Pentagon Being Investigated For One Of The Most Dangerous Intelligence Breaches In Decades #GotBitcoin
Pentagon Investigates More Social-Media Posts Purporting To Include Secret U.S. Documents. Pentagon Being Investigated For One Of The Most Dangerous Intelligence Breaches In Decades #GotBitcoin
Documents include details on Ukrainian forces, U.S. arms provided to Ukraine.
The Pentagon is investigating social-media posts that purport to reveal highly classified U.S. government documents on the war in Ukraine and other key international topics, in what could be one of the most dangerous intelligence breaches in decades.
Well over 100 images, marked with “Top Secret” and other classifications indicating they represent highly sensitive U.S.-produced intelligence, were posted in the Discord message board of fans of the Minecraft computer game around March 1.
While many of them were deleted recently, open-source intelligence researchers have managed to download more than 60 files.
The documents, which appear to originate from within the U.S. military and intelligence agencies, include details about the disposition of Ukrainian forces, air defenses and military equipment, classified information about arms and support the U.S. has provided to Kyiv in its fight against Russian invaders, and intelligence on internal matters in a variety of nations, including Israel and South Korea.
The Pentagon said Friday night it is reviewing the matter: “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.
“We have been in communication with the Department of Defense related to this matter and have begun an investigation,’’ a Justice Department spokeswoman said in a statement. “We decline further comment.”
A CIA spokesperson said the agency is aware of the social-media posts and is looking into the matter.
The Wall Street Journal wasn’t able to independently authenticate the documents, but they contain enough detail to give them credibility, and the leak has rattled Pentagon officials. This week, the U.S. has already changed how military personnel access such documents, defense officials said.
But Pentagon officials have yet to determine how the documents appeared online or which military installation they could have come from, defense officials said.
Even before the scope of the disclosures emerged, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday that Kyiv would take fresh steps to prevent leaks about its planned spring offensive.
Mr. Zelensky said that he convened the country’s top military commanders and security officials on Friday to discuss the planned push to regain the 18% of Ukraine that remains occupied by Russia.
The meeting, he added in a statement, also discussed new “measures to prevent leaks of information about the plans of Ukrainian defense forces.”
Aric Toler, head of research and training with the Bellingcat investigative consortium, said he found the cache of new documents on Friday, a day after at least six purported images of classified U.S. documents were published on the Telegram platform by pro-Kremlin war commentators.
At least one of these images had been altered—to lower an estimate of Russian casualties and to inflate Ukrainian losses.
Those and some additional images had been posted on the 4chan messaging platform on Thursday.
Dozens of newly discovered images viewed by The Wall Street Journal contained highly valuable information for America’s adversaries, particularly Russia.
The documents, some of which appear to be briefing materials, outline details of the purported locations and operations of Ukraine’s air-defense systems, quantities of each type of air-defense missiles and sobering predictions of when Ukrainian forces would run out of each kind of munition.
Other documents contained detailed information on the schedules and routes of U.S. and allied reconnaissance aircraft in the Black Sea; the vulnerabilities of some of the American weapons provided to Ukraine; and the composition and armaments of the nine Ukrainian army brigades being trained by the U.S. and allies for the coming spring offensive.
Russian jets forced a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone to crash into the Black Sea on March 14, two weeks after these files were posted.
In addition to documents pertaining to the war in Ukraine, the leaked files included purported copies of the daily intelligence report provided to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley, Central Intelligence Agency reports on leaders of Israel’s Mossad spy service, and intelligence on discussions within the government of South Korea on sales of artillery ammunition to Kyiv.
Most of the documents are dated in February and appear to have been posted online shortly after their creation. Many contain details of future operations.
“If some guy on Minecraft Map Discord was able to find these and share them a few days after they first appeared on March 1, there is a pretty good chance that Russian intelligence was able to get a glance at them, too,” Mr. Toler said.
At the margins of some pages are printed markings common to top-secret documents, including the government agency that produced them and the level of classification. Documents include updates from the CIA’s Operations Center, as well as material from a host of other intelligence units.
Those include the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency; the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which analyzes data from spy satellites; the eavesdropping National Security Agency; and the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research.
U.S. defense officials said they believe at least some of the images were leaks of documents produced by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which is composed of top military commanders for each of the services and advises the president.
Gen. Milley was briefed Wednesday afternoon about the first batch of leaked documents to surface, as was Mr. Austin, the defense officials said, before the discovery of the latest suspected leaked documents.
The U.S. and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners have been training and equipping nine Ukrainian Army brigades with Western heavy weapons, including the Leopard-2 and Challenger tanks, and Stryker, Marder and Bradley fighting vehicles.
Ukraine is separately training several other combat brigades, under the auspices of the army, the national guard, the border service and other security agencies.
The photographs that emerged online earlier this week appear to be of printed presentation slides and maps. Because classified documents can only be printed on approved systems, the U.S. government will likely have some record of who produced them, said Aram Gavoor, associate dean for academic affairs at George Washington University Law School and a national-security expert.
Documents receive a Top Secret designation when U.S. officials believe their disclosure could cause exceptionally grave damage to national security.
“That means that the unauthorized release of these could lead to loss of life inside Ukraine,” said Mr. Gavoor. Many of these documents are marked NOFORN—meaning that they cannot be released even to America’s closest allies.
While both U.S. and Ukrainian officials were wary of sharing information with one another early in the war, fearing their plans might be compromised, mutual trust had improved in recent months.
It is unclear to what extent this incident will sour exchanges between the two nations.
The war in Ukraine has led to a large volume of regularly updated classified documents that have been shared widely within the U.S. government.
“Keeping in mind that a great majority of classified documents are never leaked, the risk of a leak increases in an environment like this one where the United States is engaging in an unprecedented intelligence, advisory and logistics operation in support of Ukraine,” said Mr. Gavoor, the national-security expert at George Washington University Law School.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy held a regular meeting with key commanders and top officials Friday, with “measures to prevent the leakage of information regarding the plans of the defense forces of Ukraine” among the items discussed, according to a statement on the presidential website.
The talks followed a New York Times report that the Pentagon is investigating the leak of classified war documents detailing US and NATO plans for building up the Ukrainian military ahead of a counteroffensive. The plans, in a partly altered state, have appeared on Twitter and Telegram.
Friday’s meeting also included a report from Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, about the general military situation as well as an assessment from military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov about Russia’s possible actions in near future.
MIT Space Force Major Proposes Bitcoin Mining As Cybersecurity Tool
An active-duty United States Space Force astronautical engineer is proposing a new cybersecurity tool to the Pentagon: Bitcoin.
An active-duty United States Space Force astronautical engineer is proposing a cybersecurity tool to the Pentagon that is capable of transforming the country’s national security and the base-layer architecture of the internet: Bitcoin
In an academic thesis, Major Jason Lowery, who is also a national defense fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), presented a new theory to the U.S. Department of Defense that Bitcoin is not just a peer-to-peer payment system but a new form of “digital-age warfare,” arguing that proof-of-work technologies will change the way humans compete globally, according to Ben Schreckinger’s review of the book in Politico.
Published in February, Lowery’s master’s degree thesis dubbed “Softwar” sits in third position on Amazon’s list of best-selling technology books at the time of writing. According to his Amazon bio, Lowery has a decade of experience serving as a weapon system developer and technical adviser for U.S. senior officials, including Bitcoin-related policies.
Lowery’s research argues that the U.S. military could use Bitcoin to stop certain types of attacks, such as denial-of-service attacks, which overload servers with too many requests.
The concept involves creating software programs that only respond to signals from large transactions recorded on the Bitcoin network. This would make it harder for attackers to flood servers with fake signals and cause damage.
Announcing the public debut of SOFTWAR, a theory presented to OPOTUS, OSECDEF, & the Joint Chiefs about the national strategic significance of #Bitcoin
LET THE HASH WARS BEGIN
— Jason Lowery (@JasonPLowery) February 20, 2023
Lowery also suggests that the Bitcoin network is like maritime trade routes, which means it’s suited for economic exchange.
Consequently, it’s crucial to protect freedom of navigation on the network, just as we protect trade routes.
By designing software programs that only respond to external signals if they come with a large enough Bitcoin transaction recorded on the network, Lowery argues they would prevent adversaries from gaining control over them.
According to the author, the U.S. should also stockpile Bitcoin, build a domestic Bitcoin mining industry and extend legal protections to the technology. In his view, Bitcoin is a self-defense weapon, and the country should protect it as it does other rights.
What Do The Alleged Classified US Documents Contain And Who Leaked Them?
One of the largest leaks of alleged classified US military documents in a decade has sparked an official investigation by the Department of Defense and could complicate American support for Ukraine shortly before a major offensive by Kyiv.
Multiple tranches of documents have appeared on social media sites over recent weeks, some of them reportedly intended only for those with the highest levels of US security clearance.
The information covers a wide range of topics, from US assessments of the war in Ukraine to intelligence gathered on diplomatic allies.
Here’s What We Know About The Leaks So Far:
What Is In The Documents?
According to the New York Times and other outlets, the initial document leaks focused on US assessments of the war in Ukraine originally written in February and March, including estimated casualties on both sides and what equipment and ammunition would be required by Kyiv in the future.
However, they reported that at least one document appears to have been altered to lower Russia’s death toll in the war and inflate that of Ukraine, raising questions over the reliability of the papers.
Among the more recent leaks, there have also been reports on the US gathering intelligence on its diplomatic allies, including South Korea, Israel and Ukraine.
The documents also allegedly lay out the US’s extensive access to intelligence from inside Russia’s government, revelations that could have dire consequences for American espionage going forward.
Where Did The Documents Appear?
The leaked information has turned up across multiple social media platforms and apps in recent weeks, including Twitter and YouTube.
Bellingcat, an independent investigative news outlet, said the documents appeared to have originally been posted on obscure internet sites, including a Minecraft channel on Discord, which is a popular messaging application for fans of computer games.
The documents drew greater attention once they were discovered and posted more broadly to far-right noticeboard 4Chan and pro-Russian messaging groups on the Telegram app.
What Do We Know About Their Origins?
Most of the documents appear to be photographs of classified Pentagon briefing reports that look as though they had previously been folded up before the images were taken, according to the Times. That suggests someone removed them, possibly in a pocket or briefcase, from their original home.
If they’re real, the key question is who leaked them — and no one has the answer. The method of circulation suggests they were removed by an American, although that hasn’t been confirmed.
While the US government hasn’t officially confirmed their authenticity, CNN reported on Sunday that an official investigation had been opened into their origin by the US Department of Justice.
Have They Been Deleted From The Internet?
With the documents now widely shared on the internet, it’s highly unlikely that they can now be removed or hidden. At least one major social media platform, Twitter, seems to have little appetite for forcibly erasing the documents.
Its billionaire owner, Elon Musk, mocked the idea of potentially removing the documents from the web in a tweet last week. Still, the White House said efforts were being made to remove the material.
How Have Countries Responded?
Ukraine has dismissed the documents publicly as Russian disinformation, with an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy telling the New York Times that they were “fictional.” “Russia is trying to influence Ukrainian society, sow fear, panic, mistrust and doubt,” the report cited the adviser as saying. “It’s typical behavior.”
At the same time, Russian state media Sputnik claimed the leak exposed divisions in the US over President Joe Biden’s Ukraine policy, while a government spokesman told CNN the documents showed the close involvement of the US in the war in Ukraine.
US allies have so far reacted with concern to the news of the leaks, but have emphasized their faith in American authorities to investigate.
The South Korean government, which was mentioned in the leaks, said in a statement on Sunday it would be discussing the matter with the US, while Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told the ABC it was seeking “further information.”
New Details On Intelligence Leak Show It Circulated For Weeks Before Raising Alarm
The secret documents were first posted in January to a small group on a messaging channel that trafficked in memes, jokes and racist talk.
One of the most significant leaks of highly classified U.S. documents in recent history began among a small group of posters on a messaging channel that trafficked in memes, jokes and racist talk.
Sometime in January, seemingly unnoticed by the outside world, an anonymous member of a group numbering just over a dozen began to post files—many labeled as top secret—providing details about the war in Ukraine, intercepted communications about U.S. allies, such as Israel and South Korea, and details of American penetration of Russian military plans, among other topics.
The documents, which appear to have numbered in the hundreds, stayed among the members of the tiny group on the Discord messaging platform until early March, when another user reposted several dozen of them to another group with a larger audience. From there, at least 10 files migrated to a much bigger community focused on the Minecraft computer game.
On Wednesday, with the U.S. government apparently still unaware, a Russian propaganda account on Telegram posted a crudely doctored version of one of the documents, alongside a few unedited ones.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department are now on a sprawling hunt for answers on how the dozens of images that purport to show secret documents surfaced online.
A government probe, launched Friday at the request of the Defense Department, is searching for the source of the leak.
A Pentagon spokeswoman said Sunday night the department was reviewing and assessing the validity of the photographed documents “that appear to contain sensitive and highly classified material.” She said the U.S. had discussed the matter with allies over the weekend and was weighing the potential national security impact of the breach.
The intelligence leak is shaping up to be one of the most damaging in decades, officials said. The disclosure complicates Ukraine’s spring offensive. It will likely inhibit the readiness of foreign allies to share sensitive information with the U.S. government.
And it potentially exposes America’s intelligence sources within Russia and other hostile nations.
A decade after National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked a giant cache of top-secret documents about surveillance and other intelligence activities, the U.S. government is still unable to protect against such breaches.
“How the heck are we back here again?” said Brett Bruen, president of Global Situation Room, a national security consulting firm, and a former White House official in the Obama administration.
“These kinds of large scale security breaches were supposed to be a thing of the past. New controls and checks were put in place. Yet, clearly it wasn’t enough and we need a major rethink [and] revision to the classified protection process.”
Who Had Access
The Wall Street Journal wasn’t able to independently authenticate the documents, but they contain enough detail to give them credibility. Defense officials have said they believe some of the documents could be authentic.
In total, just over 50 documents with Secret and Top Secret classification markings have surfaced so far, and have been viewed by the Journal and a variety of independent intelligence analysts.
A critical question is who had access, and when, to the hundreds of others that were posted in the original group between January and March, and how significant are the secrets that these files contain.
The U.S. intelligence community is expected to take measures to protect the sources and methods used in the collection of data in that material.
“You have to assume it is compromised,” said Thomas Rid, professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University. “But assuming that the adversary has it is one thing, knowing it is another.”
The probe into the leak will be among the FBI’s top priorities as investigators search for who had access to the information, and who would have motive to make it public, said Joshua Skule, a former FBI senior executive who is now the president of the government contracting firm Bow Wave.
“They are going to be looking to get to the bottom of who did it as expeditiously as possible, they are going to be sparing no resource,” Mr. Skule said. “The FBI is approaching this as if someone has committed a treasonous act.”
The leaked documents are photographs of presentations and files that had been printed out on A4 paper. They appear to have been folded twice, perhaps to be smuggled out of a secure facility.
A variety of items can be seen in the margins of the photos, including Gorilla glue, shoes and instructions for a GlassHawk HD spotting scope, details that could facilitate the search for the leaker.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a Telegram post that it was unlikely that Russia was behind the original intelligence breach.
“If you have an operating channel to obtain intelligence from the Pentagon, you don’t burn it for a one-day publicity drive,” he wrote. By publicizing the leak, he added, Russia aimed to distract attention from Ukraine’s preparations for the offensive, and to “sow certain doubts and mutual suspicions” between Kyiv and its partners.
Mr. Zelensky reacted to the leak by ordering new measures to clamp down on unauthorized disclosures of military information. The U.S. has also changed how military personnel access such documents, defense officials said last week.
The most damaging files, security analysts say, are the roundups of vetted intelligence material compiled in the Central Intelligence Agency’s operations center intelligence update.
They include information on conversations that the U.S. had intercepted within allied governments, such as communications of the leaders of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service and discussions among members of South Korea’s national security council on whether to sell ammunition that could end up in Ukraine.
Even more sensitive is the information that appears derived from the U.S. penetration of the Russian government, such as details on how a Russian hacker shared screenshots with the FSB security service on accessing Canada’s natural-gas infrastructure, internal Russian ministry of defense deliberations on supplying ammunition to the Wagner paramilitary group, and plans by Russian military intelligence to foment an anti-Western and anti-Ukrainian campaign in Africa.
Aric Toler, head of research and training at the Bellingcat investigative consortium, which has carried out several probes of Russian intelligence operations, said that he has been in touch with three original members of the Discord group.
The group’s members saw hundreds of classified files before the channel was wiped clean, he said. Most members are based in the U.S. The identity of the original poster remains unknown.
Document leaks have emerged as a common tactic during the war in Ukraine, but the posting of the apparent U.S. intelligence files on Discord, an online chat service favored by videogame players, follows a different, somewhat baffling pattern, according to analysts.
Once global attention was drawn to the leak, members of the Discord groups scurried to delete their accounts and to purge their servers, fearing retribution by the U.S. government and unwelcome attention from foreign intelligence agencies.
“I left that server and I really hope that I am safe,” one of the users, who had uploaded some of the leaked files to the Minecraft community, posted on Friday, adding a crying emoji.
Founded eight years ago in San Francisco, Discord first gained popularity as software that gamers could use to talk to each other in a group.
The majority of these chat servers are private—shared by friends—but they can be public, too. Discord also hosts communities supporting Ukraine’s cause.
Discord is cooperating with law enforcement on the leak investigation, a Discord spokesman said. “It is Discord’s highest priority to ensure a safe experience for our users,” he said. “As this remains an active investigation, we cannot provide further comment at this time.”
On Sunday, Discord’s website listed more than 20,000 public servers, the majority of them concerning gaming. “It’s a very reliable service when the games are acting glitchy,” said Levi Gundert, chief security officer with the intelligence firm Recorded Future.
Researchers at Mr. Gundert’s firm have also found unsavory content on the platform, such as terrorist propaganda and tools for hackers. “It really looks more like a kind of free-for-all in terms of the content that’s available,” he said.
Discord would likely have information about the users of the original group’s server that would be of use to law enforcement investigators, Mr. Gundert said.
The latest leak isn’t the first time sensitive documents have shown up on a gaming-related server. Last year, a player of the WarThunder military vehicle combat game posted real classified information on the British Challenger 2 tanks, while a year earlier another user posted a classified manual for the French Leclerc tanks.
The new disclosures are far more significant. They include information about the types of heavy weapons and equipment held by the nine Ukrainian brigades that the U.S. and allies are preparing for the coming spring offensive; precise details on the quickly dwindling ammunition of the Ukrainian air defense systems; the level of protection of critical infrastructure sites; and details on how many tanks, artillery pieces and military aircraft Ukraine operates.
The slide initially publicized on Wednesday and Thursday by Russian propaganda Telegram accounts had been doctored to inflate Ukrainian battlefield casualties and to minimize Russian ones.
The crude nature of the alteration suggests this wasn’t a high-level intelligence operation, security analysts said.
Another purported Pentagon document that emerged on Friday contained the same estimate of Ukrainian and Russian battlefield fatalities as the unaltered slide: up to 43,000 Russian troops and up to 17,500 Ukrainian troops, in addition to as many as 41,000 Ukrainian civilians.
Separately from the war, one of the items in the CIA update said that Mossad leaders “advocated for Mossad officials and Israeli citizens to protest against the new Israeli government’s proposed judicial reform, including several explicit calls to action that decried the Israeli government.”
The update cited signals intelligence, an indication that conversations among the Mossad leadership have been intercepted by the U.S. government.
Mossad Sunday took the rare step of publicly denying the report, calling these allegations “mendacious and without any foundation whatsoever.”
Changes In Security
U.S. national security entities have taken steps to prevent a repeat of the 2013 breach, when Mr. Snowden, then a contractor to the National Security Agency, left the country with a large number of classified documents, and provided them to journalists.
Mr. Snowden, who became a Russian citizen, has said his leak was meant to shine light on what he described as abuses of U.S. surveillance, and chose to provide them to journalists so that they would vet the documents.
There has been no explanation so far of the motives behind the latest leak.
In the current case, the U.S. is considering a range of possibilities over how it occurred, including that someone with a top-secret security clearance leaked the information or that U.S. intelligence systems were hacked, U.S. officials said Saturday.
Leak probes usually begin by determining who had access to the documents, current and former officials said. Potentially hundreds of government employees have security clearances that would give them the ability to view the documents.
Marc Raimondi, a former Justice Department official, said that the pool of people who have access to some of the highest levels of classified information expanded in the years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
A congressional commission that investigated the attacks pointed to the lack of intelligence sharing as one of the reasons the U.S. government didn’t uncover the plot.
Since then, efforts have focused on sharing intelligence more widely, “but with having that wider pool of people having access, obviously, you run the risk that one of those people may not take their oath as seriously as they should, and you have an improper release of national defense information,” said Mr. Raimondi, chief of staff at the Silverado Policy Accelerator, a Washington, D.C., based think tank focused on security and trade issues.
Mr. Raimondi said sharing intelligence remains critical for protecting the U.S. and its allies, even if it comes with risks.
“An extraordinarily small number of clearance holders violate their obligation,” he said. “But when it does occur, it can be devastating.”
Ukraine May Run Out of Air Defenses By May, Leaked Pentagon Documents Warn
Kyiv is depleting its last reserves of S-300 missiles, making it possible for Russia to achieve air superiority, according to purported Pentagon presentations.
Russia could achieve its long-sought goal of air superiority in Ukrainian skies as early as May because Ukraine is running out of antiaircraft missiles, according to purported Pentagon presentations that have leaked on social media.
The Pentagon and the Justice Department began an investigation last week into document leaks when some purported U.S. Department of Defense presentations were posted by Russian propagandists on Telegram on Thursday.
The Wall Street Journal, which viewed these documents and a larger trove that emerged on Friday, hasn’t been able to independently verify their authenticity.
Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said Sunday that the U.S. continued to assess the validity of the documents “that appear to contain sensitive and highly classified material.” She said the U.S. had discussed the matter with allies over the weekend and was weighing the potential national security impact of the breach.
Col. Yuri Ihnat, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Air Force, said that he couldn’t comment on the veracity of the information in the leaked slides as such data is classified in Ukraine.
He confirmed, however, that Ukraine’s air defenses face a serious challenge and said that Ukraine urgently needs its Western partners to speed up assistance.
“If we lose the battle for the skies, the consequences for Ukraine will be very serious,” he said. “This is not the time to procrastinate.” After more than a year of war, he said, Ukraine faced a serious challenge finding the Soviet-designed ammunition for the backbone of its air-defense system, the S-300 and the Buk batteries.
Russian bombers and helicopter gunships haven’t ventured beyond the immediate vicinity of Ukraine’s front lines for nearly a year, after Ukraine’s air defenses shot down several aircraft in the initial weeks of the war.
As a result, Russia has only been able to strike deep inside Ukraine with expensive cruise missiles and long-range Iranian drones, rather than the much more abundant and more powerful unguided bombs.
Ukraine’s air defense has also made it impossible for Russian aircraft to target moving Ukrainian convoys, troop concentrations and other military targets in the rear, offsetting Moscow’s vast superiority in the number and quality of combat aircraft.
If true, the alarming assessments in the leaked presentations shed new light on the urgency with which Kyiv has been lobbying the U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies to speed up deliveries of Western-made air-defense systems and to provide Ukraine with Western-made jet fighters, such as F-16s, so that it would be able to prevent incursions by Russian bombers.
According to one of the documents, a likely consequence of the looming air defense crisis is that Ukraine will lose its ability to mass ground forces near the front lines, and to conduct a counteroffensive.
Kyiv said it is planning to launch a massive offensive to recapture Russian-occupied territories in coming weeks, using several new reserve brigades trained and equipped by the U.S. and NATO partners.
So far, Ukraine has been successful in denying Russia the ability to use its manned aircraft deep inside Ukraine largely because of its network of Soviet-vintage long-range air-defense systems, primarily S-300 and Buk, which can intercept targets at altitudes above 20,000 feet.
However, according to a secret purported Pentagon slide dated Feb. 28, Ukraine will have completely depleted its stock of Buk missiles by April 13, and of S-300 missiles by May 3, at current consumption rates.
By then, according to a map in another purported Pentagon presentation, also from Feb. 28, most of Ukraine’s critical national infrastructure outside the Kyiv region and two other areas in southwestern Ukraine will no longer have air-defense cover. The number of unprotected critical sites will soar from six to more than 40, it said.
Russia has fired several hundred cruise missiles and launched hundreds of Iranian-made Shahed drones since October in an effort to destroy Ukraine’s electricity system and to force a humanitarian crisis during the winter.
While that effort has failed, with rolling blackouts no longer occurring and Ukraine even resuming electricity exports to the European Union, the barrages have severely depleted Ukraine’s air-defense ammunition stocks.
While the U.S., Norway, Canada and Germany have provided Ukraine with two Nasams and one Iris-T air-defense batteries in recent months, these systems, too, were on track to run out of ammunition by May, according to the document.
Ukraine’s S-300 batteries were expending roughly 200 missiles a month, while Buk batteries fired about 69 missiles a month, the document said. Nasams and Iris-T expended a combined 64 missiles a month.
After months of Ukrainian requests for help, President Biden in late December authorized the deployment of one Patriot missile battery to Ukraine.
Ukraine is scheduled to receive an additional Patriot battery from Germany while France and Italy are providing one comparable SAMP-T system. While Ukrainian crews have already been trained, none of these systems are currently deployed, Col. Ihnat said.
Ukraine also operates portable air defense systems such as Stinger missiles. Valuable in the battlefield, they can’t reach high-flying aircraft or offer much protection to critical infrastructure.
While the Patriots and SAMP-T are more sophisticated than S-300, the three batteries due to arrive in Ukraine won’t be able to replace the breadth of coverage afforded by the 25 currently operating Ukrainian S-300 batteries, the leaked Pentagon presentation said.
The U.S. military’s European command estimates that Ukraine needs 12 Patriot or SAMP-T batteries, and 16 batteries of Nasams or Iris-T class to provide adequate coverage, according to the document. “Multiple mitigating options must be simultaneously pursued to increase decisions for more sustainable solutions,” it said.
Short term, the document recommended trying to find additional S-300 and Buk munitions abroad, a difficult endeavor as most of Ukraine’s allies that possessed such systems have already transferred them.
The only major exception is Greece, which operates two S-300 batteries. Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov visited Athens for talks on military supplies last month, but no details have been provided.
Over the medium term, the Pentagon analysis recommended expediting the procurement of Nasams, Patriot, Iris-T and other Western systems, as well as the so-called FrankenSAM project to repurpose air-defense tasks for more widely available missiles and systems that had been designed for other purposes.
Long term, the only proposed solution was to deliver enough Western air-defense systems to cover the whole country, and to digitally integrate them.
Ukraine’s outdated jet fighters are no match for the vastly larger and more modern Russian air force, and have little to no capacity for air-to-air defense against Russian air sorties, which is why Kyiv is clamoring for F-16s.
“This kind of aircraft would solve many of our issues in protecting the airspace, and it is available in sufficient numbers to make a difference,” said Col. Ihnat. The MiG-29 jets that Ukraine is on track to receive from Slovakia and Poland, while useful for other missions, wouldn’t be able to withstand air-to-air combat against more modern Russian jet fighters, he said.
While several NATO governments have said that they support giving F-16 jets to Ukraine, especially as they are being replaced with more modern aircraft, the Biden administration so far has stopped short of approving such a transfer.
Ukraine “doesn’t need F-16s now,” Mr. Biden said in an ABC News interview in late February, rejecting calls by some Democratic and Republican members of Congress to consider such a transfer.
Seoul Dismisses Report of US Spying On Allies, Says Ties Strong
* US Eavesdopped On Allies’ Internal Talks On Ukraine: Report
* South Korea Says Allegation ‘Not A Confirmed Matter’
South Korea played down any possibility of a rift with the US over a report that American intelligence agencies had eavesdropped on allies’ discussions about Ukraine, reiterating that its alliance with Washington remains strong.
“We will review past precedents and cases from other countries to come up with countermeasures,” and will hold consultations with the US on the issue, South Korea’s presidential office said in a statement Sunday. It said the allegation made in the report about internal discussions on Ukraine is “not a confirmed matter.”
South Korea issued the statement in response to a New York Times report claiming the US had been eavesdropping on allies, including South Korea, with regard to their plans to support Ukraine with weaponry.
The leaked Pentagon document on which the report was based was released on social media, and revealed that the US was also spying on Ukraine’s top military and political leaders.
In February, it was confirmed that a South Korean defense company was in talks with the US Department of Defense about ammunition exports.
While the South Korean government has a policy of not providing lethal weapons to Ukraine, there are interpretations that suggest it is indirectly supporting Ukraine through the US.
Two Korean defense companies, Hyundai Rotem and Hanwha Defense, have signed contracts worth a total of $5.76 billion with Poland to export K-2 battle tanks and K-9 self-propelled howitzers, Seoul’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration said last August. The Asian country is also set to export fighter jets to Poland.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed he was aware of South Korea’s decision to supply Ukraine with weapons and ammunition. During the Valdai Discussion Club held in Moscow last October, Putin issued a stark warning to Seoul concerning the potential deterioration of Russia-South Korea relations if the latter provides weapons to Ukraine.
Pentagon Probe Under Way In Leaks Case
A team is looking into how the purported classified documents were exposed, as the U.S. seeks to contain diplomatic fallout.
WASHINGTON—The Pentagon is conducting an internal investigation of how purported secret documents detailing Ukraine war plans and intelligence on U.S. allies surfaced online in recent weeks, as the U.S. sought to soothe foreign governments whose countries were mentioned in the files.
The Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are leading a criminal investigation into the leaks, but the Pentagon has assembled a team to conduct its own inquiry to determine the authenticity of the photographs of the classified slides that appeared online.
Pentagon officials along with the government’s other investigators are also trying to assess the extent of the potential damage and seeking to learn the identity of the leaker while attempting to contain diplomatic fallout from the unauthorized disclosure.
“This team is really working to get our arms around everything that has to do with this distribution,” Pentagon spokesman Chris Meagher told reporters Monday. “It’s assessing the national security implications; it’s making sure that we’re engaging with members of Congress; and it’s making sure we’re engaging with allies and partners.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is leading the Pentagon effort, which includes officials from legislative affairs, defense policy and public-relations teams, as well as senior uniformed military officials in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr. Meagher said.
The Wall Street Journal wasn’t able to independently authenticate the documents, but they contain enough detail to give them credibility. Defense officials have said they believe the documents are authentic, though caution that some appear to be altered.
Late Sunday, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said the U.S. continued to assess the validity of the documents “that appear to contain sensitive and highly classified material.”
The probe reflects the U.S. government’s deep concern that the leaks disclosed sensitive information about the war in Ukraine, intercepted communications about U.S. allies, and American penetration of Russian military plans.
The accompanying diplomatic outreach also highlights the blow these leaks could deliver to close relationships the U.S. maintains with allies and security partners.
“A significant leak can be very damaging to our ability to collect information,” said John P. Carlin, a former senior Justice Department official and now a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. “It can damage our ability to collect signals intelligence. It can cause human sources not to talk with us. It can damage our relationship with countries who share our interests.”
The Pentagon and State Department, and other parts of the administration, have been reaching out to allies about the leaks, officials said. “Those conversations began over the weekend and are ongoing,” said Mr. Meagher, the Pentagon spokesman.
Neither the Pentagon nor the State Department would elaborate on the conversations with allies, or the specific countries involved.
Most allies have been publicly quiet about the documents, though a South Korean official on Monday said the government in Seoul was investigating the circumstances around the leaks, which appeared to show intercepted communications of discussions among Seoul officials about concerns over selling ammunition to the U.S. that could end up in Ukraine.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that the U.S. has been seeking to persuade South Korea to supply artillery ammunition to Ukraine. Seoul has mostly resisted providing lethal assistance, citing their neutrality in the conflict.
The official said that once the investigation was done, South Korea “plans to request, if necessary, the U.S. to take reasonable measures.”
Other allies mentioned in the leaks include Canada, which according to one document, was targeted by hackers who breached critical systems at an unnamed Canadian natural gas pipeline operator in February. The hackers, according to the document, told Russian security services they had accessed the systems.
A spokesman for the Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s lead cybersecurity agency, declined to comment on the leaked report. He said the agency remains “deeply concerned,” about threats to critical infrastructure posed by cyberattacks on operational technology.
Among the items in the trove appears to be a March 2 edition of the CIA Operations Center Intelligence Update that said Israel’s foreign-intelligence agency encouraged its own officials and the country’s citizens to protest against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed justice-system overhaul.
The purported CIA document suggests the U.S., a close ally, has been intercepting the communications of the leaders of the Israeli intelligence agency, known as the Mossad.
In a rare public statement Sunday, the Mossad called these allegations “mendacious and without any foundation whatsoever.”
Just over 50 documents with Secret and Top Secret classification markings have surfaced so far. But more documents, possibly in the hundreds, were posted starting in January on an obscure messaging channel of the Discord social media platform.
They stayed among the members of the tiny group on the Discord platform until early March, when another user reposted several dozen of them to another group with a larger audience, and then migrated more widely, and to the media, last week.
Officials have said that hundreds of people could have had access to the purported classified documents, but wouldn’t specify how many.
The U.S. so far doesn’t yet appear to know the origins of the leaks of the documents, John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters Monday at the White House.
President Biden was first briefed on the documents last week and has been updated the matter multiple times since, Mr. Kirby said.
Asked if the leaks had been yet contained, Mr. Kirby said that wasn’t clear. “We don’t know, we truly don’t know.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said his body would continue to follow the issue closely alongside intelligence leaders.
“Any leak of classified information is extremely alarming. As the Pentagon investigates this matter, Americans should remember that Russia has a long history of disinformation efforts and it would be wise to be wary of trusting any claims they see online relating to these documents,” he said.
South Korea To Probe Circumstances Around Reported Leak of Classified U.S. Documents
Seoul could ask the U.S. ‘to take reasonable measures’ if reports of the leak are confirmed.
SEOUL—A South Korean official said the government was investigating the circumstances around a leak of highly classified U.S. documents that appeared to show intelligence based on intercepted communications of U.S. allies, including discussions among Seoul officials about concerns over selling ammunition to the U.S. that could end up in Ukraine.
South Korea’s first priority was to establish the facts, an official from the country’s presidential office said on Monday, adding that the reports of the intelligence leak hadn’t been confirmed.
Once that is done, South Korea “plans to request, if necessary, the U.S. to take reasonable measures,” the official said.
The official said the process would be “based on the relationship of trust established between the two countries.” Other U.S. allies have been affected by the leak, including Israel, France and the U.K., and South Korea would “look into how other countries are responding” to the matter, the official said.
The U.S. is seeking to assess the damage from the intelligence breach after dozens of images of purportedly classified U.S. documents began circulating online. A State Department spokesman declined Monday to comment on the validity of the documents.
He said the U.S. was engaging at high levels with allies and partners over the recent intelligence leak to reassure them of Washington’s commitment to safeguarding intelligence and to the security of their partnerships.
The Wall Street Journal hasn’t been able to independently verify the authenticity of the documents, but they contain enough detail to give them credibility.
On Tuesday, the official from the presidential office said the defense ministers from the U.S. and South Korea agreed that a significant number of the documents were forged, without offering further details.
The official also dismissed the possibility that another country could eavesdrop on officials in the South Korean presidential office, saying the security was ironclad.
The documents, viewed by the Journal, include purported details of a conversation that took place on March 1 between top aides to South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, in which they discuss a sale of ammunition to the U.S. and concerns about it violating the country’s policy against providing lethal aid if the U.S. wasn’t the end user.
South Korea, one of the world’s fastest-growing arms manufacturers, has come under pressure from Western officials to supply weapons directly to Ukraine. The country signed its largest-ever arms export deal last year, agreeing to supply tanks and jet fighters to Poland.
Last month, South Korea said it had approved the exports of components that were part of Krab howitzers made in Poland, though noting that its policy against providing lethal aid to Kyiv hadn’t changed.
The two former South Korean officials cited in the documents—Yi Mun-hui, then-secretary for foreign affairs at the National Security Council, and Kim Sung-han, then-national security adviser—discussed concerns in the National Security Council that President Biden would call Mr. Yoon directly before Seoul had a “clear position” on supplying the ammunition, the documents said.
Messrs. Yi and Kim stepped down from their posts at the end of March, and South Korea hasn’t publicly offered an explanation for their departures.
Asked whether the government had confirmed the discussion between the two former officials or investigated them over the matter, the official from the presidential office said the government doesn’t customarily confirm details of diplomatic and intelligence issues, without elaborating further.
Messrs. Yi and Kim couldn’t be reached for comment on Monday.
According to the documents, Mr. Kim expressed concern about how it might be perceived domestically if South Korea were to announce a change in its position on supplying lethal aid around the same time as the two countries announced a state visit by Mr. Yoon to Washington.
Mr. Kim said there was a risk the public would think the countries had struck a deal, the documents said.
Mr. Yoon is scheduled to visit Washington for a state visit on April 26. The visit was announced by the White House on March 7.
Mr. Kim suggested the possibility of selling 330,000 rounds of 155mm ammunition to Poland “as getting the ammunition to Ukraine quickly was the ultimate goal of the U.S.,” the documents said.
Mr. Yi agreed that it might be possible for Poland to agree to being called the end user and send the ammunition on to Ukraine, but that South Korea would need to verify what Poland would do, the documents said.
South Korea’s first deputy national security adviser, Kim Tae-hyo, is scheduled to visit the U.S. this week. He is expected to discuss the recent U.S. document leak while there, among other matters such as preparations for the South Korean president’s state visit and North Korea.
A Spelling Mistake Is Causing Thousands of Sensitive Pentagon Documents To Be Leaked To A Russian Ally
The emails are intended for the military’s .MIL domain, but they have been misdirected to .ML, the country identifier for Mali.
More than 100,000 U.S. military emails containing sensitive information on personnel, travel itineraries, and financial records this year have been leaked to a Mali-based domain all because of an apparent typo.
The emails are intended to reach the military’s .MIL domain, but have instead flowed into addresses ending with .ML — the country identifier for Mali, the Financial Times reported.
Johannes Zuurbier, a Dutch internet entrepreneur contracted to oversee Mali’s national domain, told the FT he first noticed the issue about a decade ago, and has seen millions of the misaddressed emails pour into the .ML domain.
He has recorded more than 117,000 emails since January as he continues to push U.S. officials to take a serious look at the problem.
Mali’s government — which has close ties to Russia — is expected to take control of the .ML domain on Monday when Zuurbier’s 10-year contract expires. Malian officials did not respond to the Times’ requests for comment.
“This risk is real and could be exploited by adversaries of the U.S.,” Zuurbier wrote in a letter to the U.S. officials this month.
None of the misdirected correspondence is considered classified, and most of it is spam, according to the paper.
However, some of the emails contain key information about active military personnel, their families, and government-hired contractors.
Medical data, identifying document information, base staff lists, photos of bases, contracts, criminal complaints against military personnel, inspection reports, ship crew lists, travel itineraries, and tax records, among other pieces of information, are all included in the emails, according to the FT.
One email earlier this year included travel plans for Gen. James McConville, the Army’s chief of staff, and his delegation ahead of a trip to Indonesia in May, the outlet reported.
McConville’s itinerary, the delegation’s list of room numbers, and details on how the delegation will collect room keys at their hotel were all in the email.
“If you have this kind of sustained access, you can generate intelligence even just from unclassified information,” Mike Rogers, a retired admiral who used to oversee the National Security Agency and the Army’s Cyber Command, told the Times.
“This is not uncommon,” he added. “It’s not out of the norm that people make mistakes but the question is the scale, the duration and the sensitivity of the information.”
Rogers also said the domain falling back to Malian control raises serious concerns.
“It’s one thing when you are dealing with a domain administrator who is trying, even unsuccessfully, to articulate the concern,” he told the Times. “It’s another when it’s a foreign government that . . . sees it as an advantage that they can use.”
Other emails sent to Mali came from military personnel attempting to send emails between their official and personal email accounts.
About a dozen people requested recovery passwords to an intelligence software system that were ultimately sent to Mali, and some sent passwords that allow users to access files kept by the Department of Defense, per the FT.
Lt. Commander Tim Gorman, a spokesman for the Pentagon, told the publication the Department of Defense is “is aware of this issue and takes all unauthorized disclosures of controlled national security information or controlled unclassified information seriously.
Emails sent from the .MIL domain to the .ML addresses “are blocked before they leave the .mil domain and the sender is notified that they must validate the email addresses of the intended recipients,” Gorman said.
According to Gorman, it is “not possible to implement technical controls preventing the use of personal email accounts for government business.”
But, he added, “the department continues to provide direction and training to DoD personnel.”
According to the Times, the domain army.ml is also just a letter away from army.nl, the domain used by the Dutch army.
More than a dozen emails collected by Zuurbier came from Dutch military personnel. The Dutch defense department did not respond to a request for comment from the FT.
There were also eight emails from the Australian Department of Defense intended for U.S. officials. The agency told the outlet it does “not comment on security matters.”