Leaked Pentagon documents heightens tensions between US and Israel

A U.S. intelligence report states that Israel’s spy body Mossad has been fueling protests against the government’s judicial overhaul — claims denied by the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

The headquarters of the Pentagon in Arlington (Virginia) on Thursday.
The headquarters of the Pentagon in Arlington (Virginia) on Thursday.TOM BRENNER (REUTERS)

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the apparent leak of military and intelligence documents online. The leak of what appears to be classified Pentagon documents — most concerning the war in Ukraine — has sent shockwaves across the world. It has increased attacks between Ukraine and Russia, and exposed the vulnerabilities and differences within U.S. allies, including one of the White House’s closest supporters: Israel.

The filtered documents include allegations that Israel’s spy body Mossad is fueling the protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed judicial reform, which would take away power from the Supreme Court. For the past three months, tens of thousands of people have taken to the street to protest the reform, which is now on hold. The mass mobilization caused friction within the government and criticism from institutions such as the country’s presidency and army. The top secret U.S. intelligence documents allege that Mossad’s leadership had “advocated for Mossad officials and Israeli citizens to protest the new Israeli government’s proposed judicial reforms, including several explicit calls to action that decried the Israeli government.”

On Sunday, the office of Prime Minister Netanyahu was forced to deny the claims made in the documents. It stated that the report was “mendacious and without any foundation whatsoever.” But the situation has heightened tensions between the U.S. and Israel, which have been strained since U.S. President Joe Biden criticized Netanyahu’s judicial reform.

Another leaked document suggested that Washington was pressuring the Israeli government to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine — a move which would go against Israel’s current stance and jeopardize Netanyahu’s good relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Other revelations

The classified documents appear to have revealed sensitive information on the war in Ukraine and Russia’s espionage activities. According to the leaked documents, hackers working for the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed to have attacked a Canadian natural-gas pipeline company in February, compromising the IP address of the company and causing damage to its infrastructure.

The leaks also contain sensitive information about the military capacity of the opposing armies, combat plans for an alleged spring offensive, as well as details about the internal debate of U.S. allies. According to The New York Times, one report — verified in principle by federal investigators — contains information about how South Korea is under pressure to provide artillery shells to Ukraine. Others refer to China, the Middle East and Africa.

The first batch of classified documents was allegedly leaked on a Discord server in March, and since then more information has been shared on Twitter, Telegram, 4Chan and other social networks. It is one of the most serious leaks since WikiLeaks published more than 700,000 diplomatic cables in 2013. Defense analysts who spoke to U.S. media argue that the leak bolsters Russian propaganda, as it demonstrates the extent to which U.S. intelligence has managed to penetrate the Russian military apparatus.

The Pentagon said Friday that it was “actively reviewing the matter” and had referred the case to the Justice Department, where the investigation is in its early stages. U.S. officials told The Washington Post that some of the leaked documents had been doctored — suggesting possible Russian involvement — but many others were consistent with CIA World Intelligence Review reports, which are shared with the highest levels of the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department.

Indeed, the information on the military plans in Ukraine — such as Ukraine’s air defenses or the weak flanks of the Ukrainian and Russian armies — is so detailed that experts believe the reports were leaked by an American and not an ally. “The focus now is on this being a U.S. leak, as many of the documents were only in U.S. hands,” Michael Mulroy, a former senior Pentagon official, told Reuters.

With respect to the war in Ukraine, the military intelligence reports appear to have been doctored to minimize Russian losses. One of the leaked reports is not classified, although it includes top secret information. Some files are also marked as NOFORN — not for foreigners. Another classified document, dated February 23, reports that Ukraine’s S-300 air defense systems would be depleted by May 2 at the current rate of use.

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