By Malik Miah and Barry Sheppard
May 5, 2023
The leak of a trove of secret U.S. government documents posted on social media has revealed aspects of how the government and its military is striving to reestablish hegemony in the world by targeting its adversaries (especially Russia and China) and pressuring allies to toe the line or face economic and political retaliations.
The bulk of the more than 60 documents we know about so far appear to originate from the Central Intelligence Agency’s Operations Center and the Pentagon’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby warned the media not to publish the documents, to keep them as secret as possible from the American people. (Foreign governments have the documents, of course.) But since they are on the internet, various media outlets have studied and written about them, while not publishing the documents themselves. Aspects of the documents have been revealed in dribbles over time.
At first the White House, Defense Department, and National Security Agency claimed the leaks had probably been done by Russian agents. Then, on April 13, the Justice Department announced the arrest of a 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guard member, Jack Teixeira, at his home. He was identified as the leaker. He joined the Guard in 2019, and was given a “top secret” access to classified (secret) documents in 2021, and as of February he was listed as a Cyber Defense Operations Journeyman. His job involved reviewing large amounts of classified information.
The Washington Post reported that Teixeira was involved with an invitation-only group on Discord, an online platform popular with gamers, mainly of younger white men and teenagers. The Post reported that the group of roughly two dozen was “united by their mutual love of guns, military gear and God.” The Post also viewed a vídeo of Teixeira at a firing range. “He yells a series of racial and anti-Semitic slurs into the camera and then fires several rounds at a target.”
Teixeira, known to the group as OG and its leader, posted the documents on Discord. As often happens with things posted somewhere on the internet, they soon spread to other social media. It isn’t clear yet what Teixeira’s motive was. He is pro-military. The New York Times reports he was obsessed with war and military equipment, and he wanted to “give gamers a real taste of war.” There is no indication that Teixeira or his friends sought to sell the information. There is little doubt that these documents are genuine.
Documents, not leaker, real story
While the Pentagon and the media tried to shift the focus to the “leaker” and the “crime” of leaking secret government documents (even true ones that the U.S. population should know about) what has been revealed about the documents is the real news. The documents expose details of U.S. surveillance of adversaries and allies, touching off multiple diplomatic storms. The leak of dozens of top-secret pages upset senior Ukrainian officials, who had sought to keep details of their military’s vulnerabilities hidden as the war grinds on into its second year.
A front-page New York Times article said that the documents “leave no doubt about how deeply the United States is in the day-to-day conduct of the war, providing the precise intelligence and logistics that help explain Ukraine’s success thus far. While President Biden has barred American troops from firing directly on Russian targets, and blocked sending weapons that could reach deep into Russian territory, the documents make clear that a year into the invasion, the United States is heavily entangled in almost everything else.”
The Times confirmed that the US “is providing detailed targeting data. It is coordinating the long, complex chain that delivers weapons to the Ukrainians. And as a Feb. 22 [leaked] document makes clear, American officials are planning ahead for a year in which the battle for the Donbas is ‘likely heading toward a stalemate’ that will frustrate Vladimir V. Putin’s goal of capturing the region — and Ukraine’s goal of expelling the invaders.”
US and its allies operate in Ukraine
Amy Goodman reported on Democracy Now April 11, “We end today’s show looking more at the recently leaked Pentagon documents, which have revealed secrets about the war in Ukraine, as well as U.S. spying on its adversaries and allies, including Israel and South Korea.
“The BBC reports one document shows dozens of special forces from Western nations, including the U.S., are operating inside Ukraine. The document, which was marked ‘top secret,’ says the U.K. has 50 special forces; Latvia, 17; France, 15; U.S., 14; and the Netherlands has one. The Pentagon and Justice Department are investigating the source of the leak.”
Goodman continued: “I interviewed James Bamford, a longtime investigative journalist and author focused on the intelligence community. In 1982, he published The Puzzle Palace, the first book exposing the inner workings of the NSA, the National Security Agency, many times larger than the CIA. His latest book, just out, is called Spyfails: Foreign Spies, Moles, Saboteurs, and the Collapse of America’s Counterintelligence. I asked Jim Bamford to talk more about what the documents reveal about the Ukraine war, among other issues.”
Bamford responded: “Well, I think it paints a clearer picture of what actually is happening over there. There has been the problem on cable news, both of Fox, CNN, MSNBC. You get a lot of people that are pro-war, and they’re the Congress — members of Congress, senators, and so forth, and they’re all giving these upbeat accounts of how well it’s going for Ukraine. The documents give a far more realistic view, saying that, basically, it’s going to come down to a stalemate.”
Bamford continued: “There is not going to be any big winners necessarily. And the Ukrainians are in a very bad position, because they’re not getting enough ammunition. The Russians have far more access to ammunition than the Ukrainians do. So, there’s a switch between the way America perceives the war, I think, to these documents, which give a more realistic — because it’s done with intelligence, more realistic view of how the war is going.”
In the 38 documents reviewed by ABC News, they use different styles, formatting and cover varying topic areas. They include the dozen or more slides of documents about the battlefields of Ukraine that were apparently prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Two of these documents,” reports ABC News, “appeared to note that Ukraine’s air defense systems are at risk of experiencing supply shortfalls in coming months. Another slide lays out scenarios under which the U.S. could apparently pressure Israel into providing Ukraine with lethal aid. Other slides contain information providing apparently specific casualty numbers for Ukraine and Russia, as well as what appears to be highly specific information about the number of tanks, armored vehicles, helicopters and aircraft that have been destroyed or are available for combat.”
CIA’s worldwide intelligence summary
ABC News continued: “Also included in the documents is a two-page copy of what appears to be the CIA worldwide intelligence summary for March 2. The copy of this document includes analysis, among other things, about the Russian Defense Ministry’s views on supplying munitions to the Wagner Group, Iran readying for a space launch, South Korea’s National Security Council concerned about the U.S. request to provide artillery ammunition to Ukraine, an update on the Nigerian elections and North Korea preparing for an intercontinental ballistic missile launch.”
And further, “There is an eight-page strategic analysis document where most of the contents appear to have been gleaned from intercepted communications, including descriptions of South Korea’s National Security Council’s internal discussions about the U.S. request to push artillery ammunition to Ukraine via a third country. [South Korea has a policy against providing weapons to countries at war.] Indicative of how U.S. intelligence appears to have been able to penetrate Russia’s internal communications, this set of documents includes specific information about Russia’s plans in Ukraine and elsewhere. For example, there are what appear to be precise descriptions of Russian plans to carry out two separate aerial attacks in early March aimed at Ukrainian military targets and Ukrainian energy infrastructure and bridges. There is a description of what appears to be Russia’s plans for combatting the tanks being sent to Ukraine by NATO countries by setting up a layered defense and training Russian troops on the tank’s vulnerabilities….
“The documents show the U.S. has not only been spying on Russia, but on a client state, Ukraine. They describe what are said to be internal Ukrainian discussions about striking at Russian troop locations deployed to a region inside Russia. Moscow has always said Kyiv was not capable by itself to launch attacks inside Russia without US and NATO assistance.”
The Washington Post later obtained a trove of images of classified files posted in February and March on Discord. The documents had not been previously reported. The content of those additional documents appears to be U.S. intelligence about the war in Ukraine and in other parts of the world. And the disclosure has raised diplomatic issues as it appears that U.S. intelligence has been spying not only on its adversaries, but on allies and partners.
According to Al Jazeera April 12, “The CIA, NSA, and US Defense Intelligence Agency have denied the authenticity of the reports and have launched an investigation into the source of the leak. The reports have also caused embarrassment for two US-Middle East allies—Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Egyptian officials denied a Washington Post report citing a leaked document dated February 17 that said Egypt had reached a secret agreement to supply Russia with 40,000 rockets, gunpowder and artillery shells. A portion of a top-secret document, dated Feb. 17, summarizes purported conversations between [Egyptian President] Sisi and senior Egyptian military officials and also references plans to supply Russia with artillery rounds and gunpowder. In the document, Sisi instructs the officials to keep the production and shipment of the rockets secret ‘to avoid problems with the West.’”
Egypt is the top importer of Russian grain, which it desperately needs.
“Another leaked document” Al Jazeera reports, “focuses on the United Arab Emirates, saying Abu Dhabi had agreed to leak US and United Kingdom intelligence to curry favor with Russia. The UAE probably views engagement with Russian intelligence as an opportunity to strengthen growing ties between Abu Dhabi and Moscow and diversify intelligence partnerships amid concerns of US disengagement from the region. The UAE said suggestions it had deepened ties with Russian intelligence were ‘categorically false.’’’
Most countries in the Middle East and the Global South have refused to actively back the US war against Russia. They have pushed for a negotiated settlement. There have not been proposals or plans by the Biden Administration to correct any potential misinformation contained in the documents. Biden’s statement that most of the information is outdated and not relevant, only brings more concerns to US allies.
Ukraine initially publicly dismissed the leaked material as Russian disinformation and an attempt to sow distrust between Kyiv and Washington. But at least one report citing a source close to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asserts that the leak has forced Ukraine to alter some of its military plans. While the leaks may temporarily complicate coordination between the U.S. and South Korea regarding the latter’s support for Kyiv, lasting damage to the relationship appears unlikely. South Korea’s president said that the alliance was still strong, and his office has said that it will hold off on making demands of the Pentagon until investigation is wrapped up. South Korea, where 24,000 US troops are based, is key to the US encirclement of China.
The Israeli government hasn’t commented on the claims about the Mossad or what it might take for Israel to provide lethal aid to Ukraine. Israeli ties to Russia are important because of Russia’s alliance with Syria. Israel, according to an article in The New York Times, “needed Russia’s support in fighting Iranian-backed militants in parts of Syria, where Russia holds sway, and in Moscow’s willingness to allow Russian Jews to immigrate to Israel. And several of the infamous oligarchs who help Putin keep power are dual Russian Israeli citizens.”
There may be more revelations about the documents. A recent one in the Washington Post entitled “Taiwan highly vulnerable to Chinese air attack, leaked documents show,” reports that “Taiwan is unlikely to thwart Chinese air superiority in a cross-strait conflict, while tactics such as China’s use of civilian ships for military purposes have eroded U.S. spy agencies’ ability to detect a pending invasion, according to leaked Pentagon assessments that contain troubling details about the self-governed island’s ability to fend off war. The assessments state that Taiwan officials doubt their air defenses can ‘accurately detect missile launches,’ that barely more than half of Taiwan’s aircraft are fully mission capable and that moving the jets to shelters would take at least a week — a huge problem if China launched missiles before Taiwan had a chance to disperse those planes.”
Attacks on Russian President Putin’s and Chinese President Xi’s collaborators and allies will continue by the US no matter the decision about the documents’ leak and who besides the arrested airman the government will punished.
Into the vortex of the US war machine
Regardless, the leaked documents again reveal the fundamental nature of US policy around the world. The NSA’s 18 branches employ an astounding six million personnel with various forms of national security clearance. Airman Teixeira’s revelations, his rightwing pro-war, anti-Semitic views notwithstanding, suffice to demonstrate yet again that the reach of US imperialism extends to every corner of the planet. Its instigation of the present war in Ukraine, beginning with the US-backed fascist-led coup of 2014, touches on the policies of most nations on earth. All are increasingly drawn into the vortex of the US imperial war machine, today and just momentarily centered on the US multi-trillion dollar gambit to substitute US corporate fossil fuel monopolies’ control over the flow of gas and oil to Germany and Western Europe for Russia’s. The US obliteration of the Nord Stream pipelines was nothing less than a pre-planned follow-up to the same imperial venture.
Yesteryear’s US overt and secret wars, coups and attempted coups against Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Africa more generally, were of the same character – resource wars for the corporate super rich for power and profit regardless of the cost in human lives and the catastrophic damage to the earth itself.
US Out Now! remains our credo. Bring all the troops home now! Close all 1100 US military bases! Abolish NATO! $Trillions for human needs not war!