Initially, the scandal about the leak of U.S. intelligence documents looked like a deliberate disinformation planting designed to mislead the Russian army before the spring counteroffensive of the Ukrainian armed forces. But subsequent events have cast doubt on the obviousness of this version, and made one wonder about the degradation and constant internal squabbles that have accompanied the CIA and NSA in recent years. It is increasingly noticeable that the deterioration of the quality of work and internal conflicts do not allow the intelligence agencies to do their job properly, and put U.S. security under constant threat. After all, the new batch of “leaked” documents was no longer about Ukraine, but about a large-scale U.S. intelligence campaign to spy on its closest allies, including Britain, Israel, South Korea, and Ukraine.
Of course, U.S. intelligence agencies monitor Russia’s actions and report on them through closed channels to Kiev. But at the same time, U.S. intelligence is monitoring Ukraine’s political and military leadership, as well as South Korean politicians, who, according to the intelligence received, are very reluctant to share their stockpiles of weapons with Ukraine. In Israel, it appears that the U.S. intelligence community is interested in the Mossad’s role in anti-government protests against Netanyahu’s judicial reforms. Previously, the State Department has already been implicated in supporting protest activity by sponsoring NGOs that are fighting Netanyahu. The United States Department of Justice quickly launched an investigation into the leaks of classified documents but the intelligence community immediately rushed to blame it on Russia, apparently bearing in mind the success of this approach in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. The leaks have already been called “a nightmare for Five Eyes,” the intelligence community of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Washington has often been at the center of allied surveillance scandals before, but today the case is complicated by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, in light of which the U.S. desperately needs to maintain consensus among allies. This is a very painful blow to the reputation of the Biden administration, which has criticized Trump to no end for his classified documents, but has now set an “example” of its own negligent handling of classified data.
These leaks and miscalculations are already being called the worst blow to the U.S. intelligence community in 10 years since the Edward Snowden revelations, and the disclosures about the Ukrainian crisis are particularly unpleasant. According to the disclosures, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence does not believe in the success of the Ukrainian counteroffensive and points to Kiev’s obvious problems: a shortage of soldiers, difficulties with mobilization, the death of many experienced soldiers and a lack of weapons and ammunition. U.S. intelligence agencies believe that the result of the operation will be only a slight change in the front line. At the same time, Washington learned about Egypt’s plans to supply up to 40 000 missiles to Russia for the Grad multiple rocket launcher systems, but the White House, for obvious reasons, did not disclose this information. After all, Egypt is one of the main recipients of U.S. international aid, and Cairo’s decision to side with Russia would have been a huge slap in the face for Biden. For the first couple of days, the Pentagon was still trying to cast doubt on the leaking of classified documents, but eventually it had to admit it. After that, the closest allies of the United States began to publicly and non-publicly demand an answer from the White House as to how this was possible. The evidence of U.S. surveillance of Britain, Israel, and South Korea was also very painfully perceived. Some allies are already threatening to cut back on intelligence exchanges with Washington. The current leaks could cause even more countries to follow the example of the Persian Gulf monarchies and reconsider their relationship with the Biden administration.
The leaked documents have also once again raised the issue of the presence of U.S. and British Special Forces in Ukraine. The secret documents explicitly state that several dozen American and up to 50 British fighters are in Ukraine.
The Pentagon has been forced to confirm that American Special Forces are indeed present there, but they are only engaged in guarding the U.S. embassy in Kiev. The Ministry of Defense of Great Britain claims that the information provided by the U.S. intelligence services about the participation of the British in covert operations on the Ukrainian front is incorrect. Moreover, the leaks show that Special Forces from France and Latvia may also be involved in these operations. These revelations are very inconvenient for the White House, because it did not request or receive permission from Congress to send troops to Ukraine. More importantly, the very topic of sending U.S. soldiers to the Ukrainian front remains highly unpopular in American society: polls show that only 20% of Americans are sympathetic to the fact that U.S. soldiers must risk their lives in Ukraine. New contradictions are also emerging with U.S. allies. Israel and South Korea strongly resent the fact that U.S. intelligence is spying on them. The situation with the United Arab Emirates, which U.S. intelligence agencies have accused of cooperation with Russia, has also become more complicated, which casts serious doubt on the execution of military contracts, for example, on the delivery of F-35 fighter jets to the U.S. army. The Republicans in Congress are already demanding an explanation from Biden as to how his administration managed to leak such intelligence, and against this background, the topic of the Biden team’s negligence may become one of the key ones in the upcoming presidential election.
However, these documents do not please Biden’s trusted allies in Kiev either. One of the leaked secret documents, for example, says that Pentagon intelligence expects the Ukrainian conflict to drag on until next year. They are rather skeptical about Kiev’s chances of success in the spring and summer counterattack, and they expect war fatigue to grow not only in Europe and the United States, but also in Ukraine. In the event of a stalemate on the front, Kiev might resort to strikes deep into Russian territory, in which case the Pentagon fears that China will become more active on Russia’s side and begin supplying weapons, including missiles, shells, artillery and drones. If Russia succeeds on the battlefield, Ukraine could face a stalemate and risk problems with arms shipments from the United States and Europe and the approval of new Ukrainian budgets in Congress, after the current tranches are paid out closer to September of this year.
A few days after the scandal, some details emerged about the identity of the man who leaked the data to the Discord server. He was characterized as a well-trained military man, but totally disillusioned with the work of the U.S. government. Allegedly, he did not support Russia or Ukraine, but constantly complained about how intelligence agencies and the federal government restricted Americans’ freedoms. Initially this was not surprising, because America is now experiencing a crisis of confidence in all institutions, and many in the military are greatly disappointed in the order of their nation. But the reality shocked many, because it ended up being very young and inexperienced Jack Teixeira, a 21-year-old intelligence officer in the Massachusetts Air National Guard. He was the creator of the Discord server where the classified documents were leaked, and he clearly did not fit the image the media had originally formed.
The intelligence officer was arrested and all visitors to his server were questioned. If the charges against Teixeira are confirmed, he could become the new Bradley Manning, who once leaked classified documents to Julian Assange on WikiLeaks. For the record, Bradley Manning was charged with espionage and theft of state secrets and sentenced to 35 years. But Obama eventually, by executive order, released him from prison after seven years, albeit under pressure from human rights activists. There is no doubt that in the current climate of a new Cold War, the attitude toward the person who released the classified documents is sure to be as harsh as possible. They will try to accuse him of ties with Russia at least on the grounds that over the past few days there has been hysteria about the Russian intelligence being behind the leaking of the documents. Now Teixeira has been called a fierce critic of the intelligence community and the U.S. government, whom he accuses of restricting the freedoms of Americans. Moreover, he is an intelligence officer and is unlikely to be the last person to sabotage the work of U.S. intelligence agencies during the current crisis of public confidence in the government.
Moreover, many doubt that Teixeira is the real culprit of this “leak” and believe that he was made a scapegoat. For example, Marjorie Taylor Greene came out in support of the arrested man. She is certain that the culprit is not the detainee, but the Biden administration, which is waging a proxy war with Russia bypassing the U.S. Constitution and without Congressional approval. The Pentagon promises to tighten control over classified documents soon, but 1.25 million people in the U.S. have access to confidential or classified information. If they want, nothing prevents them from leaking the available data, which happens from time to time. Moreover, it is difficult to expect ordinary military or government officials to treat classified documents with any respect when politicians themselves are very careless with them. Arrested Jack Teixeira could face at least 10 years in prison if tried only for espionage and theft of government data. However, some are already calling for him to be tried for “aiding and abetting hostile forces” such as China and Russia, which could already get him sentenced to life. Obviously, Teixeira will be punished demonstrably harshly in order to intimidate everyone else. However, they will learn a very different lesson from this: data should be leaked as anonymously as possible. We cannot rule out that there will be more and more such leaks, because Teixeira is not the only one who is frustrated with the Biden administration and wants to say “no” to the Pentagon or the intelligence agencies.