Leaked Documents Affair Growing – It’s Quite Certain That at Least Some Were Manipulated
According to American media, the affair started end of February. The first tranche of documents was published on 28th February, while the second on 2nd March
What do we known about the leaked documents affair in the USA up to 10.04.2023? The affair began developing from 28 February, when the first documents were leaked. About 100 documents have been leaked so far. Some of them are from the Pentagon and related to the war in Ukraine. The US were spying on Moscow and Kyiv and other close allies… The assessment of the consequences is not final yet. However, the information that at least some documents were manipulated for the purpose of disinformation, seems quite certain.
According to American media, the affair started end of February. The first tranche of documents was published on 28th February, while the second on 2nd March.
Photographs of at least several dozen pages of top secret documents were released 28th February and 2nd March on the “Discord” messaging platform which is popular among gamers, reports today (10.04.2023) Radio Free Europe in Macedonian language.
The first information in North Macedonia arrived on 7th of April, when several media in the Macedonian area regarding Pentagon documents leaked in the social networks. Media were referring to global agencies and the “New York Times” that revealed the leaking of documents on the social networks Telegram and Twitter on 6th April, “because the previous day they were first published on the forum “4chan”, and from there they reached Twitter and Telegram” (RFЕ).
Possible disinformation, as some documents were altered
The initial assessments were that it might be a disinformation attempt and part of intelligence schemes, especially by the Russian intelligence services, because some of the documents were altered.
According to the analysts, the modifications indicate a possible attempt to spread disinformation guided from Moscow. But the publication of some of the original documents, which include photographs of charts of expected arms shipments, estimates of battalion strength and other plans, make a significant security breach in US intelligence services, informed the newspaper, reported A1On.mk
It is not clear how the documents ended up on social media, but what is known is that pro-Kremlin channels started sharing them, according to the military analysts, who warn that the documents published by Russian sources have been selectively modified to present disinformation supported by Kremlin, reports A1On.
More information on the first day of discovering the affair can be found in some of the online media, indexed by the news aggregator Time.mk on 7th April.
Over 100 documents published
During the weekend, however, it became clear that the situation was no laughing matter, and that this was one of the biggest American Intelligence scandals, i.e. the extent of the leak was enormous.
Namely, on the 8th and 9th April, a second wave of intelligence data was released on the social networks Telegram and Twitter. Some media in North Macedonia – quoting “New York Times” again – reported about the numbers of leaked files and about the great concern, not only in Washington:
As “New York Times” puts it, the analysts familiar with the proportions of the confidential information leak say that, apparently, more than 100 documents were released. Depending on the degree of confidentiality, it could be very detrimental.
A high official of US Intelligence called the leak “nightmare for the Five Eyes”, referring to the USA, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, who called their intelligence alliance and sharing of sensitive data “Five Eyes”, states Sloboden Pechat (Free Press) on 08.04.2023.
Already on the 10th of April, new details emerged in the Macedonian media area about the leak – not only details about the situation on the front-line in Ukraine, but also about the capacity of the Ukrainian Army. But to make the situation even more complicated for Washington, the leaked documents show that US military and the intelligence structures also spied on close allies such as Israel, South Korea, Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, etc.
Confirmed manipulation of part of the documents
Monday (10.04), Deutsche Welle in Macedonian language published details about several aspects of the affair. DW informs, inter alia, writes that at least some of the documents were manipulated, although, in general, this issue is not entirely clarified:
It is unclear whether all released documents are originals. According to television “CNN”, US government collaborators have confirmed this in general, but “Washington Post” – also referring to information from the authorities – claims that some of the documents were altered. This supports the conclusions derived by the “Bellingcat” research network, whose experts managed to prove that at least some of the documents were subsequently tampered with in the contents, reports DW.
The same source points out that it is still unknown how and who disseminated the documents:
It remains unclear who published the documents that appeared first in the beginning of March on the Discord platform – gamer’s favourite platform – and then spread on the “4Chan” network, until they turned up on Twitter and on the Russian Telegram channels. Many of the documents were quickly deleted. The US Department of Justice opened an investigation, and the focus is primarily the USA itself. Thousands of people from the authorities had access to the documents, claims a Pentagon employee for “Washington Post”, reported DW on 10.04.2023.
Former Senior Pentagon official also believes that American citizen/s working in posts that keep such documents are responsible:
The investigation focuses on the assumption that the documents “leaked” from the USA, because many of the released documents were only in “American hands”, reported for Reuters the former senior Pentagon official, Michael Mulroy. “Many of the documents were photographed, suggesting that it was done deliberately by someone who wanted to harm the efforts of Ukraine, USA and NATO”, said Mulroy, reported Makfax.
The news also specified that the investigation is looking into several theories some of which are theory about a “dissatisfied person” or a “mole”.
Disinformation against US interests not ruled out
However, as Meta.mk informs (10.04.2023), the American authorities do not rule out the possibility that pro-Russian elements are behind the theft, nor that the processing method is intended to take the investigation astray and spread disinformation:
US Officials said that the investigation was at an early stage and that those in charge did not rule out the possibility that pro-Russian elements were behind the document leak, which is considered one of the most serious security breaches since 2013.
Yesterday, two US officials informed Reuters that they were not ruling out such a possibility, because the documents could have been produced to mislead the investigating authorities about their origin, or to spread false information that could be harmful to US security interests, Meta.mk writes.
When everything is put together, many things still remain unclear. It is quite probable – because it was confirmed by several sources – that in this whole operation, some of the documents were tampered with as to intentionally spread disinformation. The depth and complexity of the consequences are not sufficiently investigated. A medium, without giving details, reported that the Ukrainian generals already started to change plans, without specifying the details, while responses with denials or demands to find answers are coming from both Israel and South Korea.
Be as it may, as Radio Free Europe informs, releasing the documents complicated the relations between the United States and its allies, and the documents themselves show that the US have deeply penetrated the Russian security and military services, which can be useful for Moscow to close the document leaking channels.
This article was developed within the framework of the project Promoting Access to Reliable News to Counter Disinformation, implemented by the Metamorphosis Foundation. The article, that has been published on the Macedonian-language version of Truthmeter, was enabled with the support of the American non-profit foundation NED (National Endowment for Democracy). The contents of the article is the responsibility of the author and do not always reflect the positions of Metamorphosis Foundation, NED or their partners.