Biden administration and National Security Council spokesman John Kirby addressed the media on Monday, asking in so many words that pretty please would journalists not report on the trove of highly classified documents which were leaked online.
"This is information that has no business in the public domain... It has no business... on the front pages of newspapers or on television." But Kirby is a bit late, given already days ago major outlets from the NY Times to Washington Post to foreign outlets like The Guardian and RT have widely reported on them. They classified reports have circulated widely on English-language and foreign social media as well.
John Kirby warns journalists not to report on leaked Pentagon documents.— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) April 10, 2023
"This is information that has no business in the public domain...It has no business...on the front pages of newspapers or on television." pic.twitter.com/625CxNIarI
Independent media outlets have also widely shared images of the documents, which Pentagon officials claim could have been altered by the Kremlin to make the US look bad.
Kirby took the opportunity to reiterate this as well in a briefing: "We don’t know who is behind this. We don’t know what the motive is . . . we don’t know what else might be out there." He emphasized: "We know that some of them have been doctored . . . we are still working through the validity of all of the documents that we know are out there."
Some observers have speculated that given the high number of documents marked SECRET/NOFORN, which literally means Not Releasable to Foreign Nationals (and thus it can't be shared with even close allied services of the US), this points to the leak originating within the US chain of command. Others have said the leak may have come from the Ukrainians, given the high numbers of Ukraine-related battlefield assessments that were part of the trove that appeared online.
The Pentagon and DOJ meanwhile says they are still "working around the clock" to assess the source and scale of the massive breach of highly classified data. New bombshell documents have continued to trickle out in media stories into Monday and Tuesday, likely with more revelations to come throughout the week.
Assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs Chris Meagher told reporters Tuesday, "We’re still investigating how this happened, as well as the scope of the issue." He explained: "There have been steps to take a closer look at how this type of information is distributed and to whom." A criminal investigation has been opened, he confirmed.
Classified Pentagon documents containing info about US-NATO plans for a Ukrainian offensive and key details of the ongoing war have leaked.— The Grayzone (@TheGrayzoneNews) April 7, 2023
The Biden administration is reportedly demanding they be scrubbed from the internet.
By @RealAlexRubi https://t.co/rnlIvun5NI
FT and others have called the breach the "most significant since Edward Snowden released a trove of classified documents about US intelligence activities a decade ago — included apparently highly classified documents." Officials have also noted they "appear mostly authentic".
"These photos appear to show documents similar in format to those used to provide daily updates to our senior leaders on Ukraine and Russia-related operations as well as other intelligence updates," Meagher explained, though agreeing with other officials that some of them appear doctored.