s Defense Ministry and the mercenary organization Wagner Group goes deeper than previously understood.

Much of the information about Russia was gathered through intercepted communications, raising concerns that the Russians may now change their methods of communication to better conceal their plans.

Human resources may also be at risk. Included in the trove of documents are maps of Russian military activity and capabilities obtained in part from classified human resources, raising fears among U.S. officials that those assets may now be at risk.

The documents show that the U.S. has been able to thwart Russian targeting plans, including the exact thermoelectric power plants, electric substations and railroad and vehicle bridges Russian forces planned to attack inside Ukraine and when.

The US was also able to prevent a Russian strategy to counter NATO tanks by entering Ukraine in April. The plan called for “establishing three fire zones based on range — long, medium and short — with each zone covered by specific weapons and unit types,” the US intelligence report said. has gone

Highlighting U.S. concerns about the Wagner Group, which has thousands of employees working in Ukraine, the documents discuss Wagner’s new recruitment of Russian prisoners to fight in Ukraine — one report said — in its leader’s “affiliation with Putin.” “Continuous Impact” – and the group’s plans to strengthen its presence throughout Africa and Haiti.

The documents also provide a window into damaging statistics on both sides, numbers that are notoriously difficult to accurately estimate and that the U.S. has been reluctant to publicly share in detail.

Some of the Wagner Group's mercenaries killed during the Russian aggression in Ukraine are buried in Belostrovsky Cemetery, outside St. Petersburg.

According to one document, Russian forces had suffered between 189,500 and 223,000 casualties by February, including 43,000 soldiers killed in action. Ukraine, meanwhile, suffered between 124,500 and 131,000 casualties, with up to 17,500 killed in action, the report said.

Analysts say bad actors are already using leaked documents to spread disinformation. Documents with casualty numbers, for example, were altered to more than halve the number of Russian casualties in recent weeks before being circulated on pro-Russian Telegram channels.

Asked about the images circulating on Twitter and Telegram, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN on Friday that “we have no doubts about the direct or indirect involvement of the United States and NATO in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.”

“This level of involvement is increasing, slowly increasing,” he said. “We keep our eye on this process. Well, of course, it makes the whole story more complicated, but it cannot affect the final outcome of the particular action.

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