Well, this is not good.
Breaking News: A new batch of classified documents that appear to detail U.S. security secrets from Ukraine to the Middle East to China have surfaced online. https://t.co/gj5xmNhpDb
— The New York Times (@nytimes) April 7, 2023
It’s hard not to wonder whether these documents came from the twice-impeached and indicted former president, or from someone he embedded in the government.
Gift link (NYT)
WASHINGTON — A new batch of classified documents that appear to detail American national security secrets from Ukraine to the Middle East to China surfaced on social media sites on Friday, alarming the Pentagon and adding turmoil to a situation that seemed to have caught the Biden administration off guard.
The scale of the leak — analysts say more than 100 documents may have been obtained — along with the sensitivity of the documents themselves, could be hugely damaging, U.S. officials said. A senior intelligence official called the leak “a nightmare for the Five Eyes,” in a reference to the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, the so-called Five Eyes nations that broadly share intelligence.
The latest documents were found on Twitter and other sites on Friday, a day after senior Biden administration officials said they were investigating a potential leak of classified Ukrainian war plans, include an alarming assessment of Ukraine’s faltering air defense capabilities. One slide, dated Feb. 23, is labeled “Secret/NoForn,” meaning it was not meant to be shared with foreign countries.
The Justice Department said it had opened an investigation into the leaks and was in communication with the Defense Department but declined to comment further.
Mick Mulroy, a former senior Pentagon official, said the leak of the classified documents represents “a significant breach in security” that could hinder Ukrainian military planning. “As many of these were pictures of documents, it appears that it was a deliberate leak done by someone that wished to damage the Ukraine, U.S., and NATO efforts,” he said.
One analyst described what has emerged so far as the “tip of the iceberg.”
Early Friday, senior national security officials dealing with the initial leak, which was first reported by The New York Times, said a new worry had arisen: Was that information the only intelligence that was leaked?
By Friday afternoon, they had their answer. Even as officials at the Pentagon and national security agencies were investigating the source of documents that had appeared on Twitter and on Telegram, another surfaced on 4chan, an anonymous, fringe message board. The 4chan document is a map that purports to show the status of the war in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, the scene of a fierce, monthslong battle.
But the leaked documents appear to go well beyond highly classified material on Ukraine war plans. Security analysts who have reviewed the documents tumbling onto social media sites say the increasing trove also includes sensitive briefing slides on China, the Indo-Pacific military theater, the Middle East and terrorism.
Much more at the gift link above.
Looks like we might need a new category on BJ: TRE45ON
… or from someone he embedded in the government.
Indeed my first thought was some fash-adjacent Putin fanboi somewhere in the vast DoD-verse. I hope they hunt him down and stick him in some dark forgotten hole for a very long time.
And in the meantime, perhaps we might start thinking about reducing the corpus of classified information to that which really needs to be classified, in order to reduce the number of people with access to it — say, by half or more? It really is out of control and has been for a long time.
Consider that if the classified document leak was due to TFG, it’s perversely better (or less bad) than the alternative possibility of a major malevolent mole within US government still placed to have access to said documents, or else the product of an enormous hosile cybersecurity breach – which leak may still be ongoing unless they’ve figured out how to for-sure patch the security holes.
Gin & Tonic
You know, there’s a pretty robust discussion of this going on downstairs.
If it’s dated from Feb of this year it’s hard to see how it could be TFG. I don’t think he’s been extended the courtesy of intelligence briefings.
The timing of this leak seems rather curious.
Seems as though it might be in response to something. But what?
“and adding turmoil to a situation that seemed to have caught the Biden administration off guard”
The NYT cannot ever let anything not be a jab in the ribs to Biden in the first graf. And while of course a leak is something that can often damage an Admin, other less Dem-hating newspapers might have said instead something like “adding turmoil to a situation that the Biden Admin denounced as reckless behavior by people entrusted with national defense information.”
This is not a “leak”. This is a full on act of treason designed solely to damage the US and Ukraine. They might as well have bombed the Pentagon.
@RaflW: Cause there’s some way to not get caught off guard by data theft, right? Like if they knew about it ahead of time they would have stopped it.
NYT: Experts saying Cuban embassy officials and working being attacked by microwaves
NYT: Some experts say Saddam was buying Yellow Cake uranium from Nigeria.
NYT: Some experts say Iraq had mobile bio-warfare laboratories.
NYT: Pentagon officials saying North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked American destroyers in Tonkin Gulf.
NYT: British officials saying Iran was preparing to nationalize its oil industry.
NYT: Experts say Hitler will moderate his policies now that he has become Chancellor
& blah-dee blah-blah
@cmorenc: Some of the data seems like it was made after TFG left office – if so, that makes him unlikely to be the guy that leaked all this.
@Gin & Tonic: This is like a “B Team” doing a parallel investigation.
Yep – my point is that the someone still with inside access being the leak is worse than if TFG had been the leaker.
Two pissy comments on an 11-comment thread. This might be a record.
@Geminid: So, is it from a thriller or from a comedy?
Republicans have committed treason to gain power ever since Nixon Republicans sabotaged the peace talks with Vietnam to get him elected. The US right wing has committed treason ever since they started our Civil War.
Doesn’t sound like trump. It’s recent stuff.
Doesn’t make sense to publish this on line. It should have taken a lot of effort to get that much high info which should mean a foreign government which should have kept it secret to keep using the source and not published it. Putting it online is…q anon or gamer gate stuff or degenerate second rate spy stuff. If Russia did it to attack us then they have fallen way down there in professionalism.
It does not reflect well on our agencies either, but we will just have to face it and deal with it.
NYT is just a newspaper, not a government agency. Of course they are going to write a sensationalized headline. They don’t actually have a responsibility, they just aren’t satisfy us, who are …a more sophisticated segment or their readers, but evidently not a large enough pocketbook.
I want to catch the traitors fast. This still doesn’t make sense though.
@WaterGirl: I hope you did not think I was being pissy. I was just having fun. .
And there is nothing inferior about a “B Team” anyway. A second look by a different group can yield significant results. There’s as good a chance the case will be cracked on this thread as on the other one!
Adam L Silverman
@Geminid: That’s insulting to Douglas “the Stupidest Fucking Man in the Universe” Feith.
well, was discussing events with the spouse over dinner and this week…. well
so… simply stated, there’s a lot going on and to be fair, the ability of Jackals to pivot with opinions from one item to the next and immediately help us all define context and potential repercussions…
on this specific topic there’s a lot to digest, and a LOT more to be wary of as it’s provenance has similar qualities with Hunter Biden’s laptop, so everything from an inside Trumpy in the know/some secrecy challenged idiot letting it leak out to some weird game board discord channel to some high quality disinformation to perhaps there being some truthiness involved but how much remains to be seen.
as for people being pissy, I kind of have to say that I am mentally exhausted and perhaps at the long end to THIS week, perhaps some people aren’t as generous as they could be.
@Adam L Silverman: I read some about Mr. Feith in Trainor and Gordon’s book, Cobra II. They did not think much of the guy, or his boss Rumsfeld either.
Regretfully went to twitter to check intel folks, but they’ve all been hit with the Elon Substack ban.
Then went to Col. Lang’s site, first time in a year and he died on Tuesday. RIP. While he did go off the rails with TFG hosting that fuckstick Larry Johnson, apparently he was run off. One of the other posters, TTG is a reasonable ex-DIA guy, am sure Adam would vouch for him, and is usually all over stuff like this with cogent analysis.
As for Lang, he was the one real Intel guy ranting against the War on Terror on major media back in the day until even the News Hour bumped him for not being sufficiently with the program.
Adam L Silverman
And in this case comparing what is being done in this post and the post’s author to him and his activities is actually insulting to his worthless reputation. This post, as was the case for Feith’s output, would be better left to the actual professionals.
Don’t need to start a fight with the news I just got. WG – we’re good on this end.
I really can’t keep up with this shit anymore.
Adam L Silverman
@Poe Larity: FUCK NO!!!!
I’m out for the night.
Adam L Silverman
@Poe Larity: Pat trained me. Mentored me. Like most of his other proteges he eventually ran me off, but in my case it was, I think, a result of one of the illnesses he was dealing with at the time, which is why I came here.
@Adam L Silverman: I was not comparing this post to the work of any particular “B team” but rather to the practice in general.
I know you stay busy, but if you ever feel like it I’d be interested in your opinion of Trainor and Gordon’s book on the Iraq invasion.
What folks should keep in mind is that the US Government has handed out 1.3 million Top Secret security clearances—the maximum classification reported so far for any of these documents, and obviously nowhere near the most restrictive classification. If 0.1% of those people practice shitty computer security, that’s 1300 nice targets for the FSB/GRU artists whose capers were described in the Mueller Report.
None of these documents reported so far are “Top Secret/Codeword”-rated, which would restrict distribution to dozens, or perhaps even a handful of people, and is certainly what is stamped on (for example) documents detailing knowledge of allied war plans.
And, these documents have been leaked, which means that the nation-state actor (most likely) that pilfered them regards them as more useful for their public information value than as state secrets. One possible motivation for this, actually raised by the NYT itself a few days ago, is to disrupt intelligence cooperation between the US and Ukraine—an important operational goal for Russian intelligence.
The Federal Government is notoriously conservative about distinguishing secrets from “secrets” through the classification system. In my opinion, the value of these “secrets” is their media effect. As military intelligence, they are chickenfeed. My chips are on Russian Intelligence attempting to replay its Greatest Hits from 2016.
@Adam L Silverman: Condolences. I have a rule about not judging anyones character under 10 and over 80 for what they say or do. Have just seen too many go off the rails and Lang seemed to slip in and out of reason some times.
But he was the enemy of my enemy when in counted, and I’m sure it came with a huge cost to him to be the lone guy out there. So that’s how I’ll remember him.
@Carlo Graziani: The government may hand out 1.3 million Top Secret clearances, but that does not grant the holders access to all Top Secret material, just to that material provided them. I think we’re talking about a limited group of people who were authorized to have any of these documents, and even fewer with access to all of them. There is of course the possibility that someone might have hacked them despite not being authorized.
@Geminid: Try reversing the probability conditionals. This is a very miscellaneous bunch of documents, whether by subject or by classification levels. They are unlikely to have many sources, and most likely the leak is a single source. What does that tell you about the parsimony with which the Federal Government doles out secret information to cleared individuals?
@Carlo Graziani: I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you just tell me what it tells you?
It’s getting kind of late in the evening for me to be reversing probability conditionals.
@Geminid: Sorry, not trying to be coy. It tells me something that has been known to be true for a while, which is that there’s not much effective control of classified information within the Federal Government once one is within the rampart of the security clearance. There’s too much of it, and too many cleared individuals. So long as pro-forma security measures are complied with, “secret” documents can build up like snowdrifts in people’s personal caches.
@piratedan: 5. Where is Mitch McConnell
Honestly. This just goes to show how totally the D.C. press is wired for Republicans. Hillary had pneumonia and it was ZOMG! she’s gonna die. All sorts of rank and inappropriate speculation about Sen. Fetterman’s hospitalization.
But the Senate Minority Leader being on extended medical leave is just given complete kid glove treatment. It’s glaring.
@RaflW: not from me. Day 30+ and it is me, you and maybe one other person. WTF? I’ve been asking. Mitch is MIA for a solid month and is getting a total pass.
The man that danced on the grave of RBG.
Glad someone besides me has noticed.
@Pennsylvanian: Like him or not, (I vote not), McConnell is effective and successful. Mostly what he succeeded at was saying NO and installing unqualified people as judges. But there doesn’t seem to be much serious legislation coming from the House Republican majority, just a lot of performative BS and hearings. So they haven’t needed Mitch’s brand of Lawful Evil scheming.
Oh come on. After Snowden, surely we know better. He clearly had access to a great deal more classified information than any work-related need of his would have called for.
If heads ever rolled at Booz Allen Hamilton, let alone the NSA, on account of Snowden’s wide access, it certainly never came out, Presumably it’s just as easy for someone now as it was for Snowden then to lay their hands on a wide assortment of classified documents.
ETA: Basically what Carlo Graziani already said, plus the Snowden example.
But by the same token, nobody’s needed Fetterman much either if there hasn’t been much for the Senate to do.
@Gvg: No, I think it would be Russia, because they CAN’T fight or use sources, they can only do stuff like this… and have been, all this time, including through Trump.
This is absolutely the sort of thing Russia and its agents would do. They would do exactly this with it, and are in no position to do anything else. I’d also watch out for whether any of it is just disinfo. If it is disinfo made to undermine Ukraine, they’d have people out there specifically to say it is real.
@lowtechcyclist: I gave the Snowdon example in the last sentence of my comment:
You and I and Carlo are discussing the scope of these documents’ distribution. There is a number we are trying to get at. Is it 1.3 million? 130,000? 1300? 130?
Laura Rozen has been linking to people she respects as knowledgeable in this area discussing the question. One speculated there may have been hundreds with access to the documents, maybe even over a thousand.
But this is a breaking story, and I expect we will hear more before too long. I would recommend Ms. Rozen’s Twitter account as one source for those interested.
We know that the “documents”/jpegs were modified. We don’t know to what extent.
dsquareddigest’s rule about never trusting known liars – even as a starting point – is probably worth keeping in mind.
Also, I think someone here made the point that the people who set up and control classified information systems know that secrets can and will escape. The point of the system isn’t to make it impossible for secrets to escape, it’s to minimize the damage when that inevitably happens. People shouldn’t panic about this “leak” stuff even if, somehow, some of it is genuine.