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Tipsheet

Wait, Those Leaked Classified Pentagon Documents Went Undetected for How Long?

If the media didn’t jump up and down while clapping like a bunch of seals, maybe we would be treating these leaks at the Pentagon more seriously. Instead, it’s a fly-by story because the press exhausted itself trying to sell the public that former President Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents leading to last summer’s Mar-a-Lago raid was the most unprecedented act to ever occur to a former head of state. It was a national security issue of the highest order; nothing like this had ever happened until Trump became president – except that was a lie. People handling classified materials outside of protocol had been happening since President Kennedy, which was brought up when Joe Biden was caught with top secret files strewn about at multiple locations, including his Wilmington home. It’s funny how quickly the narrative shifted regarding classified materials.

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That doesn’t mean such breaches are good, but they are inevitable. We live in a digital age where more than 1 million authorized personnel can access sensitive materials. Leaks are going to happen. The latest tranche of documents that weren’t for the public eye centered on classified reports about Russia and its operational capacity in Ukraine. We’ve reportedly infiltrated deep into the Kremlin’s military network, whose information has been disseminated to Ukrainian forces. Russia’s officer corps has been decimated, with numerous generals picked off by snipers. Before, there was heavy speculation that American intelligence services were helping Ukrainians find these targets, which wouldn’t be shocking, but how good the information was is a new development. 

As for our allies, we’re spying on them, too. But as others have noted, an open secret differs greatly from detailed reports on these activities. Also, are we at least a bit disconcerted about how long it took for the brass to figure out these classified materials were leaked? They were public for weeks, and no one noticed (via NBC News): 

The Biden administration is looking at expanding how it monitors social media sites and chatrooms after U.S. intelligence agencies failed to spot classified Pentagon documents circulating online for weeks, according to a senior administration official and a congressional official briefed on the matter. 

The possible change in the intelligence-gathering process is just one potential shift as officials scramble to determine not only how the documents leaked but also how to prevent another damaging incident.

President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were briefed about the disclosure last week, administration officials say, but the secret documents appeared online in early March on the Discord social media app, according to Bellingcat, the open-source investigative group. Some documents may have appeared as early as January, the group said. 

The president and other officials were dismayed when they learned the documents had been online for at least a month. 

“Nobody is happy about this,” said the senior administration official. 

The administration is now looking at expanding the universe of online sites that intelligence agencies and law enforcement authorities track, the official said. 

[…] 

The disclosure also has raised fresh questions about how sensitive intelligence information is handled inside the government, and whether the pool of people allowed to access it needs to be scaled back. 

In the aftermath of the leak, the administration has already tightened access to classified information and is looking at other steps, officials said.

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Well, I would hope “nobody is happy” about this breach, and no one needs to look further than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to see how classified materials are handled. Joe Biden leaves state secrets everywhere.

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