A leak of hundreds of classified U.S. military documents, including recent assessments of the situation in Ukraine and revelations about the United States spying on its allies, has sent the defense and intelligence establishment scrambling to repair the damage.
The biggest revelations from The Post’s document leaks investigation
Through contact with Discord users, The Washington Post has been able to review about 300 pages of classified documents, many previously unreported. Though some versions of the documents that spread online have been crudely doctored, earlier versions do not appear to have been tampered with. Sources provided these documents to The Post on the condition of anonymity.
Here are the biggest takeaways from our reporting.
Members of “Thug Shaker Central,” the Discord group where the documents first spread, described the user who shared them as “OG,” a slightly older man who wanted to keep the group — mostly bored young gamers, isolated during the coronavirus pandemic — “in the loop,” according to one member.
Many of the documents were labeled NOFORN, meaning only U.S. citizens could see them, and “top secret,” the highest U.S. intelligence classification level. “OG” worked on a “military base,” the member said, and did not share the documents for political reasons. “I would not call OG a whistleblower in the slightest,” the member told The Post.
A day after The Post published details of the leaker on April 12, authorities confirmed that investigators were focused on Teixeira, a young member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard. He was arrested by the FBI on April 13. Teixeira was charged the next day with unlawfully taking and transmitting sensitive information — crimes that carry a potential maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. That a low-level technology support staffer could have access to these files has led to a serious debate at the Pentagon about internal security.
The documents that first spread on Discord offer an unvarnished view of the conflict in Ukraine, designed to help military leaders make well-informed decisions. Some of the information offers a pessimistic view of Ukraine’s planned counteroffensive against occupying Russian forces, while other documents point to gaps in Ukraine’s air defenses, potential supply problems and the fight for the eastern city of Bakhmut.
The leaks reveal previously unknown Ukrainian plans, including one that could have seen Ukraine launch attacks in Russian territory on the anniversary of the invasion and another that could have seen Ukraine strike Russian assets in Syria. That first plan was called off under U.S. pressure; the second halted under orders from Zelensky.
Several documents also offer evidence that the U.S. intelligence community has infiltrated the Russian military to a considerable degree. In some cases, the United States has been able to warn Ukraine of impending attacks, the documents suggest. The documents also make reference to internal planning by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency, and the Wagner Group, the private military contractor crucial to Russia’s war effort, suggesting that both are compromised by the United States.
A Defense Intelligence Agency assessment that’s included among the documents indicates that the United States does not expect the war to conclude anytime soon: “Negotiations to end the conflict are unlikely during 2023 in all considered scenarios.”
The documents contain revelations about Russian efforts online to promote its narratives, with Russian operators boasting in one document that they are detected by social media networks only about 1 percent of the time.
Others show that Moscow has experimented for months with electronic warfare systems in a bid to disrupt the Starlink satellite operations that billionaire Elon Musk has provided to Kyiv.
Outside of Russia and Ukraine, the documents also show internal deliberations by third parties on their involvement in the war. In one example, leaked documents showed that Egypt initially made detailed plans to export rockets at Moscow’s request, but after a diplomatic offensive from Washington, instead approved artillery production for Kyiv at a later date.
The documents reveal the activities of the Wagner Group in Africa, where they have extended their influence as other nations pulled back and played key roles in countries such as Sudan and Chad.
Numerous documents offer new information about the United States’ most powerful rival.
One details information apparently obtained through U.S. eavesdropping on Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service and suggests that China approved the “provision of lethal aid” to Russia in its war in Ukraine earlier this year and planned to disguise military equipment as civilian items. In an apparent response to The Washington Post’s reporting on this issue, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang said China would not provide lethal aid to either side, and would regulate the export of items with dual civilian and military use.
A different document includes details of a test conducted by Beijing of one of its advanced experimental missiles — the DF-27 hypersonic glide vehicle — on Feb. 25. It says the vehicle flew for 12 minutes across 1,300 miles and that it possessed a “high probability” of penetrating U.S. ballistic missile defense systems.
One of the leaked documents contained an assessment that China could deploy a high-altitude spy drone that travels at least three times the speed of sound. The document, which comes from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, features satellite imagery dated Aug. 9 that shows two WZ-8 rocket-propelled reconnaissance drones at an air base in eastern China, about 350 miles inland from Shanghai.
The documents also contain new details about a Chinese spy balloon, dubbed Killeen-23 by U.S. intelligence agencies, that flew over the United States this year. They detail sophisticated surveillance equipment. U.S. intelligence agencies were aware of up to four additional Chinese spy balloons, the documents say in another previously unreported revelation.
The Discord Leaks
In exclusive interviews with a member of the Discord group where U.S. intelligence documents were shared, The Washington Post learned details of the alleged leaker, “OG.” The Post also obtained a number of previously unreported documents from a trove of images of classified files posted on a private server on the chat app Discord.
How the leak happened: The Washington Post reported that the individual who leaked the information shared documents with a small circle of online friends on the Discord chat platform. This is a timeline of how the documents leaked.
The suspected document leaker: Jack Teixeira, a young member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, was charged in the investigation into leaks of hundreds of pages of classified military intelligence. Teixeira told members of the online group that he worked as a technology support staffer at a base on Cape Cod, one member of the Discord server told The Post. Here’s what we learned about the alleged document leaker.
What we learned from the leaked documents: The massive document leak has exposed a range of U.S. government secrets, including spying on allies, the grim prospects for Ukraine’s war with Russia and the precariousness of Taiwan’s air defenses. It also has ignited diplomatic fires for the White House. Here’s what we’ve learned from the documents.