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Making sense of the latest on the U.S. intelligence classified leaks


There's still a lot we don't know about a major U.S. intelligence leak that's still unfolding.


It involves dozens of classified documents on the state of the war in Ukraine which have been posted on several social media sites.

MARTÍNEZ: For more on what this all could mean, we're joined by NPR national security correspondent Greg Myre. Greg, this has been moving pretty fast the last few days. What do we need to know now?

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Well, multiple parts of the U.S. government - and we're talking about the Justice Department, the FBI, the Pentagon, intelligence agencies - they're all scrambling to figure out the source of these leaked intelligence documents. Now, we're talking about dozens of pages, mostly about the war in Ukraine, but it also has U.S. intelligence assessments on other parts of the world. It seems some of these documents were posted a month ago or more on the site Discord, which is popular among teenage gamers, and it more or less just sat there for some time before it spread to Twitter and Telegram. And then The New York Times broke the story last Thursday. Now, the U.S. government is trying to answer several key questions. Who did this? Is this one limited set of documents or is more material coming? And how extensive is the damage?

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. And the who did this - that's the mysterious part of all this. Anyone have any leads?

MYRE: No, not really. It's such an unusual case in many ways. There's no obvious suspect. You know, government intelligence agencies worldwide seek to conceal rather than reveal secret documents they might obtain, so they don't have an obvious motive to put them online. Also, some of these postings appear to be done by individuals hiding behind an online alias, and they just seem to be reposting versions that they came across elsewhere. One person appeared to be a young man in California who did not further identify himself. So it's simply not clear who might have stolen or leaked these documents and who originally posted them online.

MARTÍNEZ: So what's on these documents?

MYRE: So based on documents NPR has seen, they look to be briefing slides with lots of maps and charts. And these are put together daily for top Pentagon leaders and other national security officials. And they cover a range of countries. You see references to China, Iran, North Korea. But the focus here is clearly Ukraine and issues like struggles that Ukraine and Russia face in training fresh troops and keeping them properly supplied with weapons. But the key in these documents is that they provide details on issues like Ukraine's dwindling supply of air defense missiles. Now, these air defense systems have been very effective in keeping Russian fighter jets out of Ukrainian skies. And while this general issue is well known, these kinds of details could be very valuable to Russia.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, U.S. intelligence on Russia has been pretty good throughout the war. Could these revelations maybe undermine those U.S. efforts?

MYRE: Well, that's certainly a huge concern. This leaked material shows U.S. intelligence has clearly penetrated a Russian military on what appears to be a daily basis, and this allows the U.S. to share extremely detailed and timely information with Ukraine on when and where the Russians plan to attack. And that's obviously a huge defense advantage for Ukraine's defenses. Now, Russia will certainly try to make adjustments to better protect and disguise its military plans. And even with all this said, you know, both sides already have extensive intelligence on each other. So we just don't know at this point whether this new material leaking out will change the trajectory of the war.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Greg Myre. Greg, thank you.

MYRE: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.