The Justice Department has opened an inquiry into the potential disclosure of Pentagon documents that appeared to outline U.S. and NATO help to Ukraine but may have been altered or used as part of a disinformation effort.
These documents were uploaded on multiple social media platforms.
The classified documents, published on social media platforms like Twitter, resemble the routine reports that the Joint Staff of the U.S. Military would prepare each day but withhold from the general public.
These range from February 23 to March 1 and purport to contain information on the movement of weapons and equipment into Ukraine with more specific timeframes and quantities than the US typically makes available to the public.
They do not contain any information about any intended Ukraine offensive and are not war preparations.
However, some have questioned the integrity of the documents due to inconsistencies, such as estimates of Russian soldier deaths that are much lower than figures made public by U.S. officials.
According to a statement from Sabrina Singh, a Pentagon spokeswoman, the Defense Department “initiated a formal referral” of the situation to the Justice Department for inquiry.
In a statement released Friday, the Justice Department added, “We have been in contact with the Department of Defense regarding this matter and have started an inquiry.”
The probe comes as concerns regarding the authenticity and origin of the documents have persisted, and indications indicate that more have started to surface on social media sites.
Andriy Yusov, a spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate, stated on Ukrainian TV that it is crucial to remember that the Russian special services’ most effective operations in recent years have been carried out in Photoshop.
A preliminary investigation of these materials reveals incorrect, skewed estimates of losses suffered by both sides, with some data from public sources.
But in a separate statement, the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy highlighted that during a meeting with his top military staff, “the participants of the discussion concentrated on steps to prevent the leakage of information regarding the plans of the defense forces of Ukraine.”
The leak of classified information is concerning, though, and raises concerns about what other information regarding the Ukraine war — or any upcoming attack — could be disseminated if the leaked documents are fundamental to any extent.
The documents’ provenance, legitimacy, or who put them online first were all unknown to U.S. officials as of Friday.
The records were first reported on by The New York Times, and the Times later reported that further documents about Ukraine and other delicate national security subjects like China and the Middle East have surfaced on social media.
Although some of the statistics are inaccurate, a U.S. official said the initial documents mirror data generated daily by the Joint Staff.
The person stated that even if the papers were authentic, the U.S. does not believe they have any real intelligence value because much of it is knowledge Russia already has or could gather from the battlefield.
The official discussed intelligence documents under the condition of anonymity.
The graphs and charts provide information on personnel numbers, local weather forecasts, U.S. military operations during the preceding 24 hours, and certain battlefield conditions for both sides from a month ago.
But there are mistakes. One document counts up to 71,000 Ukrainian casualties and between 16,000 and 17,500 Russian losses under the heading “Total Assessed Losses.”
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, stated in public last November that Russia had lost “far over” 100,000 soldiers and that Ukraine had also lost around that many.
And while though officials have ceased giving out more precise figures, those estimates have kept rising recently.