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US document leak may have come from outside Pentagon: sources

Source image: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/us-document-leak-may-have-come-from-outside-pentagon-sources

The leak of dozens of U.S. documents containing in some cases what the Department of Defense is describing as “sensitive and highly-classified material” may have come from outside the Pentagon, Fox News has learned, based on conversations with a variety of American defense and intelligence officials. 

As of Tuesday, 53 documents have been posted online, many of which are dated to Feb. 23 and March 1. 

The Department of Defense briefings – which typically are distributed between 1,000 to 5,000 people with the appropriate security clearances, include details on the war in Ukraine and battlefield assessments, and usually are delivered electronically on secure iPads. 

If those documents are printed out, investigators can track where they were printed from as the pages have to run through secure printers that are often numbered. 

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A Pentagon team "continues to review and assess the veracity of the photographed documents that are circulating on social media sites," officials say.

A Pentagon team “continues to review and assess the veracity of the photographed documents that are circulating on social media sites,” officials say. (STAFF/AFP via Getty Images)

Separately, among the classified documents published online, there is also highly classified intelligence that was not part of any of the Department of Defense briefing books, Fox News has learned.  

That intelligence appears to be produced by other U.S. agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.  

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White House National Security spokesman John Kirby warned against sharing documents that have reportedly been leaked.

White House National Security spokesman John Kirby warned against sharing documents that have reportedly been leaked.

This intelligence is not easily accessed by those in the Pentagon and their inclusion suggests that the leak may have come from outside the Pentagon. 

On Monday, Chris Meagher, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs said the Department of Defense is working “around the clock to look at the scope and scale of the distribution, the assessed impact and our mitigation measures” following the disclosure of the documents to the public. 

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South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is pictured speaking in Tokyo, Japan on March 16, 2023. Politicians from his country are speaking out about the documents.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is pictured speaking in Tokyo, Japan on March 16, 2023. Politicians from his country are speaking out about the documents. (Kiyoshi Ota / pool / Bloomberg /Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

“The Department of Defense’s highest priority is the defense of our nation and our national security. We’re not going to get into the validity of the purported documents posted online, but a Pentagon team continues to review and assess the veracity of the photographed documents that are circulating on social media sites and that appear in some cases to contain sensitive and highly-classified material,” he said. 

“These photos appear to show documents similar in format to those used to provide daily updates to our senior leaders on Ukraine and Russia-related operations, as well as other intelligence updates. Some of these images appear to have been altered,” Meagher added. “We’ve been in close touch with the White House and with interagency partners on this issue, and an interagency effort has been set up with a focus on assessing the impact these photographed documents could potentially have on U.S. national security and on our allies and partners. 

Milancy Harris, the deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence and security, is leading the Pentagon’s internal investigation, coordinating with the DOD’s office of Intelligence and Security, Public Affairs, Office of General Council, Legislative Affairs and the Joint Staff. 

A defense official said each agency will have their own point person for the investigation, and that there is not yet any one person leading a whole interagency effort. 

Fox News’ Liz Friden contributed to this report.

Source: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/us-document-leak-may-have-come-from-outside-pentagon-sources

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Texas court tosses billionaire’s defamation suit against Beto O’Rourke

A Texas appeals court on Friday dismissed a billionaire’s defamation lawsuit against Democrat Beto O’Rouke that was brought after O’Rourke criticized a $1 million campaign contribution to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

The ruling by the Third Court of Appeals in Austin comes more than a year after O’Rourke repeatedly made critical remarks about the donation during a failed run for governor, at one point saying that it “looks like a bribe to me.”

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The contribution came from Kelcy Warren, chairman of pipeline company Energy Transfer, which reported about $2.4 billion in earnings related to the catastrophic February 2021 winter storm that sent natural gas prices soaring in Texas.

Beto ORourke

An appellate court in Texas has dismissed a Republican megadonor’s defamation lawsuit against Democratic former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez, File)

Warren, a major Republican donor, accused O’Rourke of trying to humiliate him and discourage other Abbott supporters from making campaign donations.

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In the court’s opinion, Chief Justice Darlene Byrne wrote that a reasonable person would view O’Rourke’s statements as “the type of rhetorical hyperbole that is commonplace in political campaigns.”

Dean Pamphilis, an attorney for Warrren, said the decision would be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

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Abbott’s campaign said at the time that it was not involved in the lawsuit. The governor went on to easily beat O’Rourke and win a third term.

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Kansas Gov. Kelly taps DEA inspection chief to head highway patrol

  • Democratic Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has named Drug Enforcement Administration Inspection Division head Erik Smith as the state’s next highway patrol superintendent.
  • Smith’s predecessor, Herman Jones, retired amid sexual harassment allegations and federal lawsuits over policing practices.
  • Smith, an Ellsworth, Kansas native, will take office on July 7. Until then, Lt. Col. Jason DeVore will head the department.

The Kansas governor chose a high-ranking U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official Friday to head the state highway patrol, replacing a retiring superintendent who is facing federal lawsuits over the agency’s policing and allegations that he sexually harassed female employees.

Gov. Laura Kelly’s appointment of Erik Smith came on retiring Superintendent and Col. Herman Jones’ last day. Until Smith can take over as superintendent July 7, patrol Lt. Col. Jason DeVore, who also was named as a defendant in the sexual harassment lawsuit, pursued by five patrol employees.

Smith has strong ties to Kansas. He is a native of the small central Kansas town of Ellsworth, holds a criminal justice degree from Friends University in Wichita, and served nine years with the Sedgwick County sheriff’s office, also in Wichita, before joining the DEA. He has been chief of the DEA’s Inspection Division since 2021.

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Smith’s appointment must be confirmed by the Kansas Senate next year. Lawmakers are out of session for the year, but a committee of Senate leaders will determine this summer whether Smith can serve as acting superintendent until a confirmation vote.

Herman Jones

Kansas Highway Patrol Superintendent Herman Jones (pictured) will be succeeded by high-ranking DEA official Erik Smith, Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly announced Friday. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

Kelly had faced pressure from the Republican-controlled Legislature to dismiss Jones, but he announced in February that he would retire. In announcing Smith’s appointment, Kelly made no mention of the allegations surrounding Jones and the patrol and thanked Jones for his 45 years in law enforcement. In a statement released by the governor’s office, DeVore thanked Kelly for her “steadfast support” of the agency.

A federal judge is considering the legality of a patrol tactic known as the “Kansas two step,” in which troopers make traffic stops and then draw out their interactions with drivers, allegedly so that they get time to find incriminating information or get a drug-sniffing dog to the scene. The judge had a trial last month in a lawsuit that argues that troopers use the tactic even when they have no reasonable suspicion of a crime.

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Critics contend that the patrol targets motorists coming from other states where marijuana is legal. Kansas is among the few states with no legalized form of marijuana.

Meanwhile, a trial is scheduled in September in the sexual harassment lawsuit against Jones, DeVore and the state, alleging that the female employees faced a hostile work environment.

Jones has denied allegations of improper conduct, and Kelly has stood by him, telling The Topeka Capital-Journal in December that the state conducted two independent investigations and found “no substance to the allegations.”

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Jones and DeVore settled a third lawsuit last year, filed by two majors who alleged that they were pushed out of the patrol in 2020 in retaliation for helping female employees file sexual harassment complaints. The patrol restored the two men to their previous positions, and they received more than year’s worth of back pay.

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WI GOP proposes giving Gov. Evers less than 25% of new state licensing jobs he requested

Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled finance committee voted Thursday to give the state’s embattled professional licensing agency a fraction of the new positions that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers requested to improve application turnaround times.

Evers had included 80 new positions for the Department of Safety and Professional Services in his budget proposal. Republicans on the finance committee voted Thursday evening to give the agency 17.75 new positions. Thirteen of them would be temporary. The Republicans also voted to spend an additional $6.2 million for technology and equipment improvements within the agency.

The Department of Safety and Professional Services oversees licensing for hundreds of occupations, including doctors, nurses, construction and trades workers, accountants and realtors. Republicans have blamed Evers’ administration for lengthy agency delays in processing license applications and answering calls.

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Dan Hereth, who took charge of the troubled department last year, testified in March that wait times for license applications had decreased to an average of 38 days, an improvement on the nearly 80-day averages reported in 2021.

Evers requested 20 new positions for the department in the 2019-2021 budget and 12 positions in the 2021-2023 budget. But the Legislature approved only one new position each time.

Wisconsin Governor

Wisconsin’s Republican-run finance committee has voted to deny Democratic Gov. Tony Evers more than three-quarters of new state licensing agency positions he proposed. (Melina Mara/Pool via REUTERS)

Democrats on the finance committee railed against the latest Republican plan, saying 17 new positions won’t be nearly enough to improve the agency’s performance. Rep. Evan Goyke said Republicans can no longer criticize Evers for the agency’s struggles after refusing to give the department the people it needs.

“It’s not enough,” Goyke said. “You own any issues going forward.”

Republican Rep. Shannon Zimmerman said that the GOP doesn’t want to “overcorrect” with dozens of new positions. The combination of new leadership, the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and influx of technology should lead to further improvements, he said.

“We should expect they’ll perform better with fewer people,” he said.

Republican Mark Born, a committee co-chair, was more blunt, saying he hoped the department would “get its (expletive) together.”

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In other budget actions Thursday, committee Republicans:

  • Approved providing $15.3 million more annually for workers within the state Corrections Department. The move brings total overtime funding for prison workers to about $95.6 million annually. Evers’ budget called for providing about $47.6 million annually for overtime expenses. Lawmakers have been struggling to fill mounting vacancies within the prison system for years. More than 1,500 corrections officer jobs, or one in three of the total positions needed to run the state’s prisons, were vacant as of the most recent pay period in June, according to the department’s website. The committee’s co-chairs, Sen. Howard Marklein and Rep. Mark Born, said the committee would consider raises for corrections workers soon but didn’t give a date.
  • Stripped provisions from Evers’ budget that would have used state dollars to backfill soon-to-expire federal funding for the state Justice Department’s Office of School Safety. The office is currently funded in part with about $1.8 million in federal COVID-19 relief dollars. That funding stream will expire in December. The governor’s budget would have backfilled that loss with $996,000 in state tax dollars. Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, said in a statement that the committee’s move left him stunned.
  • Approved spending $123,600 in the second year of the budget to fund three forensic analyst positions within the state crime labs. The governor’s budget would have spent $154,800 in the second year to continue funding four analyst positions. The positions are currently funded through federal COVID-19 relief aid but that money will stop in 2024-2025. Forensic toxicologists typically test for drugs, alcohol and poison in tissue, blood and urine.
  • Deleted the governor’s plan to spend $547,000 over the biennium to add four more DNA analysts to the crime labs.

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The committee is expected to finish revising Evers’ budget by the end of June and forward it on to the full Assembly and Senate for floor votes. Approval by both houses would send the spending plan back to Evers, who can use his partial veto powers to rewrite the document.

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