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Justice Department opens criminal investigation into leaked Pentagon documents involving "highly classified material"

Ukrainian soldier reflects on war with Russia
Ukrainian soldier reflects on war with Russia 02:24

The Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation into the leak of documents that "appear to contain sensitive and highly classified material," a Defense Department spokesperson said Sunday. The Pentagon was also still assessing the validity of the documents, the spokesperson said.

"An interagency effort has been stood up, focused on assessing the impact these photographed documents could have on U.S. national security and on our Allies and partners," Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said in a statement. "Over the weekend, U.S. officials have engaged with Allies and partners and have informed relevant congressional committees of jurisdiction about the disclosure."

A document marked "top secret" that shows the daily disposition of forces in Ukraine was leaked and began showing up on social media, a U.S. official confirmed Friday.

The official said that someone apparently took a picture of the document and posted it on the social media platform Telegram before it was then picked up on Twitter. 

Several slides pertaining to the war in Ukraine were posted to Telegram on Thursday, and, while the documents appeared authentic, U.S. officials warned some of them appeared to have been altered. One of the slides showed an estimate of 16,000-17,500 Russians killed in action, but U.S. defense officials have publicly said that Russia has suffered over 200,000 casualties. 

The documents that were posted are also more than a month old. 

Several more documents purporting to cover other parts of the world, not just Ukraine, continued to leak on Friday. These documents appear to show tensions with South Korea over military aid, the U.S. considering leaning on Israel to provide lethal aid to Ukraine and information on the Wagner mercenary group, according to the New York Times, which first reported the leak. 

—David Martin and Eleanor Watson contributed reporting.

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