In the first official comment on the online publication of classified military intelligence documents, a spokesman for the US Department of Defense said on Monday that this represented a “very serious risk” to Washington.
The documents pose “a very serious risk to national security and have the potential to spread disinformation,” Chris Meagher told reporters.
A Pentagon team is working to assess whether the documents are genuine, but the photos circulating on various social media platforms “appear to show documents similar in format to those used to provide daily updates to our senior leaders on Ukraine and Russia-related operations, as well as other intelligence updates,” Meagher added, while insisting that some “appear to have been altered.”
While the initial revelations concerned the Ukraine conflict, the latest batch of files that appeared on Friday contained information about China, South Korea, the “Indo-Pacific military theater,” the Middle East, counter-terrorism operations, and Israel.
“We’re still investigating how this happened, as well as the scope of the issue,” Meagher said, adding that “there have been steps to take a closer look at how this type of information is distributed and to whom.”
The crackdown has restricted the flow of intelligence at the Pentagon and indicates “a high level of panic” at the military, the Washington Post reported over the weekend, citing anonymous sources inside the DoD. One official told Reuters there were four or five theories as to who could have been a source, ranging from a “disgruntled employee to an insider threat.”
Both Russia and Ukraine have brushed off the documents’ significance. According to the Kremlin, Moscow has long known about Washington’s direct involvement in the conflict. Meanwhile, Russian military analysts speculated the information in the Pentagon briefings may have been falsified to mislead Russia about the upcoming Ukrainian “spring counteroffensive.”
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s adviser, Mikhail Podoliak, had initially dismissed the documents as fake and accused Russia of spreading disinformation. By Sunday, however, CNN was reporting that Kiev had already changed some of its military plans in response to the revelations.