Politics & Security
EDITORIAL | Leak of US Classified Documents Threatens Trust Among Allies
Washington must mitigate the international harm from the leaked classified documents by taking clear and immediate steps to prevent any recurrence.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has arrested a 21-year-old Air National Guard member for leaking United States government classified documents on the internet. Some of the documents were defense-related.
Senior Pentagon officials have confirmed that the documents in question contain highly classified information.
Inside information about US allies seems to be included within some documents. Therefore, the shockwaves are reverberating not only in the United States but also among its allies.
According to US media reports, the national guardsman in question was an IT technician. Because of his job, he had authorized access to a part of the Pentagon network which handles classified information.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has announced that the Pentagon will take steps to prevent a recurrence of such leaks. For example, it will review procedures for accessing information within the defense department. However, it is imperative that such measures be implemented as soon as possible.
Impact on the Ukraine War
Many of the leaked documents concern Russia's invasion of Ukraine. According to US media, their content involves the Ukrainian military's capabilities, air defense posture, and operational plans. Ukraine has said that the unauthorized disclosures have forced it to alter some plans related to a major counteroffensive it is now preparing.
The US government also alleges that some of the contents have been tampered with.
This issue should not be allowed to create dissonance in intelligence sharing between the US and Ukraine. Above all, it should not be allowed to negatively impact the course of the struggle with Russia.
Disinformation, Damaging Trust
Another problem is that the leaked documents could be used to analyze details regarding methods and sources in US intelligence-gathering activities. Potentially, that could harm informants.
Some of the leaked secrets also concern allies of the United States.
For example, one leaked document purports to be intercepted communications among senior officials in the office of the president of South Korea. Seoul has a policy of not providing lethal aid to Ukraine. The leaked document, however, includes an exchange among officials expressing concern about a request from Washington for South Korea to send ammunition to Ukraine.
Ukraine and South Korea have both stated their official position that the statements relating to their countries constitute "disinformation."
Critical Steps to Rebuild Trust
Of particular concern is the possibility of fissures developing in the unity of the democratic camp. This is especially a concern among North Atlantic Treaty Organization member states. What if Japan and other of its allies find US intelligence gathering excessively problematic and disruptive to mutual cooperation? That could end up benefiting autocratic powers such as China and Russia.
Clearly, the Biden administration must diligently investigate the motives and background of the leaker. In addition, it must also provide US allies with an adequate explanation of how the leak occurred and what the US is doing to prevent a recurrence of such security breaches.
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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun
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