US begins probe on alleged leak of classified documents related to NATO, Russia-Ukraine war, China

US President Joe Biden
Image Source : AP US President Joe Biden

US ‘classified documents leak”: In a major development, the United States Justice Department has initiated a high-level probe into the leak of alleged “classified documents”, wherein it was claimed the documents contained crucial information related to NATO and the Russia-Ukraine war. 

According to the statement released by the Defence Ministry, the documents were morphed and were meant to spread misinformation.  

The documents, which were posted on sites such as Twitter, are labelled secret and resemble routine updates that the U.S. military’s Joint Staff would produce daily but not distribute publicly. They are dated ranging from Feb. 23 to March 1, and provide what appears to be details on the progress of weapons and equipment going into Ukraine with more precise timelines and amounts than the U.S. generally provides publicly.

US officials question data in “leaked documents”

They are not war plans and they provide no details on any planned Ukraine offensive. And some inaccuracies — including estimates of Russian troop’s deaths that are significantly lower than numbers publicly stated by U.S. officials — have led some to question the documents’ authenticity.

In a statement Friday, Sabrina Singh, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said the Defense Department “made a formal referral” of the matter to the Justice Department for investigation. And the Justice Department, in a separate statement Friday, said, “We have been in communication with the Department of Defense related to this matter and have begun an investigation.”

The investigation comes as questions continued to swirl about the origination and the validity of the documents, and as reports suggest more have begun to appear on social media sites.

Ukraine also rejects claim 

“It is very important to remember that in recent decades, the Russian special services’ most successful operations have been taking place in Photoshop,” Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate, said on Ukrainian TV. “From a preliminary analysis of these materials, we see false, distorted figures on losses on both sides, with part of the information collected from open sources.”

Separately, however, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office released a statement Friday about a meeting he had with his senior military staff, and it noted that “the participants of the meeting focused on measures to prevent the leakage of information regarding the plans of the defence forces of Ukraine.” 

“If documents are true..”

If the published documents are authentic to any degree, however, the leak of classified data is troubling and raises questions about what other information about the Ukraine war — or any coming offensive — could be distributed. U.S. officials on Friday provided no clarity on the origin of the documents, their authenticity, or who actually was the first to post them online.

The New York Times was the first to report on the documents. Later Friday, the Times reported that more documents involving Ukraine as well as other sensitive national security topics such as China and the Middle East had begun appearing on social media.

One U.S. official said the initial documents resemble data produced daily by the Joint Staff, although some numbers are wrong. Even if they were legitimate, the official said, the U.S. believes there is little real intelligence value to the documents, since much of it is information Russia would already know or could glean from the battlefield. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence documents.

(With inputs from AP)

Also Read: Russia loses elections to 3 key UN bodies as opposition persists over Ukraine invasion

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