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15 Apr, 2023 15:12

Pentagon leaks undermine ‘trust’ of US allies – former officials

The scandal may have far-reaching consequences for Washington, experts have told CNBC
Pentagon leaks undermine ‘trust’ of US allies – former officials

The leaking of highly sensitive Pentagon documents has undermined the “trust” between the US and its allies, former intelligence officials claimed to CNBC on Friday.

The incident has already left a major dent in relations with Washington’s partners and they will now be wary of sharing their secrets, according to Bill Lynn, a former US deputy secretary of defense who now serves as CEO of arms company Leonardo DRS.

“It’s hard to trust us with your secrets if we can’t protect them,” Lynn told CNBC. “It’s devastating to our allies to see that kind of information being promulgated.”

The leaked documents had circulated online for some time before drawing the attention of the media and the US government last week. The incident prompted a large-scale investigation which led to the arrest on Thursday of US airman Jack Teixeira, a member of the 102nd Intelligence Wing based in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. 

Marty Martin, a veteran intelligence operative who served with the CIA, the NSA, and the US Army, claimed that the notion that the documents were presumably accessed, printed, and posted on a gaming chat server by a junior airman was particularly damaging to Washington.  

“The fact that a 21-year-old kid had access to this kind of material? Our allies are seeing us as sloppy and incompetent,” Martin told the broadcaster. He added that wider intra-agency intelligence sharing was introduced in the aftermath of 9/11, which raised his concerns at the time.

Another executive from the US military-industrial complex, who spoke with CNBC on condition of anonymity, expressed doubts that the suspected leaker was the only culprit behind the scandal. Some of the documents, namely a highly-classified CIA paper, “would never have been disseminated to other agencies, not even within the intelligence community,” he argued. The executive added that it was extremely suspicious that a young airman would have “this sort of access.”

“I’m just not convinced that an ANG base has access to these types of documents. So I’m wondering if other docs got added to the mix,” he said.

The Pentagon has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the leaked documents, acknowledging only that it was taking the situation “very seriously” and pledging to “turn over every rock” to establish what happened. However, multiple US and foreign officials have questioned the authenticity of the documents, arguing that some of them appear to be have been doctored or are entirely fake.

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