The Biggest Exposure of Classified Secrets Since Edward Snowden

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

I’m back, and thanks to Noah Rothman and Dominic Pino for holding down the fort during my vacation. On the menu today, the U.S. government and its allies are grappling with the biggest exposure of classified secrets since Edward Snowden, revealing what the U.S. knows about dwindling Ukrainian air-defense assets and ammunition, our spying on ally South Korea, a possible Mossad role in Israel’s recent protests, and a Russian hack on a Canadian natural-gas pipeline that the Canadians say didn’t happen.

Roughly 1.3 million Americans have top-secret security clearance, and apparently one of them with a bottle of Gorilla Glue on their desk decided to take pictures of those documents. Read on.

A Whole Bunch of America’s Biggest Secrets, Revealed on the Internet

There are often harmful consequences when government agencies that deal with national security “stovepipe” intelligence — that is, keep it to themselves and don’t share it with other agencies. For the U.S. government to operate effectively when dealing with little-known or little-noticed threats or attempting to persuade or influence other governments, multiple government agencies need to know who’s doing what, where, and when, and coordinate their actions.

But when agencies don’t stovepipe sensitive or classified information, and, say, the Central Intelligence Agency shares a lot of what it knows with the Pentagon, they can end up with problems like the one currently wracking the highest levels of the U.S. government, as the Wall Street Journal lays out:

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.

This is really bad news. I don’t begrudge anyone for choosing to pay attention to other news stories, but this is a far-reaching and consequential development that will probably get less attention than it deserves, because it doesn’t involve Donald Trump, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or Ron DeSantis, or fit neatly into any partisan narrative.

The documents — really, photographs of classified documents — took an odd and circuitous route to the public’s eyes. Bellingcat, a Netherlands-based investigative-journalism group, lays out the sequence:

The existence of the documents was first reported by the New York Times after a number of Russian Telegram channels shared five photographed files relating to the invasion of Ukraine on April 5 — at least one of which has since been found by Bellingcat to be crudely edited.

These documents appeared to be dated to early March, around the time they were first posted online on Discord, a messaging platform popular with gamers. . . .

Bizarrely, the Discord channels in which the documents dated from March were posted focused on the Minecraft computer game and fandom for a Filipino YouTube celebrity. They then spread to other sites such as the imageboard 4Chan before appearing on Telegram, Twitter and then major media publishers around the world in recent days.

At some point, someone altered the images to make it appear that Russia was inflicting way more casualties upon Ukraine than the other way around. It is unclear whether this was the work of the original leaker, or someone later:

There was only one image in common between the Telegram and 4chan posts: a map that showed a number of statistics, including the cumulative number of KIA (killed in action) soldiers on the Russian and Ukrainian sides through the course of the war.

However, the numbers on these two sources differed, with the first source (4chan) showing more Russian losses than Ukrainian, and the second source (Donbass Devushka) the reverse.

A closer examination of the second image, with the much higher Ukrainian KIA numbers, that was posted on Telegram shows crude image manipulation.

As well as the later posting time and far blurrier resolution, the numbers are out of alignment. Spacing between some numbers and letters is also too large to be consistent with the font.

It therefore seems that either the Donbass Devushka Telegram account, or a previous source posted by this account, altered the original image to paint the Ukrainian losses as heavier than in the original assessment.

Who’s got Gorilla Glue on their desk? Apparently, that’s a weird clue about who took the pictures: “Creases can be seen on the documents with items, such as a hunter’s scope box and some Gorilla Glue visible in the background of those dated from early March. This appears to indicate that at least some of the documents were photographed in the same location.”…..


Continue reading this article at National Review.


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