Over the past week the largest leak of U.S. military documents in a decade began appearing online. The documents, with “Secret” or “Top Secret” classifications, had apparently been on Discord for several weeks before they were picked up on other social media platforms. They then came to the attention of governments and news outlets throughout the world. (Discord is a social media platform popular among many gamers.)
The documents provide extensive information about how the U.S. is waging its proxy war in Ukraine against its imperialist rival, Russia. They include many details about the Ukrainian military’s overall capabilities, training, and defense systems; its needs and deficiencies as it prepares for what is expected to be a major offensive beginning soon. There are also documents revealing U.S. spying on many other countries throughout the world, friend and foe alike.
No one within the U.S. power structure has challenged the authenticity of the leaked documents as a whole, although intelligence and military officials in several countries—including the U.S.—have alleged that information in some of them is wrong or has been altered. This includes the accounts given of troop losses by both Russian and Ukrainian forces. Why the material was on some social media for about a month before any public announcement of its existence was made isn’t known, and neither is whether there are more leaked documents than have been made public.
On April 13, the FBI arrested a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard and charged him with leaking classified information. The Washington Post reported that the alleged leaker was seen on videos shouting “racial and antisemitic slurs into the camera, then fire[ing] several rounds at a target.” It said he heads an invitation-only Discord group united by its “love of guns, military gear and God.”
But much of the reason for the leaks, the extent of them, their content, the motivations and background of the man arrested, and whether he acted alone, remains unknown. As more on these developments comes out, Revolution will continue to monitor the situation. But for now, below are some key points about the leaks and what is known of their content:
What Are the Leaked Documents, Who Were They Prepared For?
According to several reports, the documents appear to be “briefing slides prepared by the U.S. military’s Joint Staff.” They seem to be based on information taken from “an array of U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office, which oversees U.S. spy satellites.”
Reports indicate that they were intended for top U.S. military leadership, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley. Some of the documents are labeled “NOFORN”—military speak that means “no foreigners,” including allies and partners, are to see it.
Deep U.S.-NATO Involvement in Ukraine War:
- David Sanger, a New York Times reporter, wrote that “While President Biden has barred American troops from firing directly on Russian targets, and blocked sending weapons that could reach deep into Russian territory, the documents make clear that a year into the invasion, the United States is heavily entangled in almost everything else.”
- A slide from one of the leaked documents shown on the website of the Daily Mail, an English newspaper, shows that the U.S.-NATO has a contingent of 97 “special forces” within Ukraine. Fourteen of them are from the American military, despite Biden’s assurance that the U.S. “will not be directly engaged in this conflict….”
- The U.S. provides “detailed targeting data” (to Ukrainian military forces in the field) and coordinates “the long, complex logistical train that delivers weapons to the Ukrainians.”
- The leaks show details of 12 newly formed brigades, equipped with U.S. and NATO “battle tanks and armored vehicles, which are likely to lead the assault against dug-in Russian positions” in a planned Ukrainian offensive this spring.
- U.S. intelligence assesses that Ukraine’s battle for the eastern Donbas region has become a “grinding campaign of attrition” that “is likely heading toward a stalemate, thwarting Moscow’s goal to capture the entire region in 2023.” One document describes how Ukraine could soon run out of munitions for its anti-air missile systems, and expose a significant vulnerability in Ukraine’s air defense in upcoming battles.
Spying on Russia
- The leaks reveal extensive U.S. spying on Russia, in particular its Ministry of Defense, through “intercepted communications and human sources” (i.e., spies paid by the U.S.). The documents repeatedly refer to information based on electronic eavesdropping. The U.S. is concerned that the disclosure of some of this could do “significant damage” to U.S. spy agencies.
- Infiltration of the Russian military enables U.S. spy agencies to warn Ukraine of upcoming attacks. Some documents discuss the internal planning of Russia’s military intelligence agency (GRU), and the Wagner Group, a private Russian military contractor that has been integral to Russia’s war effort in Ukraine. Wagner is also central to Russian military efforts in Africa. One document claims Wagner is considering “branching out to Haiti, right under the nose of the United States, with an offer to help that country’s embattled government take on violent gangs.”
- Some documents reportedly indicate how the U.S. tracks Russian forces with satellite imagery, and locations where the Central Intelligence Agency has recruited some agents. The tracking information is provided to the Ukrainian military to assist their attacks on, and targeting of, the Russian military. Maps of Russian troop movements and capabilities, from “human confidential sources,” were in some documents.
- One of the sources of battlefield information is described as being from a “LAPIS time-series video.” This is an advanced satellite system that had been “among the more closely guarded capabilities in the U.S. intelligence arsenal.”
Who Prepared the Leaked Documents
- The Washington Post reported that the leaked pages it reviewed “involved nearly every corner of the U.S. intelligence apparatus. The documents describe intelligence activities at the National Security Agency, the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, law enforcement agencies and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO)—arguably the most secretive intelligence agency in the government, responsible for a multibillion-dollar constellation of spy satellites.”
Four “Wild Cards”
- A document outlines four scenarios that could abruptly have a dramatic impact on the course of the war in Ukraine: the death of Russian president Vladimir Putin; the death of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky; a Ukrainian strike on the Kremlin (center of the Russian government in Moscow, Russia’s capital); the removal of the leadership of the Russian Armed Forces. The New York Times reported that “U.S. officials declined to say whether the document was genuine, but they did not dispute its authenticity.”
U.S. Spies on Its Allies
- Israel—One of the documents reveals how U.S. intelligence analysts are evaluating scenarios that could “lead Israel to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine—in contravention of current Israeli policy.” Israel is already working with Ukraine to develop an early-warning system to warn of incoming rockets and missiles. Another says that U.S. intelligence claims that Mossad—the main spy agency in Israel, a key U.S. ally—encouraged citizens and its own members to participate in massive protests against the current government there.1
- Turkey—Leaked documents described how Turkish government representatives discussed the sale of “weapons and equipment” to Russians for use in “Mali and Ukraine.” Turkey is a NATO ally of the U.S., and Mali is a country in West Africa where the Wagner group has been active.
- South Korea—Private conversations among high-level South Korean leaders were leaked about South Korea possibly providing artillery support to Ukraine. This indicates that the U.S. was conducting “surveillance on a key Asian ally even as the two nations publicly vowed to reinforce their alliance.” South Korea has long been dominated by the U.S. and is a key U.S. “ally” in East Asia.
Spying on China
- In February, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a warning to China that there would be “serious consequences” if China sold weapons to Russia. A document just released reveals that the U.S. was intercepting communications between Russian and Chinese military leaders when it made the threat.
Iran, Egypt, Serbia, Hungary, Haiti, Canada
- Documents indicate that a range of other countries—friend, foe, and in between, has been subjected to U.S. spying. And these are ones known from a limited number of leaked documents, so the total is undoubtedly far greater.