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Biden, concerned about intel leak, says DOJ probe into leaker is 'getting close'

Dozens of classified Defense Department documents revealing details of U.S. spying on Russia’s war machine in Ukraine were leaked online last month.

President Joe Biden said Thursday that he is “concerned” by the recent leak of classified U.S. documents and that the Justice Department's investigation of the leaker is "getting close" to a conclusion.

“I’m not concerned about the leakages. I’m concerned that it happened, but there was nothing contemporaneous that I’m aware of that is of great consequence,” Biden said in brief remarks to reporters in Dublin on his multiday overseas trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Asked whether he could give an update on the investigation, Biden said it’s “getting close” and declined to provide further details.

“I can’t right now. There’s a full-blown investigation going on, as you know, with the Intelligence Committee and the Justice Department, and they’re getting close,” he said. “I don’t have an answer for you.”

Dozens of classified Defense Department documents were leaked online last month, revealing details of U.S. spying on Russia’s war machine in Ukraine and secret assessments of Ukraine’s combat power, as well as intelligence-gathering on America’s allies, including South Korea and Israel, NBC News has reported.

NBC News obtained more than 50 of the leaked documents, many of them labeled “Top Secret,” the highest level of classification. 

A senior U.S. official said last week that the government’s “working theory” is that they are most likely real, although some of them could have been altered before they were posted online. The leaked documents appear to include “sensitive and highly classified material” and pose a potentially serious risk to national security, the Pentagon has said.

The Justice Department started its own probe, a spokesperson said last week. “We have been in communication with the Department of Defense related to this matter and have begun an investigation,” the spokesperson said. “We decline further comment.”

The Biden administration is looking at expanding how it monitors social media sites and chatrooms after U.S. intelligence agencies failed to spot the classified Pentagon documents circulating online for weeks, said a senior administration official and a congressional official briefed on the matter.

Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were briefed about the leaked documents last week, administration officials said.

Officials were dismayed upon learning that the documents had been online for at least a month. “Nobody is happy about this,” the senior administration official said.

The administration is looking at expanding the universe of online sites that intelligence agencies and law enforcement authorities track, the official said.