Defense secretary speaks out for first time about classified documents leak

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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday made his first public comments on the leak of what appear to be top secret intelligence documents from the Pentagon and other U.S. agencies

Austin, appearing at a news conference alongside Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo, said he was first briefed on the apparent leaks on April 6.

Since then, Austin said, he’s met with senior department leaders daily and referred the matter to the Justice Department, which has opened a criminal investigation.

“Now, I can’t say much more while the Justice Department’s investigation is ongoing. But we take this very seriously,” Austin said. “And we will continue to work closely with our outstanding allies and partners. And nothing will ever stop us from keeping America secure.”

The content of some of the documents appears to be U.S. intelligence about the war in Ukraine and in other parts of the world, including U.S. concerns that Ukraine’s expected spring counteroffensive will make only modest gains.

The disclosure has raised diplomatic issues as it appears that U.S. intelligence has been spying not only on its adversaries, but on allies and partners.

Austin was asked about damage caused by the leak and whether it amounted to an “intelligence failure” given some documents appear to have been posted online several months ago.

He responded that the leaked documents the Pentagon is aware of date from Feb. 28 and March 1. He said he doesn’t know if there were documents online before then.

“Again, we will continue to investigate in and try to determine the full scope of the activity,” Austin said. He added the U.S. will “turn over every rock until we find the source of this, and the extent of it.”

Blinken said the U.S. will work to reassure allies and partners “about our own commitment to safeguarding intelligence.”

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