The Department of Justice has opened an investigation focusing on the apparent US intelligence documents that were posted on social media in recent weeks.
The investigation, as new documents surfaced Friday that revealed everything from US aid to Ukraine to information about key US allies Israel, has widened the already devastating crackdown. The Pentagon said on Thursday that it was looking into the matter after social media reports of apparent documents indicating the war in Ukraine emerged.
Additional documents surfaced on Friday by open-source intelligence researchers appear to have been posted online in the past few weeks. The documents appear to contain information indicating the affairs and operations in Africa and the Wagner Group’s mercenary ways of Israel to provide lethal aid to Ukraine, to intelligence on Arab companies of the United States of America to Russia and South Korean concerns about providing weapons to the US for use in Ukraine.
Roncus could not independently verify that the documents had not been altered. But they are similar to a tranche of documents reported about Ukraine that have surfaced online in recent weeks, which US officials confirmed to CNN on Friday morning as authentic.
Much like those documents, found on Friday were also photographs, wrinkled documents. All carried classified information, some top secret, top classification. Also, they all seem to have been produced between mid-February and early April.
It is unclear who is behind the leak and where they are going.
“The Department of Defense is actively reviewing the matter and has made a formal referral to the Department of Justice for investigation,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said Friday.
A Department of Justice spokesman told CNN the department “has been in communication with the Department of Defense regarding this matter and has instituted an investigation,” declining to comment further.
The leak rattled Pentagon officials, particularly within the Defense Department, which includes senior DoD leadership whose role is to advise the president. Many of the documents had markings indicating they were produced by the intelligence arm of the Joint Staff, known as J2, and the documents appear to be brief.
Earlier on Friday, US officials confirmed that similar documents about Ukraine were part of a larger daily intelligence briefing prepared by the Pentagon about the war for senior leaders.
US officials have urged the Leak investigation to look into potential culprits within the Pentagon. But a person familiar with US intelligence said the Pentagon’s investigation is likely not over, given the number of people across the government who have access to these types of documents. They also have some documents indicating that they are communicating with countries in the Five Eyes intelligence community – the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Other notes indicate the inclusion of material from other agencies, such as the intelligence arm of the State Department, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency.
Many documents, however, also contain significant information originating from human intelligence and are not intended to be shared with foreign countries, including close US allies.
Some of the documents refer to the information given to the CIA. A spokesperson for the manager told CNN on Friday, “We are aware of the social media reports and we are looking into the matter.”
Images of some of the documents — which include assessments of Russia’s casualties and a list of Western weapons systems available to Ukraine — were posted to the social media platform Discord in early March, according to screenshots of the messages reviewed by CNN.
“This sh*t was sitting on the Minecraft Discord server for a month and no one noticed,” Aric Toler, a researcher investigating the issue at Bellingcat, who investigated the time the documents were posted, told CNN. Minecraft is a popular video game.
It wasn’t until this week that the documents began to receive more attention after someone posted part of the documents to 4chan, an Internet forum popular with extremists, and then a Russian speaker posted an altered version of one of the documents on Telegram. , Toler said.
US officials believe that a document has been altered to make the estimated number of Ukrainians killed in the war far higher than it actually was.
The Pentagon said on Thursday that it was aware of the social media reports and was investigating the matter.
On Friday’s Discord, speculation and paranoia prevailed, with some users wondering if they could get themselves in trouble for re-posting documents now being investigated by the US government. A user who posted photos of the documents on March 1 appears to have deleted his Twitter and Discord accounts.
“The fact that unpublished and edited – doctored – versions of some of the images are available online makes me skeptical that this is a professional Russian intelligence operation,” Thomas Rid, an expert on government intelligence, told CNN.
Historically, if an intelligence agent has access to materials identified by an adversary and decides to falsify certain materials, they typically don’t make public versions of both documents, said Rid, who is a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced Studies. International Studies.
“This just makes it easier to detect what’s been done, and that’s how the project wins,” Rid said.
However, the concern is that any documents could have a real-world impact.
“If true, the leakage of these documents can cause significant damage to the Ukrainian counteroffensive, since this information effectively provides Russia with the order of conflict with Ukraine – extensive information about the capabilities of pirates who may be involved in the future counteroffensive,” said Dmitri Alperovitch, a Russia analyst. who is the executive vice president of Policy for the Silverado Accelerator.
This headline and story have been updated with additional information.