Pentagon investigating leak of classified Ukraine war documents

Experts say the release of documents labeled "top secret" could be part of a Russian disinformation campaign.
Posted at 8:05 PM, Apr 07, 2023

Planning documents detailing U.S. and NATO military support in Ukraine have been splashed across social media. Now the Defense Department says it's looking into how the documents, labeled "top secret," were leaked and whether they have been doctored.

A defense official told Scripps News the documents appear to be part of an intelligence assessment from several weeks ago with little intelligence value. Scripps News has not reviewed the documents or confirmed their authenticity. 

Angela Stent, a senior fellow from The Brookings Institution and author of the book "Putin's World: Russia Against the West and with the Rest," noted that some of the information in the documents was already public knowledge.

"There are a number of details in there about this planned Ukrainian counteroffensive, which may take place in the next few weeks, that apparently were knowable without having a classified document. So I think the damage maybe isn't as great as some people think it is," Stent said.

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The New York Times, which broke news of the leaks, reports the documents undercount the number of Russian deaths and overcount the number of Ukrainian deaths. Experts say that indicates the release could be part of a Russian disinformation campaign.

"The Russians have been doing this for a very long time and certainly since the beginning of the war," Stent said. "They're trying to disguise a lot of their failures on the battlefield."

The Pentagon told Scripps News, "We are aware of the reports of social media posts, and the Department is reviewing the matter." 

"Any leak of classified information is extremely alarming and I'm glad to see that the Pentagon is investigating this matter," said Sen. Mark Warner, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "Russia has a long history of disinformation efforts, so Americans should remember to be wary of trusting the information they see online."

Stent says identifying the source of the leak should be a top concern for U.S. officials, even if the information appears altered.

"They do have to find out how this was leaked, who leaked it and the extent to which the Russians have managed to penetrate information systems in the United States," Stent said. "I think those are all very serious concerns."