U.S. Intelligence Leaks Threaten to Damage Alliances

Happy Wednesday! Between an “uncooperative” squirrel getting its head stuck in a manhole cover in Germany and nutria “of unusual size with orange teeth” wreaking havoc across the United States, yesterday was a really big day for rodent news, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Biden administration has reportedly begun giving the “Gang of Eight”—a bipartisan, bicameral group of congressional leaders privy to highly classified briefings—access to copies of classified documents improperly retained by former President Donald Trump, former Vice President Mike Pence, and President Joe Biden. The Department of Justice had previously denied House and Senate Intelligence Committee requests to view the documents, arguing the move would compromise investigations of the documents’ mishandling.
  • Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg filed a lawsuit Tuesday against GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, after the committee announced an investigation into Bragg last week. Bragg’s suit seeks to prevent aspects of the congressional inquiry from moving forward—including the subpoena of Mark Pomerantz, a former assistant attorney in Bragg’s office.
  • Protesters in Ethiopia’s Amhara region blocked major roads yesterday as part of a days-long protest against a plan to dissolve regional military forces into the national army and police. The Amhara Special Forces gained power during Ethiopia’s recently ended civil war after joining the central government’s fight against the Tigray region. Two Catholic Relief Services workers were killed while traveling through the region during the ongoing protests, and other people have reportedly been injured amid the unrest.
  • The Israeli Defense Forces on Tuesday conducted a raid in the West Bank city of Jenin, detaining five Palestinians allegedly planning a terror attack. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed it attacked the Israeli forces involved—firing on soldiers and detonating explosive devices—though no Israeli soldiers were injured. The operation follows several recent terror attacks in Tel Aviv and the West Bank and Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza and Lebanon.
  • Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, signed an executive order Tuesday requiring more timely updates on criminal activity and mental health in the state’s background check system. Lee also called on the state’s legislature to pass a red flag law—a measure allowing law enforcement to seek court orders to confiscate firearms from individuals deemed a danger to themselves or others. The announcements come two weeks after a shooter killed six people—including a friend of Lee’s—at a Christian school in Nashville.
  • The Democratic National Committee announced yesterday the party’s 2024 convention will be held at the United Center in Chicago next August. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker pledged fundraising efforts to cover the costs if the convention—the first one held in-person since the start of the pandemic—came to the Windy City. The Republican National Convention will be held in Milwaukee in July.
  • Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop announced yesterday he will seek the Democratic nomination in New Jersey’s 2025 race to succeed term-limited Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. Fulop is the first Democrat to enter the race and, in anticipation of the bid, already announced in January he would not seek another term as mayor.
  • South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott announced Wednesday morning that he is forming an exploratory committee as he considers a campaign for president. In a just-released video framing the announcement, Scott invokes April 12, 1861, the day “the first shots of the Civil War were fired,” and warns that the country faces a similar test today. “Once again, our divisions run deep and the threat to our future is real.” According to the Charleston Post and Courier, Scott will appear in Iowa today and New Hampshire tomorrow as he begins his public look at a bid for the White House.

The Pentagon’s Sprung a Leak

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a press conference at the Pentagon. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a press conference at the Pentagon. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

In the months leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the U.S. government embarked on a widely-lauded intelligence-sharing operation to warn the world Vladimir Putin was on the move and preparing to attack his neighbor. A little more than a year later, intelligence-sharing of a decidedly less strategic variety has the U.S. and its allies on the defensive. 

In early March, dozens of classified documents, seemingly originating at the Pentagon, surfaced on social media websites including Twitter, 4chan, Telegram, and Discord—an online chat platform used primarily by video gamers. Several of the documents have “Top Secret” markings, the nation’s highest security designation, and they largely—but not exclusively—concern intelligence on the war in Ukraine: about the Russian government, Ukrainian officials and their upcoming spring offensive, and the actions of allies and foes relative to the war.

The leak itself prompts a number of questions about the security of the country’s most sensitive documents, while the contents of the papers are already proving a diplomatic challenge, to say the least—potentially undermining the Ukrainian war effort and revealing once again the degree to which the U.S. spies on its friends and adversaries alike. 

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