US-Israel Rift Reignited by Pentagon Doc Leak

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Prime Minister Netanyahu's office denies that the Mossad, the foreign espionage service, was behind the mobilizations against the government's judicial reform, as one of the files suggests.

The Pentagon headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, on Thursday.While the Pentagon is working on its damage containment strategy, the US Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the leaking of military and intelligence documents, mostly related to the war in Ukraine, on the Internet. The fallout from the leak is multiplying, further pitting Ukraine against Russia and vice versa, as well as exposing vulnerabilities and debates within US allies. One of the closest allies, Israel, has also been affected by the revelation of the alleged role of Mossad, the foreign espionage service, as the driving force behind the protests against the judicial reform of Benjamin Netanyahu's government. US-Israeli relations have been going through one of their most tense moments for weeks.

Since the leak became known last Friday, there has been a succession of revelations. The umpteenth has to do with the possible attack by a group of Russian hackers on energy infrastructure in Canada, on which the supply to the US partially depends. The hackers, allegedly under the direction of Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB; heir to the KGB), may have compromised the IP address of a Canadian gas pipeline network in February and caused damage to its infrastructure, according to leaked Pentagon documents.

The leaks contain projections on the course of the Ukrainian war and the real capacity of the two opposing armies, not too flattering in both cases; combat plans before an alleged spring offensive, but also secret intelligence reports affecting U.S. allies, and have been disclosed since last month on Twitter, Telegram (a messaging service equivalent to WhatsApp popular in Russia), Discord, 4Chan and other social networks. It is one of the most serious since WikiLeaks' publication of more than 700,000 diplomatic cables in 2013.

The Pentagon said Friday it was "actively reviewing the matter" and had referred the case to the Justice Department, so the investigation is in its early stages. U.S. officials told The Washington Post that some documents had been doctored, pointing to probable Russian authorship, but that many others were consistent with CIA World Intelligence Review reports shared at the highest levels by the White House, Pentagon and State Department.

Defense analysts say such a leak furthers Moscow's narrative and propaganda by demonstrating the extent to which U.S. intelligence has been able to penetrate the Russian military apparatus, according to local media. Other documents, validated in principle by federal investigators, contain information about the internal debate in US-allied governments such as South Korea, which is under pressure from the US to provide artillery shells to Ukraine, according to The New York Times.

One of the main US allies, Israel, has also been hit by the reliefs, at a time of marked internal and external instability. The Mossad (foreign espionage) has categorically denied the information contained in one of the documents, labeled Top Secret and updated on March 1, which accuses the intelligence service of encouraging protests against the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his controversial judicial reform, now on hold. The mobilization, which for the past three months has brought tens of thousands of Israelis onto the streets, provoked friction within the government and criticism from institutions such as the country's presidency and the army.

Good relations with Putin

Prime Minister Netanyahu's office has been forced this Sunday to come out against the information, denying categorically any involvement of Mossad agents in the mobilizations against his government's plans. However, the denial adds fuel to the fire of differences between the two allies, especially after President Joe Biden's criticism of Netanyahu's judicial reform. Another of the published documents points to Washington's pressure on the Israeli government to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine, contrary to the current policy of the Jewish State and at the risk of dynamiting Netanyahu's balance with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The leak of the Pentagon papers, still incipient judging by the trickle of revelations, is already a box of thunder. The details of the military and espionage plans are detailed, such as Ukraine's air defenses or the weak flanks of the Ukrainian and Russian armies, which is why experts believe that they were leaked by an American and not by an ally. Other matters reflected in the documents also concern China, the Middle East and Africa. "[Investigators'] attention points to this being a U.S. leak, as many of the documents were only in U.S. hands," Michael Mulroy, a former senior Pentagon official, has told Reuters.

For the direction of the Ukrainian war, most disturbing are the military intelligence reports, with battlefield casualty estimates that appear to have been altered to minimize Russian losses. One such document is unclassified although it includes top secret information. Some files are marked NOFORN, meaning they cannot be released to foreigners. Another file, dated Feb. 23 and marked secret, describes how Ukraine's S-300 air defense systems would be exhausted by next May 2 at the current rate of use.


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