'Here, Have Some Leaked Documents'

Latest intelligence leak first surfaced on a gaming forum
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 10, 2023 9:01 AM CDT
'Here, Have Some Leaked Documents'
   (Getty / Zhanna Danilova)

Two things to know about the latest leak of US intelligence reports in the news over the last few days: It appears to be both serious and bizarre. The Justice Department is still trying to figure out what happened and assess the damage, reports the Washington Post. Many of the files posted online appear to provide details about the war in Ukraine, but the implications go beyond that. At this point, more questions than answers are out there, but here are some basics:

  • Origins: This is the "bizarre" part. The investigative outlet Bellingcat reports that the first documents appear to have been posted online in early March at the messaging platform Discord, within a forum dedicated to players of the "Minecraft" video game. "After a brief spat with another person on the server about Minecraft Maps and the war in Ukraine, one of the Discord users replied, 'here, have some leaked documents'—attaching 10 documents about Ukraine, some of which bore the 'Top Secret' markings," writes Aric Toler. From there, they appear to have spread to 4Chan and Telegram.

  • The stakes: At this point, about 100 of the documents have appeared online, per the BBC. "The intelligence leak is shaping up to be one of the most damaging in decades," observes a story in the Wall Street Journal. "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." (Read more on the ramifications for US spy agencies here.)
  • Clues: One reason this is being described as a leak and not a hack is that photographs of folded-up classified briefings were posted—as if someone smuggled the briefings out of a secure facility in their pocket in order to photograph them later, per the New York Times. The Journal adds that several other items are visible in the photos, "including Gorilla glue, shoes and instructions for a GlassHawk HD spotting scope, details that could facilitate the search for the leaker."
  • What was leaked: The Times, which was the first to report on the breach, has a guide to the details here. No specific bombshells have emerged, but one serious aspect of the leak is that the documents are so recent, just weeks old. What's more, "they may offer insights—or at least tantalizing clues—to the trained eye of a Russian war planner," writes Eric Nagourney. The BBC also has reviewed about 20 of the documents: "A lot of the detail here is familiar. There's just a lot more of it, and it's all in one place."
  • One detail: The leaked documents suggest that Ukraine's air-defense system might collapse in the near future if the West doesn't reinforce it, according to a separate Times story.
(More US intelligence stories.)

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