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Tipsheet

Biden Admin Was Caught 'Off Guard' Again by Classified Intel Leak

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Scores of highly classified documents appearing to contain intelligence about foreign countries gathered by the United States have been posted online in recent days, drawing a significant amount of of hand-wringing and outcry from Biden administration officials who were caught "off guard," especially those at the Pentagon.

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According to The New York Times, the latest "batch of classified documents that appear to detail American national security secrets from Ukraine to the Middle East to China surfaced on social media sites on Friday, alarming the Pentagon and adding turmoil to a situation that seemed to have caught the Biden administration off guard." 

Can anyone think of a situation in the last two-plus years in which the Biden administration was not caught off guard? 

The Times' report continues:

The scale of the leak — analysts say more than 100 documents may have been obtained — along with the sensitivity of the documents themselves, could be hugely damaging, U.S. officials said. A senior intelligence official called the leak “a nightmare for the Five Eyes,” in a reference to the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, the so-called Five Eyes nations that broadly share intelligence.

The latest documents were found on Twitter and other sites on Friday, a day after senior Biden administration officials said they were investigating a potential leak of classified Ukrainian war plans, include an alarming assessment of Ukraine’s faltering air defense capabilities. One slide, dated Feb. 23, is labeled “Secret/NoForn,” meaning it was not meant to be shared with foreign countries.

The Justice Department said it had opened an investigation into the leaks and was in communication with the Defense Department but declined to comment further.

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Over the weekend, the Pentagon said it was reviewing the leaked documents to verify their authenticity but said they "appear to contain sensitive and highly classified material."

As the DOJ's investigation continues, there's new reporting from Reuters that notes, as the Biden administration scrambles to prevent further leaks and minimize the damage caused by what's already been posted online, the leak came from within the United States.

Reuters quoted former senior Pentagon official Michael Mulroy who said the "focus now is on this being a U.S. leak, as many of the documents were only in U.S. hands," a notion reinforced by the presence of materials labeled "NoForn."

Officially, the Biden administration maintains that no culprit has been ruled out, including "the possibility that pro-Russian elements were behind the leak" that is now "seen as one of the most serious security breaches since more than 700,000 documents, videos and diplomatic cables appeared on the WikiLeaks website in 2013," Reuters noted.

According to Reuters, the leaked documents included one marked "secret" that stated "Ukraine S-300 air defense systems would be depleted by May 2 at the current usage rate." Another marked "top secret" cited signals intelligence showing the Mossad "was encouraging protests against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plans to tighten controls on the Supreme Court." Over the weekend, Netanyahu called the claim "mendacious" and "without any foundation."

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The U.S. officials who spoke anonymously with Reuters said American investigators will continue "looking at what motivations a U.S. official or a group of officials would have in leaking such sensitive information," including "four or five theories" that range from "a disgruntled employee to an insider threat who actively wanted to undermine U.S. national security interests."

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