New York Times
WASHINGTON -- A cache of leaked Pentagon papers reveals the extent to which the United States has penetrated Russia's intelligence and security services. The documents also demonstrate Washington's capability to warn Ukraine of planned strikes, and provide an assessment of Moscow's military machine.
These documents portray a Russian military depleted and struggling to win its war in Ukraine, as well as a deeply compromised military apparatus. The documents contain daily warnings in real time to U.S. Intelligence agencies about the timing and targets of Moscow's attacks. The United States has been able to provide Ukraine with crucial information about how to defend themselves.
These documents reveal the American view of a Ukrainian army that is in dire need. These documents, which date from late February or early March, but were only recently discovered on social media, detail the critical shortages in air defense munitions, and also discuss Russian gains around Bakhmut, a city located to the east. Intelligence reports indicate that Washington is also spying on Ukraine’s top political and military leaders. This reflects Washington's desire to gain a better understanding of Ukraine's combat strategies.
The documents confirm a fact that has been acknowledged by intelligence officials for a long time: the United States understands Russian military operations better than Ukrainian planning. The collection of intelligence is difficult, and it can be wrong. But the documents provide the most comprehensive picture of the biggest land war in Europe for decades.
Officials from the United States said that, although the documents provide hints on U.S. methods for collecting information about Russian plans and strategies, U.S. Intelligence agencies are unsure if their sources of intelligence will be affected by the leak. U.S. officials admit that they have lost some information sources since the beginning of the war, but these new documents seem to indicate that America still has a good understanding of Russian plans.
The leak could be damaging to Ukraine's war efforts by revealing which Russian agencies are known to the United States the most. This would give Moscow the opportunity to cut off the information sources.
The leak has complicated relationships with allies and raised questions about America's capacity to keep secrets. A senior Western intelligence official reviewed the documents and said that the leak was painful. He suggested it could reduce intelligence sharing. The official explained that for different agencies to share material with each other they need to have trust and assurances about the confidentiality of certain sensitive information.
Documents could also harm diplomatic relations in other ways. Newly revealed intelligence documents make it clear that the U.S. does not only spy on Russia but also its allies. Although this is not surprising, making the eavesdropping of key partners public can always harm relations. For example, South Korea's help in supplying Ukraine with weapons would be compromised if it were made public.
The FBI launched an investigation on Friday to quickly determine the source. Senior U.S. government officials confirmed that the FBI would move swiftly in order to find the leaker. Officials acknowledged that documents appeared to be legitimate intelligence briefs and operational reports compiled by Pentagon's Joint Staff using intelligence reports from government agencies, but at least one document had been altered at a later date.
A senior U.S. government official described the leak as a'massive intelligence breach', made worse by the fact that it shows Russia how deeply American intelligence agents have penetrated the Russian military apparatus. One official stated that officials with security clearance in the U.S. receive these documents daily via email, which may then be forwarded on to others.
A senior U.S. official stated that it could be difficult to track down the source of the leak because hundreds if not thousands of U.S. military officials and government officials possess the clearances required to access the documents. The official stated that the Pentagon has instituted procedures to 'lockdown' the distribution highly sensitive briefing papers. These documents were photos of folded papers with magazine images behind them. This information may be helpful to investigators.
Documents show that the United States has penetrated nearly all Russian security services in some manner. One entry marked as top secret discusses, for example, the Russian General Staff’s plans to counter NATO tanks that were provided to Ukraine. This included creating different ‘fire zones’ and training Russian soldiers to be aware of the vulnerabilities of the different allied tanks.
One entry mentions a planned information campaign by the GRU (Russia's military intelligence) in Africa to 'promote Russian Foreign Policy' and try to influence public opinion against America.
Some intelligence briefs provide analysis and warnings about Russian plans. Others contain information Ukraine can use to defend themselves. One entry mentions that the Russian Defense Ministry was planning to launch missile attacks on Ukraine's forces in Odesa, Mykolaiv and other locations on March 3. The U.S. Intelligence agencies thought the attack would aim to destroy a drone-storage area and an air defence gun as well as kill Ukrainian soldiers.
Another entry talks about a February report by the Russian National Defense Command Center on the 'decreased fighting capability' of Russia forces in Eastern Ukraine.
The documents, although compiled by the Joint Staff of the Pentagon, contain intelligence from a variety of agencies, such as the National Security Agency and Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the State Department, and even the CIA. The material has been labeled with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), noting that it cannot be distributed without the permission of the Attorney General.
The documents contain a section titled CIA Operations Center Intelligence Update for March 2. This section contains information on the Russian Ministry of Defense's efforts to counter allegations that it was not supplying munitions for Wagner group troops in Ukraine, 'according a signals intelligence reports'.
Documents reveal that American intelligence services not only spy on Russians but also listen in on important allies.
At least two pages of the documents posted online discuss South Korea's debate over whether it should give U.S. artillery to Ukraine for its use, which would violate Seoul's policy against providing lethal assistance. In one section, it is reported that South Korean officials were concerned that President Joe Biden might call South Korea's leader to pressurize Seoul into delivering the goods.
A section from the CIA documents is more explicit in describing how the United States learned about South Korean deliberations. It notes that the information came from a'signals intelligence report'.
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