The recently leaked documents of America’s Pentagon (Department of Defense) have created friction between Washington and its allies. Not only do they have the potential to damage Ukraine’s war effort, but they also have the potential to damage US’ relationship with other allies. According to a report from the New York Times, a high-ranking intelligence official from a Western nation reviewed the recently leaked documents and expressed that the release of such sensitive information is deeply concerning. The official noted that this breach of confidential material has the potential to damage intelligence-sharing efforts, as trust and the ability to keep sensitive information confidential is crucial for various agencies to provide material to one another.
The release of the intelligence documents has also shed light on the fact that the US government is not only gathering intelligence on Russia but also on its allies. While this may not be a surprise to officials in those countries, the public revelation of such eavesdropping has the potential to strain relations with key partners such as South Korea, whose support is crucial in providing Ukraine with weaponry.
US politicians are concerned about the leak
Representative Mike Gallagher, a Republican from Wisconsin and member of the House Intelligence Committee, has called for a briefing from Biden administration officials on the newly revealed intelligence documents. He expressed concern over the potential damage to national security and CIA operations in Europe and beyond. Gallagher emphasised the seriousness of the leak, describing it as a “massive counterintelligence problem.” The congressman’s remarks come as Congress prepares to return to session next week.
According to senior U.S. officials, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launched an inquiry on Friday to quickly identify the source of the leak. These officials confirmed that the documents seem to be authentic intelligence and operational briefs created by the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, based on reports from the government’s intelligence community. However, they also noted that at least one document had been altered from its original version at some point.
What do the documents reveal about US espionage?
Simply put, the documents reveal what many have known for a long time. US eavesdrops not only on its rival but also on its allies. A similar revelation was made a few years ago when information came to light that revealed the US was listening in to phone conversations of then German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Among the leaked documents are discussions about South Korea’s internal debates regarding providing the US with artillery shells for use in Ukraine, which would violate Seoul’s policy on providing lethal aid. One section of the documents reveals that South Korean officials were concerned about President Biden calling South Korea’s president and pressuring them to provide the requested ammunition.
Another section of the leaked documents, from the CIA, provides more explicit details on how the US obtained information about the South Korean deliberations. The document notes that the information was obtained through “signals intelligence,” which refers to intercepted communications such as phone calls and electronic messages. One C.I.A. assessment, based on intercepted communications, revealed that in February, senior leaders of Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, urged Mossad officials and Israeli citizens to protest judicial reforms proposed by Israel’s new government. The initial release of documents was apparently made on Discord, a social media chat platform favoured by video gamers, in early March.