The AtlanticThe Atlantic

Everything about the Ukraine leak is incredibly weird

By Amy Zegart

12 Apr 2023 · 3 min read

Editor's Note

The recent U.S. intelligence leak is one of the most damaging breaches in years. But it's also one of the most bizarre, writes The Atlantic's Amy Zegart.

A recent U.S. intelligence leak is already shaping up to be one of the most damaging breaches in years, revealing highly sensitive information about the war in Ukraine, Israeli domestic politics, America’s deep penetration of high-level Russian military plans and operations, and more. By last count, approximately 100 pages of classified slides and briefing materials from the Pentagon have been discovered floating around the internet. Many pages included intelligence that is stunning in its timeliness. Some materials were marked “top secret.” Most are considered genuine. The Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation, furious military leaders are reviewing how the Pentagon handles classified information, and an interagency task force is scrambling to assess whether the damage is a bad nightmare or a really bad nightmare.

Big breaches are nothing new. Chelsea Manning, then an Army intelligence analyst, handed over hundreds of thousands of classified documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to WikiLeaks. The former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden stole an estimated 1.5 million documents containing information about some of the most highly classified intelligence programs in the U.S. government. Another NSA contractor, Hal Martin, pleaded guilty to willful hoarding of national-defense information after being accused of stashing perhaps 500 million pages of secrets in his house, car, and garden shed.

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