Despite Biden administration assurances that the U.S. commitment to aid Ukraine against Russia’s invasion will not include boots on the ground, the recently leaked Pentagon documents suggest otherwise.
The Pentagon and the Justice Department are investigating the leaked of the internal intelligence, which has reportedly shown the U.S. and other NATO countries have sent special forces to Ukraine.
The leaked documents have suggested as many as 50 British troops are operating inside Ukraine as of March 23, while the U.S., France, and Latvia have each sent a dozen special forces — Green Berets in the case of the U.S. — The Washington Times reported.
The intelligence does not define what the special forces are doing, or where they are located, but the training of Ukrainian soldiers is a potential mission before future counteroffensive plans, according to the report.
The U.S. Army Special Forces, known as Green Berets, have internal defense and unconventional warfare as core missions.
Despite the report of as many as 50 U.K. soldiers on the ground in Ukraine, the U.K. military has declared the leaked documents have a “serious level of inaccuracy.”
“Readers should be cautious about taking at face value allegations that have the potential to spread disinformation,” the U.K. Ministry of Defense tweeted Tuesday.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin vowed to “turn over every rock” to identify the leaker, and the Pentagon said some of the documents appear to have been altered.
The leaks have highlighted how closely the U.S. monitors how its allies and friends interact with Russia and China. Officials in several countries have denied or rejected allegations from the leaked records.
The Associated Press has reported on U.S. intelligence picking up claims from Russian operatives they were building a closer relationship with the United Arab Emirates, the oil-rich Middle Eastern nation that hosts important American military installations. The UAE rejected the allegations, calling them “categorically false.”
The Washington Post reported Monday that Egypt’s president ordered subordinates to secretly prepare to ship up to 40,000 rockets to Russia as it wages war in Ukraine. A spokesman for the Egyptian foreign ministry said Egypt was maintaining “noninvolvement in this crisis and committing to maintain equal distance with both sides.”
Other leaks have concerned allegations South Korean leaders were hesitant to ship artillery shells to Ukraine and that Israel’s Mossad spy service opposed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed overhaul of the judiciary.
Funded at $90 billion annually, the U.S. intelligence agencies have sweeping powers to tap electronic communications, run spies and monitor with satellites. The results of those powers are rarely seen in public, even in limited form.
The classified documents — which have not been individually authenticated by U.S. officials — range from briefing slides mapping out Ukrainian military positions to assessments of international support for Ukraine and other sensitive topics, including under what circumstances Russian President Vladimir Putin might use nuclear weapons.
There is no clear answer on how many documents were leaked. The AP has viewed approximately 50 documents; some estimates put the total number in the hundreds.
“They were somewhere in the web, and where exactly, and who had access at that point, we don’t know. We simply don’t know,” Austin said at a press conference Tuesday. “We will continue to investigate and turn over every rock until we find the source of this and the extent of it.”
It is possible the leak may have started on a site called Discord.
Discord is a social media platform popular with people playing online games. The Discord site hosts real-time voice, video, and text chats for groups and describes itself as a place “where you can belong to a school club, a gaming group, or a worldwide art community.”
In one of those forums, originally created to talk about a range of topics, members would debate the war in Ukraine. According to one member of the chat, an unidentified poster shared documents that the poster claimed were classified, first typing them out with the poster’s own thoughts, then, as of a few months ago, uploading images of folded papers.
The person who said he was a member of the forum told AP that another person, identified online only as “Lucca,” shared the documents in a different Discord chat. From there, they appear to have been spread until they were picked up by the media.
Information from AP has been used to compile this report.