Leaked documents reveal extent of US espionage

May 31, 2023
US espionage
The leaking of allegedly top secret United States intelligence documents has caused a diplomatic storm. Graphic: Green Left

The leak of a trove of secret United States government documents posted on social media has revealed how the US and its military is striving to reestablish hegemony, by targeting adversaries — especially Russia and China — and pressuring allies to toe the line or face economic and political retaliations.

The bulk of the more than 60 documents we know about so far appear to originate from the Central Intelligence Agency’s Operations Center and the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Following the leak, White House’s National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby warned the media not to publish the documents. However, since they appeared on the internet, various media outlets have studied them and written about them and aspects of the documents have dribbled out over time.

At first, the White House, Defence Department and National Security Agency claimed Russian agents had leaked the documents. Then, on April 13, the Justice Department announced the arrest of 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guard member, Jack Teixeira, at his home. He was identified as the leaker.

It isn’t clear yet what Teixeira’s motive was. The New York Times reports he was obsessed with war and military equipment, and wanted to “give gamers a real taste of war”.

In a court document filed on April 27, and reported on by the NYT, prosecutors disclosed that Teixeira was suspended from high school in 2018 for commenting about the use of Molotov cocktails and other weapons. He also trawled the internet for information about mass shootings, surrounded his bed with firearms and tactical gear, was prone to making “racial threats”, and engaged in “regular discussions about violence and murder” on the social media platform, Discord, where he posted the classified information.

Teixeira has been celebrated by the far right for the leaks.

There is no indication that Teixeira or his friends sought to sell the information. There is little doubt that these documents are genuine.

Teixeira joined the Guard in 2019, and was given “top secret” access to classified documents in 2021. In February he was listed as a Cyber Defense Operations Journeyman, and his job involved reviewing large amounts of classified information.

The documents

While the Pentagon and the media try to shift the focus to the “leaker” and his “crime”, the documents themselves are the real story. They expose details of US surveillance of its adversaries and allies and have triggered a series of diplomatic storms.

For example, the leak upset senior Ukrainian officials, who had sought to keep details of their military vulnerabilities hidden as Russia’s war grinds on into its second year.

The NYT reported that the documents “leave no doubt about how deeply the United States is in the day-to-day conduct of the war, providing the precise intelligence and logistics that help explain Ukraine’s success thus far”.

“It is providing detailed targeting data. It is coordinating the long, complex chain that delivers weapons to the Ukrainians … and American officials are planning ahead for a year in which the battle for the Donbas is ‘likely heading toward a stalemate’ that will frustrate Vladimir V. Putin’s goal of capturing the region — and Ukraine’s goal of expelling the invaders.”

Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman referred to a BBC report, on April 11, which alleged that one of the leaked documents “shows [that] dozens of special forces from Western nations, including the US, are operating inside Ukraine. The document, which was marked ‘top secret’, says the UK has 50 special forces; Latvia, 17; France, 15; US, 14; and the Netherlands has one”.

Goodman interviewed James Bamford, an investigative journalist and author about what some of the leaked documents appear to reveal about the realities on the ground in Ukraine.

Bamford told DN! the leaked Ukraine documents appear to have been produced by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and could have been accessed by hundreds of US military personnel or civilian officials involved in the Ukraine situation — within and outside the Pentagon. He said they “paint a clearer picture of what actually is happening over there” and run contrary to the “upbeat accounts” by cable news networks and members of Congress.

“There is not going to be any big winners necessarily. And the Ukrainians are in a very bad position, because they’re not getting enough ammunition,” said Bamford.

The 38 leaked documents, reviewed by ABC News, cover varying topics including the dozen or more slides of documents about the battlefields of Ukraine.

“Two of these documents,” reported ABC News, “appeared to note that Ukraine's air defense systems are at risk of experiencing supply shortfalls in coming months. Another slide lays out scenarios under which the US could apparently pressure Israel into providing Ukraine with lethal aid.

“Other slides contain information providing apparently specific casualty numbers for Ukraine and Russia, as well as what appears to be highly specific information about the number of tanks, armored vehicles, helicopters and aircraft that have been destroyed or are available for combat.”

Russia, Ukraine

The documents also include a “two-page copy of what appears to be the CIA worldwide intelligence summary for March 2”, and an “eight-page strategic analysis document where most of the contents appear to have been gleaned from intercepted communications” reported ABC News.

These documents include “analysis … about the Russian Defense Ministry's views on supplying munitions to the Wagner Group”, Iran’s “readying for a space launch”, and “descriptions of South Korea's National Security Council's internal discussions about the US request to push artillery ammunition to Ukraine via a third country”.

South Korea has a policy against providing weapons to countries at war.

The documents also include specific information about Russia's plans in Ukraine and elsewhere, including “what appear to be precise descriptions of Russian plans to carry out two separate aerial attacks in early March aimed at Ukrainian military targets and Ukrainian energy infrastructure and bridges. There is a description of what appears to be Russia's plans for combatting the tanks being sent to Ukraine by NATO countries by setting up a layered defense and training Russian troops on the tank's vulnerabilities…

“They [also] describe what are said to be internal Ukrainian discussions about striking at Russian troop locations deployed to a region inside Russia.

Egypt, UAE

The reports have also caused embarrassment for two US allies — Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, reported Al Jazeera:

“Egyptian officials denied a Washington Post report citing a leaked document dated February 17 that said Egypt had reached a secret agreement to supply Russia with 40,000 rockets, gunpowder and artillery shells.

“In the document, [Egyptian president] Sisi instructs the officials to keep the production and shipment of the rockets secret ‘to avoid problems with the West’.”

Egypt is the top importer of Russian grain, which it desperately needs.

“Another leaked document focuses on the United Arab Emirates, saying Abu Dhabi had agreed to leak US and United Kingdom intelligence to curry favor with Russia,” reported Al Jazeera.

“The UAE said suggestions it had deepened ties with Russian intelligence were ‘categorically false’.”

South Korea, Taiwan

Most countries in the Middle East and the Global South have refused to actively back the US against Russia. They have pushed for a negotiated settlement to end Russia’s war in Ukraine.

There have not been proposals or plans by President Joe Biden’s administration to correct any potential misinformation contained in the documents.

Ukraine initially publicly dismissed the leaked material as Russian disinformation and an attempt to sow distrust between Kyiv and Washington, according to media reports. But at least one report asserts that the leak has forced Ukraine to alter some of its military plans.

While the leaks may temporarily complicate coordination between the US and its Asian ally South Korea in support of Kyiv, lasting damage to the relationship appears unlikely. South Korea's president said that the alliance was still strong, and it would hold off on making demands of the Pentagon until the investigation is wrapped up. South Korea, where 24,000 US troops are based, is key to the US encirclement of China.

The Israeli government hasn't commented on claims in the leaked documents about Mossad or what it might take for Israel to provide lethal aid to Ukraine. Israel’s ties to Russia are important because of Russia’s alliance with Syria.

Israel, according to an article in the NYT, “needed Russia’s support in fighting Iranian-backed militants in parts of Syria, where Russia holds sway, and in Moscow’s willingness to allow Russian Jews to immigrate to Israel. And several of the infamous oligarchs who help Putin keep power are dual Russian Israeli citizens”.

There may be more revelations to come. A recent article in the WP said the leaked documents reveal that Taiwan would be “unlikely to thwart Chinese air superiority in a cross-strait conflict” and that “China’s use of civilian ships for military purposes have eroded US spy agencies’ ability to detect a pending invasion”.

They also reveal, according to the WP, “that Taiwan officials doubt their air defenses can ‘accurately detect missile launches’, that barely more than half of Taiwan’s aircraft are fully mission capable and that moving the jets to shelters would take at least a week — a huge problem if China launched missiles before Taiwan had a chance to disperse those planes”.

The US will continue its attacks on Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s collaborators and allies no matter the outcome of the investigation into the leaks and who, besides Teixeira, is punished.

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