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The Army emailed sensitive information to Mali in error for years

A typo in the email address caused the failure, which was not corrected despite repeated warnings from the owner of the African email domain.

Ejército en África.

(Brendan Nuñez / SETAF)

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A significant amount of confidential U.S. Army information will be passed into the hands of the government of Mali on Monday due to an error in an email address, according to the Financial Times. For years, Army personnel sent emails with the ending .ML instead of .MIL, which is used by the Armed Forces.

More than 1 million internal messages have ended up on the server of the African country's domain, which since its last coup d'état has been moving closer and closer to Russia.

A typo in the mailing address

The mistake was made for years despite repeated warnings from Johannes Zuurbier, who was also in contact with the Financial Times. Zuurbier is a Dutch businessman who managed the .ML domain for the Malian government.

Zuurbier's contract has an expiration date. Next Monday, the domain that it managed for the last 10 years will pass into the hands of the government of Mali, who will then have access to the information that has progressively come to the .ML domain because of the typo.

According to sources from the Financial Times, none of the emails that were mistakenly sent to the .ML domain are categorized as classified. Despite this, they are internal Army and federal government communications. They can provide invaluable intelligence for anyone who analyzes them intensively and as a whole.

The emails could contain, for example, details of hotel reservations and stays for high-ranking military delegations. The Financial Times itself had access to details about a trip to Indonesia in May 2023 by U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville.

Defense Department spokesman Tim Gorman assured the Financial Times that his department "is aware of this problem and takes very seriously any unauthorized disclosure of controlled national security or controlled unclassified information."

Russian danger

The leakage of the emails is a serious problem due to the good relations between Russia and Mali. Since 2021, Wagner troops have had a permanent presence in the country.

Mali experienced a series of coups d'état between 2020 and 2021, which ended with a military group in power and subsequently a new government led by the rebels. For Mali's foreign policy, the change in government was a major turning point. Progressively, the group distanced itself from Western powers and forged ties with Russia, which before the war in Ukraine was working hard to penetrate further into Africa.