The mishandling of classified documents by American leaders has generated in recent months countless headlines, but when someone posted top-secret U.S. and NATO plans to build up Ukraine’s military ahead of a planned offensive against Russian troops to Twitter and Telegram this week, the Pentagon scrambled to get them deleted from social media.
“We are aware of the reports of social media posts and the department is reviewing the matter,” said Pentagon Deputy Press Secretary Sabrina Singh, according to The New York Times.
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) March 29, 2023
While the five-week-old documents don’t provide specific battle plans, they do “no doubt offer many tantalizing clues and insights” for, say, a highly-trained member of Russian intelligence.
“The documents mention, for instance, the expenditure rate of HIMARS — American-supplied high mobility artillery rocket systems, which can launch attacks against targets like ammunition dumps, infrastructure and concentrations of troops, from a distance,” The Times reports. “The Pentagon has not said publicly how fast Ukrainian troops are using the HIMARS munitions; the documents do.”
The leaked documents appear to have been modified, according to military analysts, boosting American estimates of the number of Ukrainians who have died in the war and downplaying Russian losses — a possible effort on Moscow’s part to spread disinformation.
Still, The Times states, “the disclosures in the original documents, which appear as photographs of charts of anticipated weapons deliveries, troop and battalion strengths, and other plans, represents a significant breach of American intelligence in the effort to aid Ukraine.”
Now, military analysts say, government channels sympathetic to Russia have been sharing and circulating the classified briefing slides.
Michael Kofman is the director of Russian studies at CNA, a research institute in Arlington, Va. He warned against trusting anything Russian sources have to say.
“Whether these documents are authentic or not, people should take care with anything released by Russian sources,” Kofman said.
While it is unclear how much of an impact the leaked materials will have on the war efforts, what is clear is that the United States has been actively engaged in helping Ukraine with its battle plans and spying on the Russians — all while providing endless amounts of taxpayer money and American weapons to fight a war Congress has yet to declare.
Indeed, according to The Times, Ukraine was, from the beginning, afraid exactly this sort of intelligence breach would occur:
But early on during the war, Ukrainian officials were hesitant about sharing their battle plans with the United States, for fear of leaks, American and European officials said. As recently as last summer, American intelligence officials said they often had a better understanding of Russia’s military plans than of Ukraine’s.
Concerned that sharing their operation plans could also highlight weaknesses and discourage continued American support, the Ukrainians were closely guarding them even as American intelligence was gathering precise details on what the Kremlin was ordering and Russian commanders were planning.
This very public leak, The Times writes, “posted on social media and available around the world, is bound to harm intelligence sharing between Ukraine and the United States.”
To that end, the Pentagon is now trying to discover the source of the leak. Meanwhile, it is, the T(w)itter Daily News tweeted, “trying to get Twitter to remove posts that contain classified documents about the war in Ukraine.”
NEWS: Pentagon is trying to get Twitter to remove posts that contain classified documents about the war in Ukraine pic.twitter.com/CIsGB7ZH3t
— T(w)itter Daily News (@TitterDaily) April 6, 2023
The news was enough to prompt a response from Chief Twit, Twitter CEO Elon Musk, who could hardly contain his sarcasm.
“Yeah, you can totally delete things from the Internet,” Musk replied, “that works perfectly and doesn’t draw attention to whatever you were trying to hide at all.”
Yeah, you can totally delete things from the Internet – that works perfectly and doesn’t draw attention to whatever you were trying to hide at all
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 7, 2023