US Trusted Ally Concerned Over Potential Pentagon Leaks

US Trusted Ally Concerned Over Potential Pentagon Leaks
The Pentagon in Washington on Jan. 26, 2020. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo)

One of the United States’ most trusted allies is asking for an explanation around what appears to be a cache of leaked top secret defense documents.

The Australian government has said it is seeking further information on the matter and that it is concerned about the potential disclosure of alleged classified U.S. defence information after alleged defense documents marked Top Secret and Secret were published on social media platforms like Discord, Twitter, and Telegram.

The documents, dated between Feb. 23 and March 1, appear to show maps and details about deliveries of weapons. Some also appear to show geographical locations for front-line Russian and Ukrainian military units and artillery guns.

In a statement, the Australian government told The Epoch Times that they were concerned about the disclosure of U.S. classified information.

“We are pleased the U.S. Department of Justice has acted quickly in announcing an investigation,” a spokesperson for the government said.

“The Australian government is seeking further information on this matter.”

The comment from one of the United States’ top allies comes as the U.S. Justice Department confirmed it had launched an investigation into the possible leak following a formal request from the Pentagon.

Pentagon Not Sure Yet on Documents’ Veracity

However, the documents are yet to be verified, with Reuters, which has viewed 50 documents, unable to verify their authenticity. Additionally, analysts like Aric Toler from Bellingcat have argued via a post on Twitter that the documents may have been altered.

In at least one case, the documents appear to have been altered to show much lower Russian troop fatality numbers than the 200,000 killed and wounded that U.S. officials have publicly estimated.

One document, dated Feb. 23 and marked Secret, outlines in detail how Ukraine’s S-300 air defence systems would be depleted by May 2 at the current usage rate.

This has led Ukrainian authorities to hypothesize that the alleged leak of classified documents detailing secret U.S. and NATO plans to help Kyiv may be part of a disinformation operation from the Kremlin.

“We’re not going to get into the validity of the purported documents posted online, but a Pentagon team continues to review and assess the veracity of the photographed documents that are circulating on social media sites and that appear in some cases to contain sensitive and highly-classified material,” he said.

“These photos appear to show documents similar in format to those used to provide daily updates to our senior leaders on Ukraine and Russia-related operations, as well as other intelligence updates. Some of these images appear to have been altered.”

Meagher also noted that Defense and the Biden administration had set up an interagency effort to assess the impact the alleged leaked documents could have “on U.S. national security and on our allies and partners.”

“The Department of Defense is working around the clock to look at the scope and scale of the distribution, the assessed impact and our mitigation measures,” he said.

He also noted that conversations were underway with allies and partners to discuss how this would impact their national security.

Allies Call For US to Validate Documents

Part of the cache of documents has placed pressure on key U.S. allies like Israel and South Korea, with one document claiming that the Mossad intelligence agency was enabling protests against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans to tighten appointment controls on Israel’s Supreme Court.
In a statement, Netanyahu’s office described the opinion as “mendacious and without any foundation whatsoever,” reported ABC.

Further, another document detailed a discussion among South Korean officials about U.S. pressure on Seoul to help supply weapons to Ukraine, which is against its domestic policy on weapons sales, propelling the office of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on April 10 to state that fact checks on the documents are a priority.

Yoon’s office said the possibility that the documents were fabricated or a product of third-party interference cannot be ruled out, warning any attempts to “disrupt the alliance would face repercussions.”

Professor of International Security and Intelligence Studies at ANU, John Blaxland, told ABC that there were “strong indications” the leak was an “attempt by Russia to deflect attention, to upset battle plans for the expected Ukrainian offensive.”

“It is worrying that this kind of detail about Ukrainian vulnerabilities is being put in these reports and is out there, but a good Russian intelligence analyst would already be aware of these limitations,” he said.

Victoria Kelly-Clark is an Australian based reporter who focuses on national politics and the geopolitical environment in the Asia-pacific region, the Middle East and Central Asia.
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