A Guide to What the Leaked U.S. Intelligence Documents Say

From a New York Times story by Eric Nagourney headlined “A Quick Guide to What the Leaked U.S. Intelligence Documents Say”:

Leak or hack? Information or disinformation? A coup for Russia or a ploy by the United States?

Days after U.S. intelligence documents, some marked “top secret,” were found circulating on social media, many questions remain about how dozens of pages from Pentagon briefings became public and how much stock to put in them.

Here is what we know about the documents.

Are the documents real?

Yes, officials say — at least, for the most part.

Some of the documents were doctored, officials said, but those revisions appear to have been made after the material was initially uploaded on the internet.

It is unclear why the reports would have been altered, but whatever the reason, some of the material, military analysts say, overstates American estimates of Ukrainian war dead and understates how many Russian troops have been killed since Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor last year.

And although officials confirmed that many of the documents are authentic, it is also unclear how accurate their intelligence assessments are.

Where did the materials come from?

Although the investigation is still continuing, federal investigators on Thursday arrested a 21-year-old air national guardsman from Massachusetts whom they say has been linked to the leaked material. The guardsman, Jack Teixeira, was the leader of a small online gaming chat group where a trove of the documents first appeared.

Hours before the arrest, The New York Times reported that Mr. Teixeira oversaw a private online group named Thug Shaker Central where about 20 to 30 people, mostly young men and teenagers, came together over a shared love of guns, racist online memes and video games.

The material — photographs of printed briefing reports — eventually began circulating on platforms like Twitter, 4chan and Telegram also, but the files had sat on Discord, a social media messaging platform, since early March, analysts said.

The images look like hastily taken photographs of pieces of paper sitting atop what appears to be a hunting magazine. Former officials who have reviewed the material say it appears that a classified briefing was folded up, placed in a pocket and then taken out of a secure area to be photographed.

What do the documents say?

The leak appears to go well beyond classified material on Russia and Ukraine, and the information revealed in the leak is remarkably timely.

Security analysts who have reviewed the documents on social media sites say the growing trove also includes sensitive briefing material on Canada, China, Israel and South Korea, in addition to the Indo-Pacific military theater and the Middle East.

On the war in Ukraine:

The documents do not fundamentally alter the understanding of what is happening at the front, nor do they contain specific battle plans. But they do detail secret American and NATO plans for building up the Ukrainian military.

They also suggest that the Ukrainian forces are in more dire straits than their government has acknowledged publicly. Without an influx of munitions, the documents show, Ukraine’s air defense system may soon collapse, which could allow Russia to unleash its air force on Ukrainian troops.

Some documents paint a picture of the Russian government feuding over the count of the dead and wounded in the war, with a domestic intelligence agency, the F.S.B., accusing the military of obscuring the scale of casualties that Russia has suffered. The finding highlights “the continuing reluctance of military officials to convey bad news up the chain of command,” American intelligence officials said.

One document outlines four “wild card” scenarios that could affect the course of the war: hypothetical scenarios including the deaths of Presidents Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, the removal of leadership within the Russian Armed Forces and a Ukrainian strike on the Kremlin. U.S. officials declined to say whether the document was genuine, but they did not dispute its authenticity.

U.S. officials prepared a dire assessment of one of the longest-running battles of the war, in Bakhmut, and pulled back the curtain on Ukrainian generals’ decision to use elite units to push back the Russians there.

To brace for the introduction of advanced NATO-supplied tanks on Ukraine’s battlefields, Russian forces are preparing to pay a bonus to troops who manage to damage or destroy one.

The leak itself — in particular the confirmation that the United States spies on allies and adversaries alike — may prove damaging to the unified coalition that has emerged to help Ukraine fend off the Russian invasion. It may also make allies think twice about sharing sensitive information.

Among the other disclosures:

A Russian fighter jet fired a missile at a manned British surveillance aircraft flying over the Black Sea in September but the munition malfunctioned, according to U.S. military officials and one of the recently leaked classified intelligence reports.

The documents shed light on why U.S. officials believed China was close to sending weapons to Russia to help its war. They cite signals intercepts from the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service reporting that Beijing had “approved the incremental provision of lethal aid” but that it “wanted to keep the transactions secret and was prepared to disguise the military aid as civilian equipment delivered via sea, rail and air.”

Officials in South Korea, a key American ally whose official policy is not to provide lethal weapons to countries at war, feared that the United States might divert South Korean arms to Kyiv. The South Korean government tried to downplay the disclosures, which opposition lawmakers criticized as possible evidence of U.S. spying.

A hacking group under the guidance of Russia’s Federal Security Service may have compromised a Canadian gas pipeline company in February and caused damage to its infrastructure.

A Pentagon assessment suggested that the leadership of the Mossad, Israel’s foreign intelligence service, may have encouraged the agency’s staff and Israeli citizens to participate in the antigovernment protests that roiled the country in March. Israeli officials strongly rejected the report, which led to questions by Israeli commentators about the quality of U.S. intelligence gathering and analysis.

One of the documents lays out an American assessment of scenarios that could lead Israel to provide weapons to Ukraine, in contravention of current Israeli policy.

Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, two key U.S. partners in the Middle East, denied news reports in The Washington Post and The Associated Press that they had planned to collaborate with Russia against American interests. The New York Times has not seen nor verified the documents on which these latest reports were based.

The Russian military may be flailing, but the private Wagner mercenary group — led by an ally of Mr. Putin — is flourishing in much of the world. Wagner is working to thwart American interests in Africa and has explored branching out to Haiti, right under the nose of the United States.

Has the U.S. penetrated Russian intelligence?

The Pentagon documents offer a glimpse into the depth of U.S. knowledge into Russia’s security and intelligence services, allowing Washington to warn Ukraine about planned strikes and gain insights into the strength of Moscow’s war machine.

The material reinforces an idea that intelligence officials have long acknowledged: The United States has a clearer understanding of Russian military operations than it does of Ukrainian planning.

The military apparatus is so deeply compromised, the documents suggest, that American intelligence has been able to obtain daily real-time warnings on the timing of Moscow’s strikes and even its specific targets.

That may now change.

The leak has the potential to do real damage to Ukraine’s war effort by exposing which Russian agencies the United States knows the most about, giving Moscow a potential opportunity to cut off the sources of information.

Reporting was contributed by Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt, Julian E. Barnes, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Michael Schwirtz, David E. Sanger, Ivan Nechepurenko Anton Troianovski, Aric Toler, Christiaan Triebert, Malachy Browne and Chris Buckley.

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