KARACHI -- In the realm of intelligence disclosures, the latest leaks from the Pentagon on the intelligence front may not have the same earth-shattering impact as the ones brought to light by Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks in previous years. Yet, it still stands as a significant source of humiliation for Washington.
While a young National Guardsman has been arrested in connection with the ongoing criminal investigation by the Department of Justice, there seem to be many layers of intrigue to the already murky situation. The most pricking question is whether the leaks were the result of a hack or a deliberate disinformation campaign. If not a deliberate act of indoctrination, then the leaks serve as yet another example of the disarray within the US intelligence infrastructure. The leakage of sensitive and highly classified information has further eroded the credibility and effectiveness of the current security apparatus.
A mere three months ago, the American press and government officials were eagerly and forcefully denouncing China over what they labeled the "spy balloon" affair. These leaks from the Pentagon have laid bare the hypocrisy underlying Washington's propaganda against China's alleged espionage activities and the highly publicized shooting down of a purported Chinese spy balloon in February. The decision by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to postpone a planned visit to China in the aftermath of the balloon incident now appears even more scornful in light of the leak scandal. As per the Pentagon, a trove of classified documents was released on the popular online platform Discord, of which some were allegedly doctored.
The Pentagon has acknowledged that the leaked documents "seem to include delicate and highly classified content," yet it has been reticent to make definitive statements regarding the legitimacy of "all" the leaked documents. The Pentagon officials have claimed that some of the materials have been manipulated, a point that has been deliberately reiterated on multiple occasions so as to find a "cover" for more damaging information, particularly with regard to spying on "friends."
According to the reports from The Washington Post, a heightened sense of alarm and panic has gripped the upper ranks of the Department of Defense in the wake of the intelligence leak. Officials, who have been "stunned" and "infuriated," are reportedly taken aback and incensed by the scandalous release of sensitive information. One distinctive aspect of the recently leaked documents is their freshness, with certain materials appearing to have been authored and circulated within the government as recently as March. These documents reportedly contain time-sensitive details regarding the evolving situation on the battlefield in Ukraine, underscoring the gravity of the breach.
As per leaks, the American military estimates reveal a starkly different reality regarding the ongoing conflict in Ukraine than what is routinely touted by Kyiv and its Western allies. Contrary to the oft-espoused narrative of a favorable outcome, these assessments paint a bleaker picture of the situation on the ground. Such revelations stand to significantly alter the international community's understanding of the conflict and its implications.
Disclosed in yet another document is a breakdown of the number of American and NATO troops stationed in Ukraine. The revelation of these figures holds both significance and sensitivity, given the veil of secrecy surrounding the presence of foreign militaries in the country. The figures, though relatively small in number, are of great interest as they shed light on a crucial aspect of the ongoing conflict. The document, however, omits any details regarding the precise location or activities of the purportedly deployed forces. Though it is a kind of open secret that friendly governments spy on each other, but the documents reveal that the US government has been engaged in dubious surveillance practices, and monitoring the private communications of officials within the Israeli and South Korean governments- the staunch US allies.
For obvious reasons, this revelation has sparked outrage in South Korea, as it suggests that the US does not trust its ally and is instead covertly spying on them as if they were an adversary. For South Korea, this amounts to a humiliating repudiation of their "loyalty to the US." The situation has escalated to become a pressing political crisis in South Korea. As expected, the leaked documents divulge that China is the special target of these surveillance activities of the Pentagon. Concerns have been raised regarding the possibility of China extending support to the Kremlin's war efforts in Ukraine, as disclosed in a certain document.
Meanwhile, the US remains vigilant in monitoring China's weapons development and naval activities. The US is stepping up its efforts to gather intelligence on how other countries are engaging with China. According to several documents, the US is using signals intelligence - a method of collecting information through electronic surveillance and communications interception - to monitor the interactions between other nations and China. Surprisingly, these reports have not touched upon the relatively calm situation in the Taiwan Straits during the period from mid-February to early March.
However, it appears from the documents that the US was closely monitoring two key areas of military intelligence collection regarding China. Firstly, China's potential provision of material support to Russia, and Secondly, the Pentagon was assessing the decision-making around any potential military action in the Taiwan Straits - including the timing and circumstances under which such action may be taken. This is all that was expected of Washington. There is nothing that should be regarded as “new”. Nonetheless, this episode has once again exposed the vulnerability and irresponsibility of the intelligence apparatus of the US.
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