Pentagon in Panic as Second Set of Leaked Documents Gains Traction, Revealing Spying on Allies and Deteriorating Ukraine Capabilities

When the orthodox media depicts the Pentagon as in an uproar about now two leaks of sets of official-looking documents, and tries to spin it that they show how much dirt we’ve gotten on Russia, it’s not a good look. There are too many admissions against interest (which oddly no one has denied) like the generally depleted state of Ukraine’s military, which as we discussed was evident even in the first batch.

In case you’ve been enjoying the holiday weekend by taking a news break, we’ll start with the New York Times to set the stage. Again, recall the New York Times was the first MSM outlet to discuss that what turned out to be the first of (so far) two groups of Pentagon slides, focused on Ukraine preparedness, had made their way to a Russian Telegram account. Some had argued that the first set was a US or Russian psyop, but the authenticity of jargon and the amount of unflattering information argued against it. The second batch extends beyond Ukraine and is perceived to be damaging to US interests.

Mind you, as many war-watchers have pointed out, these revelations don’t appear likely to have much impact on the too-widely-anticipated Ukraine offensive. While the level of detail is tantalizing, the broad findings, like Ukraine’s air defenses have been depleted and are only going to get worse, were evident via open sources. Yet some of the claims are bizarre, like 97% of Russia’s forces being committed to Ukraine. Recall UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that in February, and appeared to be retailing Ukraine propaganda then. Did Wallace get that factoid from these documents?

Nevertheless, this breach will make the US clamp down on distribution of sensitive information, which won’t be helpful so close to the launch of the expected counter-offensive.

From the Grey Lady on Saturday, after the second lot got traction:

A new batch of classified documents that appear to detail American national security secrets from Ukraine to the Middle East to China surfaced on social media sites on Friday, alarming the Pentagon and adding turmoil to a situation that seemed to have caught the Biden administration off guard.

The scale of the leak — analysts say more than 100 documents may have been obtained — along with the sensitivity of the documents themselves, could be hugely damaging, U.S. officials said. A senior intelligence official called the leak “a nightmare for the Five Eyes,” in a reference to the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, the so-called Five Eyes nations that broadly share intelligence….

Early Friday, senior national security officials dealing with the initial leak, which was first reported by The New York Times, said a new worry had arisen: Was that information the only intelligence that was leaked?

By Friday afternoon, they had their answer. Even as officials at the Pentagon and national security agencies were investigating the source of documents that had appeared on Twitter and on Telegram, another surfaced on 4chan, an anonymous, fringe message board. The 4chan document is a map that purports to show the status of the war in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, the scene of a fierce, monthslong battle.

But the leaked documents appear to go well beyond highly classified material on Ukraine war plans. Security analysts who have reviewed the documents tumbling onto social media sites say the increasing trove also includes sensitive briefing slides on China, the Indo-Pacific military theater, the Middle East and terrorism.

Let’s stop here. At least one slide in this second group bore the label “Secret/NoForn,” which means distribution is limited to US citizens. That would seem to rule out our notion, based on the first batch (widely distributed among US allies, including Ukraine) that a Ukrainian unhappy with how the war is being conducted could have been behind the leak. This marking suggests these documents came from a Pentagon source, which could include contractors.

The Times’ chest-thumping about being the first to take up the story is likely to create confusion about the timetable. Some of these documents had been on the Internet for over a month, but oddly only in limited circulation. The Washington Post describes when they apparently went public:

Photographs of at least several dozen pages of highly classified documents, which looked to have been printed and then folded together into a packet, were shared on Feb. 28 and March 2 on Discord, a chat platform popular with gamers. The documents were shared by a user to a server called “Wow Mao.”

I hate having to cite Bellingcat, but perhaps someone in the intel state tossed some bread crumbs over the fence to help bolster their credibility. From the Wall Street Journal:

Some experts who have studied the documents are doubtful the breach is part of a Russian disinformation campaign.

Aric Toler, head of research and training at the Bellingcat investigative consortium….said Saturday that he had traced the original source of the posting to a small group of users called Thug Shaker Central on Discord. Hundreds of files were posted there in January, February and March. Later, some of these documents were reposted by users to a bigger group, uniting fans of the Minecraft game. The original group has since been wiped clean, as was the much bigger document trove.

“I really doubt this is some Russian op, so there’s a good chance only a few internet weirdos saw the hundreds of documents,” said Eliot Higgins, the founder of Bellingcat. “It’s really only something you’d find if you were terminally online.”….

The U.S. is considering a range of possibilities over how the breach occurred, including that someone with top-secret security clearance leaked the information or that U.S. intelligence systems were hacked, U.S. officials said Saturday….

Because the documents appear to be images of printed presentation slides, the investigation will likely focus on that possible method of transferring them from a classified system. Classified documents can only be printed on approved systems, which can be tracked.

OK, so documents were leaked in a way so that almost no one saw them???? The point of a leak is normally to have things seen. So is the idea here that the data breach was the result of a geek manhood competition and someone outside the inner circle noticed or decided to toss some of the records over to Russian Telegram?1

In addition, as Lambert pointed out, “The fact that Bellingcat is claiming that “only a few” in the gaming community saw the information early on should be taken to mean “only a few thousand.”

Regarding the “printed presentation slides,” see these images from Twitter as examples:

Um, those images sure do look folded. The Journal describes how Reality Winner and Terry Albury each were caught by having printouts successfully tracked to them. Albury also took snapshots of screen images. I would assume the powers that be would look into the possibility that photos were manipulated to create the appearance of having been folded.

The Washington Post reassures us that they are hot on the trail of the bad guys:

The Post identified the user that shared the images in February and March who, according to a review of previous social media posts, is based in southern California. A Twitter account using the same handle and avatar image as the Discord account wrote on Friday they had “found some info from a now banned server and passed it on.”

A man who answered the door at a house registered to the Discord user’s father on Friday evening declined to comment. “I’m not talking to anyone,” he said, closing the door of the family’s home at the edge of a cul-de-sac.

About three miles away, at a townhouse registered to the user’s mother, a knock at the door went unanswered. The parents did not respond to calls or messages.

Note the story quotes one official as saying all the documents appear to be a single tranche, which would reinforce the idea that there might be a single actor, despite their being discovered by the officialdom in a two-step process.

For now, the fact of the leaks appears to be more serious than their content. From the Washington Post:

According to one defense official, many of the documents seem to have been prepared over the winter for Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other senior military officials, but they were available to other U.S. personnel and contract employees with the requisite security clearances….

The documents describe intelligence activities at the National Security Agency, the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, law enforcement agencies and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) — arguably the most secretive intelligence agency in the government, responsible for a multibillion dollar constellation of spy satellites.

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post pushed the idea that the expose also showed US prowess in spying on Russia. For instance, the Post described how the Wagner Group, which recall is not part of the Russian government, was trying to buy arms in Turkey and Mali. Mercs buying arms! Shocker! It also mentions Wagner having “plans” to recruit from prisons. Um, that’s so well known it’s been widely criticized, even as Wagnerites who finished their six month commitment have been photographed returning to Russia as free men. The GRU was reported as planning a propaganda in Africa. The US also supposedly unearthed Russian plans to shell Ukraine troops in two locations “on a certain date”. Perhaps, but that sound like an option (what if Ukraine changed its force disposition?) as opposed to something more like an order.

Nevertheless, the Washington Post did say in its headline that the US was spying on allies too. Here that means Israel, the UK, and South Korea.

And what about the Ukraine revelations?

Both the Times and the Post ran articles on the degraded state of Ukraine’s air defenses. Neither piece ‘fesses up to the fact that that old S300 system that Ukraine inherited (and presumably was kept fairly up to date through the Maidan coup) is better than anything the West has. War porn fans already have seen ample evidence that Ukraine’s air defenses are weakened and will only get worse. For instance, Russia has been able to send in slow drones of late and they’s been largely unmolested.

Nevertheless, the horror! First the Times in Leaked Documents Suggest Ukrainian Air Defense Is in Peril if Not Reinforced:

For more than a year, Ukrainian air defenses, reinforced by Western weaponry, have kept Russian planes at bay.

But without a huge influx of munitions, Ukraine’s entire air defense network, weakened by repeated barrages from Russian drones and missiles, could fracture…

Stocks of missiles for Soviet-era S-300 and Buk air defense systems, which make up 89 percent of Ukraine’s protection against most fighter aircraft and some bombers, were projected to be fully depleted by May 3 and mid-April, according to one of the leaked documents. The document, which was issued on Feb. 28, based the assessment on consumption rates at the time. It is not clear if those rates have changed.

The same document assessed that Ukrainian air defenses designed to protect troops on the front line, where much of Russia’s air power is concentrated, will “be completely reduced” by May 23, resulting in strains on the air defense network deeper into Ukrainian territory.

These dates explain the sense of urgency about launching the Ukraine counteroffensive. The article mentions that the Russian missile attacks on Ukraine electrical and other infrastructure have worn down Ukraine’s air defense capacity.

On the expenditure of air defense targeting air attacks, it would seem to be an obvious move from Russia, for both practical and psychological reasons, to launch another series of big missile and drone attacks on the launch of the Ukraine counter-offensive.

As for “air defenses designed to defend troops on the front line” I’m not sure what that means, since Russia has overwhelmingly been using artillery (although in fairness of late has added glide bombs, which do have the punch to destroy buildings and other sturdier fortifications). Is this maneuver warfare thinking, that Russia would be doing big arrow attacks (which require air support) were it not for Ukraine’s air defense? Or would Russia indeed make much heavier use of drones and planes against the Ukraine line of contact?

Additional tidbits from the Post in Leaked documents warn of weaknesses in Ukraine’s defenses:

One chart contained in the leak shows the burn rate of Ukrainian air defense projectiles and specifies the time frames for depletion, predicting that SA-11 systems will be out of commission by April 13, U.S.-made NASAMs by April 15, and SA-8s by May. On another chart, the prediction that particular types of ammunition will run dry suggests that Ukrainian defenders should prioritize their efforts by targeting Russian jets and helicopters but hold fire on smaller threats such as drones.

The Times also described how officials were upset about the revelation of equipment levels and force concentration:

The documents on Ukraine’s military appear as photographs of charts of anticipated weapons deliveries, troop and battalion strengths, and other plans. Pentagon officials acknowledge that they are legitimate Defense Department documents, but the copies appear to have been altered in certain parts from their original format. The modified versions, for example, overstate American estimates of Ukrainian war dead and underestimate estimates of Russian troops killed.

In the Brave New World of ISR, it’s likely Russia knew all of this, although perhaps not always in the same level of detail. Recall TASS just identified that only 21% of the recently promised tanks had been delivered to Ukraine….all from public documents. Dima at Military Summary daily shows maps that include Ukraine deployments. With satellite and drone surveillance, Russia likely has a good guesstime, outside urban settings like Bakhmut, how far below full strength these units are. And if I recall correctly, this information was as of early March, so now stale. Nevertheless, Russia could look at its intel as of then and see if it had systematic errors it could address.

Finally, the Post claimed that the Pentagon was worried the leak exposed the workings of cutting edge tools:

For instance, a Feb. 23 overview of fighting in Ukraine’s Donbas region forecasts a “grinding campaign of attrition” by Russia that “is likely heading toward a stalemate, thwarting Moscow’s goal to capture the entire region in 2023.”

That confident statement, which is printed in boldface type, is supported by information obtained from “NRO-collected and commercial imagery,” a new generation of infrared satellites, signals intelligence and “liaison reporting,” a reference to intelligence from a friendly government, about the high rate of Russian artillery fire, mounting troop losses and the military’s inability to make significant territorial gains over the past seven months.

The fact that the United States bases its assessments on many sources is no secret. But U.S. officials said these more detailed disclosures could help Moscow thwart some avenues for collecting information. For example, the Feb. 23 battlefield document names one of its sources as “LAPIS time-series video.” Officials familiar with the technology described it as an advanced satellite system that allows for better imaging of objects on the ground and that could now be more susceptible to Russian jamming or interference. They indicated that LAPIS was among the more closely guarded capabilities in the U.S. intelligence arsenal.

This is all over my pay grade, but the discussion of LAPIS assumes that Russia hasn’t discerned that the US has something like that. As Andrei Martyanov has regularly said, Russia’s forces are fully networked, which means among other things lots of real time data collection. Perhaps it’s an artifact of a very incomplete description of what LAPIS is and does, but a “time series video” sound retrospective, even if recent and therefore less useful than real time.

More important, good intel becomes less useful when filtered through prior beliefs. As we can see above, the US can’t get over its idea that Russia is out to acquire territory, and not first and foremost destroy Ukraine’s (and now NATO’s) ability to wage war. The articles contain denigrating asides about how Russia has conducted the war. One senses that this isn’t mere media messaging but is well internalized among US and NATO decision-makers. That sort of under-estimation has worked out very well for Russia. And the very solidly build echo chamber in the Beltway means it’s likely to continue.


1 I’m now getting sucked into way way too much speculation but perhaps someone who though he was at risk decided that if the documents got into circulation in Russia, the usual “Everything is Putin’s fault” would apply.

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  1. Michaelmas

    ‘Pentagon officials acknowledge that they are legitimate Defense Department documents, but the copies appear to have been altered in certain parts from their original format. The modified versions … overstate American estimates of Ukrainian war dead and underestimate estimates of Russian troops killed.’

    Comedy gold. It’s hilarious watching the MSM’s constant but kleenex-thin attempts to defend the Narrative as it collapses.

    1. Michaelmas

      Although it’s less hilarious if you’re on the receiving end like the following European journalists have been —

      -“GERMAN journalist Alina Lipp has said she faces three years in prison in her home country for her reporting from Ukraine’s eastern Donbass”

      “Poland detains Spanish journalist suspected of spying for Russia. Pablo Gonzalez is accused of spying for Russia’s military intelligence agency, facing 10 years in prison if found guilty.”

      “Italian parliamentary committee has begun an investigation into the spread of disinformation, reportedly amid suspicions that some Russian commentators hosted on television networks could be on Vladimir Putin’s payroll.”

      “- A Spanish judge on Thursday ordered the release of a pro-Russian Ukrainian blogger who was detained the previous day on an international arrest warrant for suspected treason, but barred him from leaving the country pending an extradition hearing. Spain’s High Court said in a statement that Judge Jose Luis Calama had ruled Anatoliy Shariy, an aspiring politician and vocal critic of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and his pro-Western government, should present himself to the nearest court twice a month and surrender his passport.”

      “Ukraine has declared Dutch journalist Robert Dulmers persona non grata and banned him from Ukraine until 2032, accusing him of having revealed state secrets after he filmed a missile launch.”

      1. OIFVet

        And in the Czech Republic they prosecute and convict people for “endorsing and supporting Russian aggression” on social media. Plus, internet access to Russian media is blocked everywhere in the EU. So much for freedom of information, freedom of speech and freedom of thought on the Old Continent.

        1. Polar Socialist

          Where I live, they have blocked access only to non-Russian language Russian media. I can still access most of the Russian language sites without VPN.

          Doesn’t make me happy, though. Sometimes I wonder if the older generation of say, Estonians, see this as the return of the Soviet Union just in a different form…

          1. OIFVet

            I don’t know about the Estonians, but at 45 years of age I am old enough to remember Eastern Europe before the fall of the wall. The level of sofistication of propaganda and control in today’s “civilized world” is in stark contrast with the crude control over the populations in the former Eastern Block. We knew the score and would openly mock the regimes. Many in the West are so thoroughly propagandized that they unquestioningly lap up the daily serving of propaganda and Two-minute Hate. Perhaps the older Estonians might not, but I know plenty of edumacated librul Bulgarians under 35 who are hopelessly brainwashed and unable to think for themselves about the issues that matter to the global Western elites. It’s all groupthink, all the time, with just the right amount of contempt for anyone who fails to conform to the official narrative.

            1. Carolinian

              lap up the daily serving of propaganda

              Sad to hear it. Many of us who have lived here our entire lives have the same cynical attitude to media/state propaganda that you once had there. But sounds like in Europe, at least, they get the narrative but not the reality of the United States and are more easily gulled. Perhaps in a mass media age, and one that is heavily dependent on visual communication, cultural imperialism is at least as important as bombs and missiles. This could explain why the US elites are so upset about Musk and Twitter threatening to go off the reservation.

              I did travel in Europe years ago and found the inhabitants to be downright unfriendly to Americans. Vietnam had killed our buzz. Although political filmmakers like Godard still had to acknowledge the inescapable cultural embrace (“the children of Marx and Coca Cola”). Multiculturalism–Putin’s mantra–is a healthy thing. Our elites hate it.

              1. OIFVet

                You really touch on something important – for all the Euro liberals’ obsession with multiculturalism, globalization in its current, US-dominated form, results in remarkably shrinking diversity of culture, opinions and beliefs amongst the elites. They are monocultural,, if you will.

                I haven’t noticed overt hostility toward Americans here, though there is certain hostility toward the American state and its agents of influence here. It’s kind of like me: love Americans and America as a country, hate the government and its policies.

              2. some guy

                What parts of Europe were you in? What age-groups and social status-and-style classes of people did you meet?

            2. upstater

              My Lithuanian cousins (mid 60s) and their 30s kids lap up the propaganda enthusiastically. They are true believers. The SMO, Russia, NATO, etc simply cannot be discussed.

              Of course they were cynical about the USSR, but somehow Lithuania losing 1/3 of it population, gutted Industrial base and nothing but imports is not a problem.

              It’s like trying to reason with TDS afflicted PMCs about bipartisan corruption and misleadership.

              1. tevhatch

                Do they still live in Lithuanian? If so, then follow the money? If they can still eat and live in Lithuanian, then they or their clients/customers probably work for a NGO. A NGO who’s funding would dry up the moment Russia is no longer a problem for Washington.

            3. deplorado

              OIFVet, I could have written this myself, as a Bulgarian or a nominal Westerner. I often exclaim to my family that the old crude style of propaganda and group think we had behind the Iron Curtain back in the 80ies was hopelessly dull and and even quaint, and everyone knew that no one believed it — while now people seem to have real blinders on and media hosts have a real fervor about them.

              Unrelated: does OIF in your alias stand for Operation Iraqi Freedom?

              I’d like to connect with you if possible.

              1. OIFVet

                Yep, OIF does stand for Operation Iraqi Freedom, US Army vet. My blinders began to malfunction due to my participation in that war.

                Sure, let’s connect. It’s good to know I’m not the only Bulgarian-USian on NC.

          2. Felix_47

            Here in Bavaria, Germany it seems all Russian media is blocked and has been for some time. I guess it make sense in wartime. Propaganda is an important part of war fighting. It appears the current Green Party regime feels that they are fighting a war against Russia, again.

            1. jsn

              It would make sense if it were Germany’s war.

              It’s Ukraine and Russia, not NATO/Germany vs Russia, at least formally.

              So the wartime censorship in Bavaria is a backwards war declaration by NATO to keep its victims in the dark.

    2. Questa Nota

      General Westmoreland’s ghost, still haunting the Pentangle.

      Those leaks could be a limited hangout, leading to some awkward exit.
      Quick, what is the next shiny object to hype?
      Put the top people on it, what with 2024 as an election year and all.

  2. John R Moffett

    It is already being discussed on CNN that Ukraine has had to change their upcoming plans based on the leaks, further confirming their accuracy. The fact that the documents undermine much of what the MSM have been saying for a year will again bring no admissions of error, and as usual, will not dissuade the MSM watchers from turning off the nonsense and looking for better sources of information on what is happening in the world. I have friends who religiously watch MSM news and believe every word. When I point out how many times they got everything wrong, it seems to not make any difference to them. Propaganda works rather spectacularly.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      I hate to be a knee-jerk skeptic, but I’d like to see more evidence other than Ukraine whinging that it had to change its plans. FFS, the deployment stuff was a month old, and the business about equipment levels could be largely if not entirely worked out from open sources. As Alex Christaforu pointed out, the fact that Ukraine was hitting up tiny Cyprus for equipment was an obvious sign of desperation.

      Ukraine may have had to say that to reassure troops since the military is pretty upset.

      So maybe this leak has embarrassed the West into finding a few more tanks and air defense systems to send? Pray tell, when will they arrive and how much training will they require?

      The map watchers and Telegram gossip followers should see indications of how significant if at all the changes were.

      Maybe Ukraine had convinced itself that no one knew it was in as bad shape as it is but Brian Berletic (using solely Western sources), Douglas Macgregor (with Pentagon sources) and plenty of others were on the case. Macgregor, about 10 days ago, put up a map with gross Ukraine troop disposition, including overall force levels. In this world of ISR, you can bet Russia has a very good idea outside urban areas with factories where you can hide troops more readily. Look how Russia saw Ukraine massing forces for the Kharkiv offensive and simply pulled out, leaving Ukraine to punch air.

      1. OIFVet

        Still, the sheer level of hilarity emanating from the “War is Peace” camp is deeply gratifying to me. Yes, Ukies are insane lying clowns, but to listen to the Euro libruls trying to spin reality to fit their 14-month long insistence that the glorious freedom- and democracy-loving Ukies are wiping the steppe with the inept Russkies is comedy gold.

      2. Polar Socialist

        Given the stories (which may well be propaganda) of the Ukrainian commanders leading from the very behind, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Russians actually had better info on the condition and number of the Ukrainian front-line troops than the Ukrainians have.

      3. Aurelien

        When I saw the first photographs of the documents, and then read the transcripts of some of them, my reaction was similar to a number of other people, I think: it was precisely because the documents seemed coherent with openly-available information that they were probably genuine. For example, the listing of formations and equipment for the putative Ukrainian offensive is pretty much what anyone paying attention would have expected, although of course, it could still come as a shock to anyone who believes what they read in the PMC media.

      4. Susan the other

        LAPIS – Lab for parallel intelligence systems? Well it took 30 minutes to decipher that acronym. But the very name implies we are now living in a multi dimensionally disinformative world. That I can definitely believe. And even trickier, the information purported can seem authentic enough to puzzle us all. I’m wondering how that festering little group of nazi throwbacks and money launderers has the unmitigated nerve to float this stuff, and equally how the Pentagon floats almost empty parallel info to defuse the situation without denying it. Crazy.

    2. EquitableEqual

      Completely speculative, but this leak would have been a pretty effective way for western leadership to push back against the constantly escalating weapon requests (in his first public remarks after tanks were pledged, zelensky demanded jet fighters) and reset the msm debate.

      Considering upcoming elections, deep unrest in other nato countries and jens stoltenberg’s remarks in recent months that this war will end at the negotiating table, it seems clear to me who would benefit, and therefore who is likely to be responsible – especially as the documents are outdated.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        This is silly. Western leadership would park docs on a Discord server and have them go unnoticed by anyone who mattered for a month? Seriously?

        Go read Big Serge or anyone who has looked at the docs in detail and has some military chops.

        They reveal incompetence on the part of our intel services. We know nothing about what Ukraine is up to, despite being able to surveil them. We have some very good seeming and very bad intel on Russia due to relying overmuch on Ukraine and obviously-gameable open source approaches.

        It also shows we have been pouring money into Ukraine with no plan whatsoever.

        It was not “Western leadership” that was behind these leaks. Clearly an American due to NoForn status of many slide, and therefore a Pentagon employee or contractor.

  3. Louis Fyne

    As Reality Winner widely demonstrated…(nearly?) every modern printer watermarks each print. All secure US gov. printouts are logged.

    Notice the yellow hue to the light, perhaps this is an intentional (lame? genius?) attempt to hide the watermark by the leaker???

    My fav. hypothesis: using docs. to win internet dopamine/street cred from other anon. chat forum members

    Most plausible hypothesis: Pentagon Papers, the 2023 soft reboot: by a person who doesn’t trust any prestige news outlet—due to level of spook penetration at NYT WaPo Facebook, etc. Maybe leaker wanted to publicly dump the docs, but then got cold feet (or given the weirdness of our timeline, leaker’s remains are in a UA bunker that may/may not have been hit by 6 RU missiles)

    1. Martin Oline

      I have wondered about that bunker hit which occurred around 8 March (reported on the 9th). There is a slim possibility they were folded in the pocket of a corpse and retrieved by someone else. The dates work but it is all speculation of course.

    2. Hickory

      FYI those are different tracking mechanisms. The ink matches the printout to the printer. The logging matches the computer user account to the print job. I highly doubt it was the ink that got the leakers, likely the print job tracking.

  4. Lex

    While I won’t discount a DoD employee/contractor, the second tranche suggests something bigger. For the moment my bet is on the Israelis. For one, Mossad is one of the few foreign services that would have that sort of penetration. But the bigger part is that there seems to be not only faction fighting in Israel but divisions between Israel and the Biden admin.

    The Nation piece about Russiagate being an Israeli op looks like intelligence throwing a trail of breadcrumbs to me. Netanyahu (who that leak was against since it was his government) accusing the US of color revolutioning him. The DoS connection to the political group most active in the protests. And the recent leak from Israel that sections of Mossad were encouraging and even participating in the protests.

    It’s not hard to argue that serious faction fighting is happening in Israel. And those aligned with Netanyahu May well be at the point of wanting to really burn Biden if they do think he’s behind civil unrest against Bibi. An Israeli asset doesn’t even preclude a DoD employee/contractor. The question I can’t speak to is the exact timing.

    1. Louis Fyne

      I like this hypothesis.

      I get my inner Tom Clancy tickles, and the hypothesis is as reasonably plausible as anything else

    2. JohnnyGL

      “The Nation piece about Russiagate being an Israeli op” — really? I’d be curious to check this out, but HIGHLY skeptical.

      There were WAY to many domestic players involved and deeply committed, early and strongly, to this narrative. Considering the revelations from the Twitter files, we’re getting a peak into how many institutional players were brought in to play along.

      The original Red Scare from the 1950s may have been a tragedy, but this one is definitely a farce!

      1. some guy

        Maybe the domestic Russiagate Design Engineers hired some disposable israeliis or created some fake cardboard replica Israelis to carry out certain tasks in furtherance of the Russiagate Operation, so as to get ” found” eventually and divert all the bright-shiny-squirrel chasers to focusing on “Israel”?

    3. Lunar Socialist

      As wild as this theory sounds, it’s actually one of the more plausible ones considering recent events in Israel. I certainly wasn’t expecting to read “Russiagate was an Israeli op,” but I’ll definitely have to check that Nation article out. Sounds like a first draft plot for a Tom Clancy live action adaptation.

      The burning question remains, who the hell controls Mossad?

      1. some guy

        Perhaps leading Mossad Insiders are still bitter over the Rabin Assassination, which Netanyahu did his best to “create the climate for”. Rabin was Mister Security and Mister Establishment and when the Netanyahoodlums had him assassinated, I bet some of the Most Inside and Topside Mossadists took that very seriously and very personally.

        They also come from the same secularist kibbutzian culture-tradition that he came from. They may feel that this coming-to-power of the worst and the vilest in Israeli society is the pollution of everything they ever felt themselves to stand for and be working for their whole careers. They may well feel that the whole political spectrum represented by Netanyahu and his coalition partners may represent a fulminant septic infection which will kill the state and the country if it is not itself killed off fast and hard.

        So if Mossadians are involved in the unrest, it would be because they share the unresters’ sentiments and want the unrest to succeed.

        But that is just my amateur intuition and feeling, to be sure.

        So if the Biden Administration decides to throw the Netanyahu government an Acme Anvil, the Mossadians would not get in the way, and might even be quietly grateful.

    4. ChrisPacific

      I’m not sure about this. Given that the info was apparently restricted to US citizens, the Israelis would (a) have to have infiltrated the DoD to the point where they had access, and (b) be willing to burn their source in order to make it public (odds seem pretty good that they will eventually find the source of this leak).

      The first seems fairly plausible to me, the second much less so. If they felt this was worth sacrificing a source over, why release it in this kind of piecemeal and haphazard fashion, and why pick something that mostly confirmed public sector information?

      (Just noticed that Yves posited a hack downthread, which could potentially be more compatible with this theory as it could be done without compromising anybody – doesn’t speak well of DoD security though, if that’s what happened).

  5. Bosko

    I’ll be interested to see if the leakers in the US are treated with the respect and fairness that US media seems to think the WSJ reporter deserved.

  6. Ignacio

    All this spells that the Ukrainian proxy war is botched ideologically driven stuff. This includes possible “mistakes” and lot of “wishful thinking” on several matters in the documents and almost certainly in the meetings. A hurried counteroffensive on the basis of the information provided plus what is already known or suspected to be known looks like a “kinetic action” poised to fail with many casualties, possibly in both sides, but likely much more intense in the Ukrainian side. Playing with the lives of Ukrainian soldiers in this way looks overdosed on ideological levity IMO.

    1. JohnnyGL

      This offensive has been getting hyped since Christmas, at the latest, when General Zaluzhny showed up for an interview with the Economist. He brought his wish list for NATO-claus to deliver him 300 tanks and 800 IFVs and claimed he’d be able to cut the Russian forces into two pieces.

      The Ukrainians suffered heavy casualties in the fall in Kherson and Kharkov launching those offensives. They’ve been getting chewed up in Bakmut all winter while the Russians hardened their defenses. Now, with the pressure being applied by the Russians all along the length of the front, quite sharply in certain spots, there’s no way Ukraine can be everywhere at once and the Russians know it. They don’t have the reserves for a successful offensive. This intel leak provides a convenient cover story for them to do what they already knew they had to do: patch up the holes in their lines and try to hold on.

      I agree that there’s a lot of ideological blinders in place, but there’s got to be a point where the idiocy becomes too much to maintain. I really struggle to see how this offensive ever happens.

      1. Ignacio

        I think you are right as well as the Reverend below. The offensive, at least as it has been presented to break Russian forces in two pieces in the Zhaporizhia region, looks crazy. Should never be tried knowing it would be very difficult to cross the 2 lines of defences in open territory without enormous casualties. They might try another surprise (if that is possible with satellite surveillance), something that looks big for PR purposes to justify all the expenses and weapons delivered but possibly without such strategic relevance.

      2. John Webster

        Having paid a lot of attention to the sources all across the piece I can’t see this ‘offensive’ being successful. It may knock a dent in Russian lines but it simply won’t be sustained without rocketry and air cover. It may be that this has been leaked by someone who KNOWS this and wants it to be called off. And this raises anorther point. UNLESS this is disinformation, it reveals a US that is simply hopelessly informed, dependent on Ukrainian fiction (and propaganda) and large doses of wishful thinking. They have reduced the conflict to a football match. And young men – mainly Ukrainian, are going to die and be crippled. I am absolutely certain that Zelenksyy (and Biden) will be seen as shameful idiots in the future. Here in the UK wall to wall pro-Ukrainian propaganda has produced cretinous and uncritical media thinking. I have absolute contempt for the ex-army public schoolboys who are running the UK side of the war. It has made me a supporter of the death penalty.

  7. Jme

    My experience with films and sheet damage due to creasing and buckling suggests that the paper folds are real, not added to digital images. The asperities and friable damage look too good for algorithmic alteration in my opinion but I am certainly not up to the minute on image manipulation algos. Doesn’t speak to the veracity of the content but as other more capable minds have said, it passes the sniff test.

    In any case, leaks like this haven’t done anything but cause more tightening and cracking down in the past. Witness Assange. If these are indicative of dissent and despair in the MIC then great, maybe we can walk back from the brink and return to reality and play nice. Not holding my breath.

    Keep up the great work NC team, a sane and considered source in the asylum.

    1. Skip Intro

      If one did exfiltrate digital documents, they could do worse than launder that information by doing a color printout, folding it roughly, then snapping phone pictures of the docs. It seemed to me a great way to sell the leak while potentially distracting from its origins. I’m still not sure the leak isn’t intentional, and an investigation of the authenticity of the folds just seems too perfect a shiny distraction. It screams a sort of cloak&dagger authenticity that itself becomes suspicious.

      1. tegnost

        My two stumbling blocks to reality are 1.) nyt broke the story with no pay wall, and 2.) friday night news dump timing. Looks like strategic ambiguity to me. It seems the goal is to make the truth impossible to figure. Like the SS minnow tale, just get people talking and let their imaginations do the rest

      2. fjallstrom

        I would add to first get an old printer someone thrown away, say from a dumpster. Then add some usb-sticks that can’t be traced back to you, and send the photo collection on the usb sticks through the mail to people you suspect would upload them somewhere.

        Not saying that is how it hapened, but it would be hard to trace back to the source.

    2. hamstak

      A small item I have not seen commented on so far in this matter regards one specific document titled “Russia/Ukraine Joint Staff J3/4/5 Daily Update (D+370)” from March 23 (ostensibly). In the upper left hand corner of the image there is some printed material beneath the photographed document; you can see the letters _TIV and a couple of other partially obscured letters (Sp and Sc?) beneath that. Not sure if it has any relevance or not — is it an envelope, a folder, a candy bar wrapper? Was it left there carelessly, or deliberately?

      There also appears to be a pair of antlers in that covered document — Finnish intelligence?

      Document image as posted on the Grayzone

  8. The Rev Kev

    Just running this up the flag pole to see if anyone salutes it but – could this also not be a serious planned distraction from the never ending story of the Great Ukrainian offensive? The Ukrainians haven’t got the trained men, the equipment nor even the ammo and now they are not talking about it in the media anymore. In fact, the Ukrainians have already said that because of these documents, that there may be delays. This whole story then may be in part to distract from the fact that this attack may never get off the ground in spite of the shouted demands of people like Blinken, Nulan, Sullivan, etc. With a story of this magnitude, somebody for sure is getting played. Just not sure who it is at the moment.

    1. Frank

      This is one of my favorite pet theories as well, it provides cover for cancelling the much anticipated offensive, which was likely to be a disaster and potential death blow. But I just can’t get past the strangeness of the release, on an obscure Discord group. Plus, it was part of a large trove, the Ukraine section was seized upon because it just happened to be discovered by a pro-Russian Telegram channel.

      1. tet vet

        IMO what has prolonged the war is believing that Ukraine has ever mounted a counter offensive since day 1. Occupying an area that has been abandoned by your opponents is not a counter offensive. The reason that this is important is that most impartial observers have since day 1 asked the specific question: How could Ukraine be doing anything but losing badly when there has never once been a successful counter attack. Now here we are over a year later and the West is faced with the fact that Ukraine has never once and never will be able to successfully counter attack and the house of cards the west has been trying to keep up is about to be exposed. Fool me once…

    2. Cetra Ess

      I’ve been considering another theory. Given a) it seem to be widely acknowledged the intel, if valid, is useless, outdated, has been partially doctored, and stipulating that b) I think it’s a deliberate leak, since I cannot conceive how it would even leak, given operational security, I’ve been wondering – if it is a deliberate leak of essentially useless garbage, why go to the trouble?

      Others have posited that it may be cover to provide an excuse for a non-existent counter-offensive that never transpires. I’m wondering it it may be to flush out where the info goes, who receives it, who distributes it, how they distribute it, which channels, etc. So like flushing green-yellow dye in the plumbing to find where it ends up.

      I’ve also been wondering if the documents themselves are carrying a payload or signature or if the existence of the documents on someone’s machine triggers something, Stuxnet style, if the host machine meets certain conditions.

      1. Yves Smith Post author

        The leak has infuriated the Ukraine military, which if nothing else means the US MSM coverage can’t be hidden in Ukraine. This will hurt morale among the troops and in society generally given the huge propaganda effort aimed above all at Ukraine citizens.

        Also as Michel Tracey pointed out, the ones limited to US distribution shows that Ukraine doesn’t have a seat at the table at important discussions of its own strategy.

        1. Cetra Ess

          There is that, and it could even be blatant and intentional betrayal, the beginnings of Operation Recover Our Dignity. Or the Ukrainian military is feigning anger, winkwinknudgenudge, in on whatever the game is. Or the Pentagon is actually this leaky. Or the Pentagon is not normally this leaky but, per Milley’s earlier misadventure, it is now when faced with no other alternative and opposition from other branches. The possibilities are dizzying.

      2. Skip Intro

        Well it seems clear that this can be used to further clampdown on mis-/dis-/malinformation, and those dangerous enough to see or spread it. If someone did want to not-draw-attention to it, they haven’t done a good job at all.

        1. Duke of Prunes

          Might this be a program to generate support for the “tick-tok” law? Reports seem to emphasize the release being on “social media”. Also strikes me as the pentagon undermining the wackos at state. Two birds, one stone.

  9. ron paul rEVOLution

    >The documents were shared by a user to a server called “Wow Mao.”

    Completely wild that a rose emoji shitposter got through a security clearance check.

    1. The Rev Kev

      ‘Wow Mao?’ I knew it. It was the Chinese who leaked those documents and then mocked us by including the name of Mao Zedong in the handle of this poster.

      1. LadyXoc

        I think its actually a clumsy pun on Chinese slang “wu mao” which means approximately “fifty cents” and refers to people who aggressively post positive stuff on CPC, for a small fee.

          1. digi_owl

            Seems to be happening more and more in gaming circles as matchmaking intermix different regions of the world.

            Russian swear words etc was for a time popular in certain shooting game communities for example.

        1. anahuna

          On the basis of a wonderful memoir (Orphan Bachelors, Fae Myenne Ng), by a friend who grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown speaking Toishanese, I can’t help speculating on the Wow. Can’t print out the word here, but it’s used in insults, as in Wow your mother!

        2. ron paul rEVOLution

          Thanks, that is probably it! An anti-CPC goon who posts on 4chan getting thorugh a security clearance check makes total sense!

          1. ChrisPacific

            Hard to tell whether that’s sarcasm. I would have thought 4chan history would be instant disqualification for a security check, but who knows?

            It does raise some questions, given that (a) whoever dunnit apparently had physical access to the printouts (witness the attempts to obscure identifying info in the photos) and (b) most Americans probably wouldn’t have enough understanding of Chinese slang to even understand that reference, much less make it (and I’m guessing the proportion would be even lower among those with high security clearance).

            1. digi_owl

              Could swing both ways, but i can see it being a recruitment ground for highly patriotic nationalists.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Makes it look more like a hack, particularly given that it went nowhere for about a month. A leaker with political motives would have made an effort to get the information in circulation. This looks like someone showing off about a stunt to an audience who didn’t appreciate how significant it was, both technically and geopolitically.

      1. ron paul rEVOLution

        The way they were photographed makes me think it was an inside job–printed, folded, and stuffed in a waistband to extricate. There are better ways to remove watermarks from a Powerpoint file if they had a digital copy.

        I do agree that it was bragging to someone an audience who didn’t know or care what they were seeing. The fact that this seems to be the first public disclosure of the LAPIS video capability, whatever it is, is interesting.

        It’s extremely 2023 that “LAPIS time-series video” appears to have been picked up by SEO algos, and searching that term brings up mostly spam sites. Could be the digital equivalent of radar chaff though, who knows!

  10. eg

    Perhaps my tinfoil is too tight and in need of adjustment, but I can’t shake the impression that the ground is being softened for when “Ukraine glorious victory!” fails to manifest itself.

    1. Susan the other

      Yes because it undermines the integrity of the entire effort. Everyone looks blank, shrugs their shoulders, sucks a tooth or two, gets up and leaves the room. Elvis has left the room.

    2. indices

      A couple months ago, when according to MSM Ukraine was winning bigly, I recall pundits and posters alike wondering how the USA was going to back itself out of this crock when the truth was found to be lies. Is this what we are seeing now?

    3. Yves Smith Post author

      The Pentagon has been thoroughly embarrassed and investigations by Congress are in the works. No need for the Pentagon to put itself in the position to suffer proctology and lose face in front of other defense establishments to start letting air out of the narrative.

  11. HH

    The NYT coverage completely missed the biggest new development in the war: the introduction of precision-guided glide bombs by the Russians. Unlike artillery shells, these 500 and 1,500 kg bombs can destroy any fixed defensive position the Ukrainians have. Their long standoff range of 50-80 km puts the launching aircraft outside the reach of the (depleted) Ukrainian air defenses. Once the Russians ramp up production of the kits that convert their huge supply of aircraft bombs into the equivalent of U.S. JDAMs, it is game over for Ukraine.

    1. MT_Wild

      Been wondering if it’s really new tech, or something they’ve had and not wanted to disclose. Either way bad news for the ukies. At some point the ukies may have to risk some remaining air assets to counter if they go on the offensive.

      1. HH

        My guess is that it was a crash program to deploy something that was bogged down in development. Otherwise, we would have seen these bombs used early on. If the Russians can also equip their thermobaric bombs with precision guidance kits, the Ukrainians will be in even worse shape.

        The Ukrainians don’t have any good counter play against the glide bombs. The Russian SAMs and air-to-air missiles out-range even the AMRAAMs used by NATO aircraft. Even with guidance from NATO AWACs, the Ukrainian interceptors would be shot down before their missiles could reach the aircraft launching the bombs. Maybe F35s could turn the tide, but I doubt that NATO would risk using them.

        Nothing but direct NATO intervention can save Ukraine from complete defeat, and that is when this war would becomes extremely dangerous to everyone.

        1. tegnost

          What makes you think direct intervention by nato would work? Our weapons systems are being proven to be pure pork (autonomous tech patent farms, robot dogs…) not that it’s a surprise to thinking people

          1. HH

            NATO has deep strike capabilities that could paralyze Russian logistics. The Russian air force could be destroyed by attacks from missiles and stealth bombers. The sheer weight of numbers of NATO aircraft and ships could shift the balance of the conflict decisively. Russia would be forced to resort to long range missile strikes to destroy NATO bases and ships, which would bring both sides closer and closer to deploying tactical nuclear weapons, at which point the entire world population is at risk.

            1. Polar Socialist

              I don’t think NATO aircraft have the range to penetrate Russian airspace. And even if they did, they would have to go in blind because Russian air defenses would consider AWACS platforms the highest priority targets and use electronic warfare tool in their kit.

              1. digi_owl

                Yeah, people seem to think that going after Russia will be like going after Iraq or Libya.

            2. tegnost

              Russia would be “forced” to use hypersonics, the s 500 system, and electronic jamming, of which we have none.
              My present fear is that rather than admit to losing, nato will hurl the nukes, false flag a dirty bomb, or some such thing with a cavalier sort of if we can’t rule the world no one can psychopathy.

            3. hk

              I doubt anything less than fairly large scale nuclear strike by NATO would be able to “paralyze” Russian logistics. If that happens, we are all glass.

            4. Yves Smith Post author

              Please, more of what you are smoking. You seem ignorant of the depth and sophistication of Russian air defenses. Does not mean nothing would get through but most of what we could throw at Russia would be shot down.

              Big risk to Russia would be, as with attack on Engels air base, collateral damage from intercepted weapons falling. It’s apparently more practical from a surveillance standpoint for reasons over my pay grade to down air attacks close to the target rather than at the border.

            5. Felix_47

              HH I tend to agree with you. The US has been spending 12 times what the Russians spend on war for decades. I have worked with Russian equipment up close over the years and simplicity and reliability are not worth much if one is outgunned and outranged. For the Russian government certainly this is an existential threat. For the US regime this is a threat to the outcome in 2024. Joe has been all in on Ukraine for a long time. I am not sure the brain trust in Washington understands how the Russian leadership might interpret the meaning of regime change, unconditional surrender, trial in the Hague, this guy has to go etc. Let us hope there is regime change in the US in 2024 and that the world is not wiped out before then.

        2. tevhatch

          Mmmmm, I think it was NATO intervention that set Ukraine up for defeat, probably complete defeat. I tend to believe there was initially a sigh of relief from NATO and EU when Russia started the SMO, that they were no longer really having to keep making excuses for delaying Ukraine’s entry into NATO and the EU and were getting what they wanted at a discount. Best laid plans of mice and men.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Stop this nonsense. The US has spent over $100 billion and that includes directly funding the Ukraine budget, which is not a profitable exercise to anyone here. Ukraine had IIRC a $40 billion shortfall for 2022 and that will only get worse in 2023.

            1. tevhatch

              Maybe it’s my language skills, but I believe I was implying what you said, that NATO (ie: the USA) supplied Ukraine with a whole lot of weapons, and promised them that if they could unify the country, ie: (re-)conquer the Donbas (a condition of joining NATO is that there is no internal conflict, that they would become NATO members, all the while knowing there was no way Russia would allow the it. At the same time, by use of Rights Sector inside Ukraine and France/Germany, the USA effectively blocked any peaceful path to resolving the conflict. The USA set up Ukraine to be a proxie, and then to become a festering sore. No one in their right mind could expect Ukraine to defeat Russia (even with 5 times 100 billion) and the Rights Sector is certainly mad, that was the job of the sanctions which failed. I believe you also say it’s one thing for Russia to win the war, and another thing for Russia to win the peace.

              1. digi_owl

                USA has been tempting both Ukraine and Georgia with NATO membership since the early 2000s.

                The sad thing is that US leaders, irrespective of the party affiliation, seems to be behaving as if the world is still like it was back then.

        3. digi_owl

          And if the F-35 is to go stealth, it has to limit itself to internal stores only.

          Not sure if there is enough of them produced, never mind operational in Europe, to make up for that limitation.

          And i am sure the Russian’s have already figured out something similar to what downed that F-117 over the Balkans. As “stealth” is not invisibility, it is just about making the radar return weak.

          1. tevhatch

            They are only stealthy from below. Russia’s existing AWAC had an issue with height so the The MIG-31 was purposed. It flies at much higher altitude than most jets, well above the F-35 or F-117, so with it’s look down radar which is twice as powerful as on the next competitor, it can relatively easily pick up and with it’s speed and longer range missiles intercept then pick off. The MIG-31 can also pass off intercept data to ground based defense, and once close enough, the breadbox size equivalent radar image of the F-35 becomes big enough to the missile head active seekers even from below.

      2. Polar Socialist

        I may be wrong, but from “open sources” (a.k.a. Russian media) it seems that NPO Bazalt showed the first version in Aero India exhibition in 2003. In Russia they were present at MAKS-2009. And

        Bazalt calls it MPK (modul planirovanija i korrektsyi [planning and correction module]), the idea being that it’s relatively cheap and can be installed on the airfield while the planes are armed.

        It comes in four versions:
        – first tier is just simple, mechanical device having folding wings and a rudder to keep the glide path predictable. Striking distance 6-8 km from altitude of 50-100 meters.

        – second tier has inertial guiding unit to force the bomb glide along a designed path. Striking distance 12-15 km with comparable accuracy to the above. Both this and the above versions are targeted by the platform’s bomb sight.

        – third tier has GLONASS navigation module, and has range of 40-60 kilometers, depending on the speed and height of the launch platform. Accuracy is within 10 meters.

        – fourth tier has GLONASS navigation module and pulse-jet propulsion module, increasing the effective range to 80-100 km.

        According to the manufacturer the advantage is that while missiles payload is 15-20% of the weapons weight, with MPK equipped bomb it’s over 70%. They also think that the main advantage is the capability to use “free fall” bombs from low altitudes (100-200 meters) instead of 3-5 kilometers.

        It seems that Russian Air Force started testing these devices only in 2017, and has been using them in SMO since January this year.

        1. HH

          There is no way that Ukrainian urban strong points can survive attacks by these glide bombs, especially if the thermobaric versions are deployed. Ukraine can say goodbye to Chasov Yar, Kramatorsk, and Slavyansk. It is just a matter of time. Ukrainian troops in cities will face the same fate as ISIS in Raqqa and Mosul: destruction from the air.

    2. Polar Socialist

      Jut to mention a few other recent developments I’ve noticed mentioned here and there:
      – US spy drones indeed are currently “respecting” the Russian airspace on Black Sea, so real time IRS from alleged area of the “spring offensive” would be hard to get.
      – Russians have started bombing bridges (two in two days) behind Ukrainian lines.
      – Ukrainians in Kharkov-Kupyansk direction are constructing positions with mock vehicles and mock weapons.

      1. Karl

        Russians have started bombing bridges (two in two days) behind Ukrainian lines.

        As I am not an expert on military tactics, what does this imply about Russian intentions in the next phase of battle? E.g., to trap Ukrainians trying to retreat, or interfering with Ukrainian logistics? If the latter, why didn’t they do this long ago?

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Bridges are hard to destroy. They are very over-engineered.

          Russia has been able to use glide bombs, which are very powerful, of late due to degradation of Ukraine air defenses.

          In one area (on the Liman front line), Dima of Military Summary said Russians destroyed brides there to prevent troop rotation, which also potentially also means preventing retreat.

  12. Camelotidd

    Over at A Son of the New American Revolution, Thomas Lipscomb speculates–“Perhaps they make it possible to use US/NATO documents, rather than Russian assertions alone, to establish a legal framework and build the record for whatever settlement Putin plans to impose upon Ukraine. It helps prove Putin’s case that his intervention was required by an active and ongoing conspiracy led by the United States to use Ukraine to attack and subvert Russia.”

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, Larry is having a bad day or trying too hard to say something different.

      If this were a Russian leak, the Pentagon and State would have said so and used that to depict it as a Russian fabrication and desperation. Per the supposed Bellingcat find, it must have been way too easy to trace it back to those Discord servers for that to hold up. Plus as Big Serge pointed out, there is way way way too much detail for this to be a fake. It represents months of work for it to hold up and tie to public info (like the types of tanks and other support being sent).

      And the press would have fallen in line and either ignored the docs or run short pieces way way down on their websites. Look at how they ignore important speeches by Putin or cherry pick single words (they did that once after a meeting with Xi) and try to spin them to mean something completely different.

      Russia already has a legal case and Putin made it before the launch of the SMO. They recognized the breakaway republics. They then entered into a mutual security agreement. Under UN Article 51, Russia could then use military force to defend them.

    1. Susan the other

      Whoa. That bit from Helmer was very clear. Especially the confirmation about the Kinzhal and the bunker. Thanks for the link.

  13. Cristobal

    Thank you John G. I like Helmer´s notion that we are seeing an efffort by the Pentagon (dare I say the adults in the room?) to throw cold water on the disaster/spring offensive in the making. The veracity or utility of the material is really beside the point. We can over think things.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      No, this was on gamer servers no one was looking at for a month. This is not how leaking is done.

      The Pentagon is now looking like idiots and is scrambling to find/’splain how this got out. Unless this was a hack (which makes the Pentagon look super bad), this can and will be traced to the printouts (assuming they were and the folds were not state of the art Photoshop applied to images photographed from a computer screen). So many individual pages were presented that it should not be hard to identify which printer to print them and come up with a short list of candidates and work through them. With Reality Winner, only 6 people printed out the doc she circulated, so I separately suspect that printing out stuff like this goes against normal practice.

  14. Smekat Bubo-Pellet

    Side note: the s-300 and s-400 do have weaknesses such as high-probability of detection and high probability of jamming when compared to AESA radars in use by many other countries. Search and track are two different radars within the same network. A search radar having a longer range of detection should not be conflated with a system’s track radar’s ability to optimize firing solutions and target de-confliction while remaining passive and unsuppressed. Notable, given the ubiquity of airborne early warning radar and data-linked BVR munitions in the West… Not important.

    Could the above leaks be a US disinformation dangle in the vein of Operation Mincemeat? It would go a long way explaining the long tail of the baited hook — Oh, the calamity! Our PowerPoint product is so unflattering and the Ukrainians are running out of Soviet-era stockpiles, like we knew they would. BTW the NSA broke Russian encryption, so back to their sand box, but what about Ukraine’s BUK missiles!

    Two more notes: attrition or not, Russia has been trying to take Avdiivka off the map for the last 13 months. Believe it’s an elaborate turkey shoot if you must, but you can’t eliminate what you can’t flank and fix from at least two directions by two formations who trust each other. Coordination aside, as far as I know, the leaks do not brief that effort. Almost as if the leakers do not want any triage of festering wounds to fix battlefield non-compliance problems, but rather just waste a lot of brain hours at a critical juncture.

    Poland and Finland operate the JASSM-ER stealth cruise missile with a range of 900km, the distance from Kyiv to Moscow. NATO protocol covers defensive alliances only, every member is free to pursue offensive operations as they see fit. The antipathy Poland and Finland feel for a certain country making territorial claims on their borders is well-known; the implications of their generosity with assets is something to digest. Or just keep watching  mil-bloggers with their Criswell predictive powers.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Lotta straw manning here.

      No one said the S-300 was perfect, merely that it is better than any Western system, confirmed by Turkiye acquiring it to much US fury.

      Second, re Avdiivka, links please. I watch the daily map watchers. Russia’s big push v. Avdiivka is only about 6 weeks old and they’ve gained a lot of ground. It wasn’t a focus of their reporting until recently because Russia has not put a lot of resources against it.

    2. Polar Socialist

      The 91N6 surveillance radar, the 96L6E early-warning and acquisition radar and the 92N6E engagement radar used by S-400 are all phased array radars. Since they also rotate mechanically, they have the best of both worlds – beam forming, small side lobes, jam resistance, large scan area and less beam deformation during steering.

      And yet having radars superior to AESA is not what makes them what they are, it’s the 30K6E C&C system, that can integrate an S-400 battalion with any other S-400, S-300, Tor or Pantsir system to form an air-defense network where each connected weapon platform has a shared view of the battle space and can automatically assign targets between them. That’s the capability no western other system on earth has.

  15. fjallstrom

    I found a what claims to be a screen shot of a posting of the documents. Given the date 03/04/2023 (thats 4th of March in US standard, right?) probably a re-post, but also probably geunine (cause why would you fake a screen shot of a repost?)

    Here is a link to the image. The image was found on tumblr.

    The conversation goes: someone (maybe Sikers) apologises to user Misk1 about something, Misk1 replies “Nah, I’m not oversensitive lmao”. User Sikers respond “here, have some leaked documents” whereupon Misk1 replies “Nice”. My interpretation of it is that by 4th of March these documents may still be somewhat fresh, but are known enough to be introduced as a joke. So user Sikers as an apology or comfort offers some leaked documents. Lol, as the saying goes.

    And they would for sure be reposted onto other message boards for clout and humor (and who knows if “Wow Mao” was really the first to post it, or just the first in that channel). So at least thousands before the mainstream media starts writing about it.

  16. Rob

    I feel quite confident that Russia’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance ((ISR) are at such a level that there is nothing in the leaked documents that will come as a surprise, except for erroneous or falsified portions.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Agreed. Both sides have excellent ISR. That is one reason why the attritional war must be maddening to the US/NATO side. Much less revealing troop massing than in maneuver warfare.

  17. PCM

    The only comment I have is to point out that the New York Times’ moniker is spelled Gray Lady with an A. The frou-frou variant of Earl Grey tea, in contrast, is spelled Lady Grey with an E. Notwithstanding the human, infrastructural, and economic devastation wrought by America’s proxy war on Russia, I’m sure you will all sleep better knowing this.

  18. Northeaster

    This was always a numbers game. U.S. officials who support unending war have a whole lot of blame. Meanwhile, Ukraine is so depleted of bodies, they’re drafting 16 year-olds. How low will they go?

  19. Glen

    To me, the most puzzling aspect of this is – why were these documents posted?

    Back in the first Cold War the biggest spying scandal in the US Navy was the John walker Spy Ring:

    The John Walker Spy Ring and The U.S. Navy’s Biggest Betrayal

    The amount of critical information sold by this guy for relatively small amounts of money was astonishing, and I, along with most of the people I knew back then would just as soon have all of them hung from the highest yard arm available. Calmer heads prevailed.

    But this does not even appear to have any monetary gain motives. Where these posted just for bragging rights? Given the shear volume, it would sure appear that this person or persons has daily/casual access to this information. It sure reeks of the issues I see where I work, that the control and administration of critical information (i.e. corporate IT) is routinely outsourced to the least expensive bidder.

    And it also goes back to – how do you motive your people to “win” a “cold war” when you have completely crapified their lives? When the 99% can watch billionaires get bailed out and mega corporations poison whole towns? When the American dream is dead for the 99%?

    1. Glen

      I watched this and was astonished, not so much that the Pentagon failed an audit, but because the Defense Deputy Secretary seems to have no real understanding of what happens to all aspects of the military when you treat your people like crap:

      Jon Stewart Questions Defense Deputy Secretary on Budget

      Imagine dealing with THAT ATTITUDE every day while your family struggles to FEED ITSELF. At some point, you may cease to care so much about all the Top Secret stuff you handle every day.

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