British lives are ‘at risk’ after a major US intelligence leak, MPs warned.
The leaked documents containing classified information on the military strength of US allies and adversaries claimed that the UK had sent 50 elite troops to Ukraine, making it the largest NATO contributor of special forces.
The documents, many of which are marked top secret, were rejected by the Defense Department as containing a “serious level of inaccuracy” when they first appeared on social media.
Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defense committee, said the US leaks “could put lives at risk.”
Despite saying it should come as no surprise that the UK did much of the “heavy lifting” when it comes to elite forces, he told The times“This deliberate large-scale disclosure of sensitive material could easily endanger lives and should prompt an urgent review of who has access to sensitive information and how it is shared.”
Britain has the largest contingent of special forces on Ukrainian territory, alongside more than a dozen operators each from fellow NATO states Latvia, France and the US, according to a reportedly leaked document
Ukrainian soldier aims a gun in a dugout in Ukraine in undated footage
Tobias Ellwood (pictured), chairman of the defense commission, said the US leaks “could put lives at risk”
Labor MP for Barnsley Central Dan Jarvis, a former special forces commander, said the operations were ‘necessarily shrouded in secrecy’.
He added that the leak harms the military and that it could “compromise the safety and effectiveness of those operations and put lives at risk.”
The Department of Defense warned against taking the allegations in the reported leak of classified information at face value, posting on Twitter: “The widespread leak of purported classified US information has revealed a serious degree of inaccuracy.
“Readers should be careful about making allegations that have the potential to spread disinformation.”
A British defense official said a ‘significant proportion’ of the documents were ‘false, manipulated or both’ and also told The Times: ‘We strongly caution against anyone who takes the veracity of these claims at face value and should advise to take the time to question the source and purpose of such leaks.”
Pentagon spokesman Chris Meagher agreed, saying these documents appear to have been manipulated.
But U.S. defense officials were adamant that a leak had occurred, with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin promising to “examine and turn over every rock until we find the source of this and its magnitude.”
Former head of the Royal Marines, Lieutenant General Robert Magowan, confirmed in December that British commandos had already deployed to Ukraine twice in 2022 – first in January to evacuate the British Embassy in Kiev and again in April “to provide protection to critical personnel’.
Lieutenant General Magowan said the personnel had served in Ukraine “at high political and military risk.”
The leaked documents reportedly show how US intelligence has been able to give Kiev extensive details of planned Russian attacks, but also revealed that Ukraine’s air defenses are close to exhaustion.
Labor MP for Barnsley Central Dan Jarvis, a former special forces commander, said the operations were ‘necessarily shrouded in secrecy’. He added that the leak puts the military at a disadvantage and that it could “compromise the safety and effectiveness of those operations and put lives at risk.”
Ukrainian soldier, Naza, 21, commander of the 28th Mechanized Brigade repositions his machine gun during a frontline firefight, amid the Russian assault on Ukraine in Bakhmut region, Ukraine, April 5, 2023
YouTuber wow_mao, who was thrust onto the international scene after secret Pentagon papers were leaked on a Discord server he hosts, has said the “US government should be afraid of these losers”
A Ukrainian soldier looks out of a passing APC on the frontline in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Monday, April 10, 2022
And a section titled “US/NATO SOF in UKR” seemed to reveal the number of Western special forces in Ukraine.
What is the Discord encrypted app?
Discord is an invitation-only messaging service that is encrypted, meaning that data is hidden by converting it into code.
The platform can only be accessed with a login and password with chat groups known as ‘servers’ – many of which remain small and exclusive.
Any Discord user can start a server for free and invite their friends.
There are also larger, more open communities, usually focusing on specific topics such as popular games like Minecraft and Fortnite.
The app estimates that it is used by tens of millions of 13+ worldwide.
Britain has reportedly deployed 50 operators – the most of any Western country – in addition to 17 Latvian, 15 French, 14 American and a single operator from the Netherlands.
But the documents shed no light on where in Ukraine the operators were deployed, or in what capacity.
The sensitive material was first shared on an obscure online meme group run by a 20-year-old university student living in the UK on part of the messaging app Discord.
The student, a self-proclaimed “micro-celebrity” who calls himself wow_mao, posted a video about the fallout to YouTube, telling a journalist it was “hilarious.”
He said a moderator of his Discord chat group called End of Wow Mao Zone shared more than 30 leaked documents about the Russia-Ukraine war on March 1 and unknowingly found himself at the center of the scandal a month later.
In an interview with the New York Times, wow_mao said he spends “little time” on the Discord server and mainly focuses on his YouTube channel, where he has about 250,000 subscribers.
He declined to share his real name to the outlet, saying he is British and Filipino and lived in the UK.
In the US, an investigation was launched Friday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice as investigators try to quickly identify the source of the breach.
Typically, classified documents can only be printed using a secure process, which can make it easier for officials to find the source of the leak.