WASHINGTON – The Pentagon is looking into how classified information indicating Iraq is moving closer to chaos wound up on the front page of Wednesday's New York Times, and is not ruling out an investigation that could lead to criminal charges.
A spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which has responsibility for operations in Iraq, confirmed to FOX News that a chart published in the Times is a real reflection of the thinking of military intelligence on the situation in Iraq as of Oct. 18, adding that an effort is underway to find out who leaked the chart and if the breach of operational security constitutes a crime.
The published report includes a classified one-page slide show from an Oct. 18 military briefing. The slide show is titled: “Iraq: Indications and Warnings of Civil Conflict,” and shows spiraling violence in Iraq and a worsening position for American efforts.
Based on the slide show, Iraq is moving sharply away from "peace," designated in green on the left side of the chart, to a point much closer to the red-zoned right side of the spectrum, marked “chaos.”
As depicted in the command’s chart, the needle has been moving steadily toward the far right of the chart since February, when a Shiite shrine in Samarra was bombed by insurgents.
An intelligence summary at the bottom of the slide says urban areas are "experiencing 'ethnic cleansing' campaigns to consolidate control,” and violence is at an "all-time high, spreading geographically.”
The Times reports the analysis was prepared by the command’s intelligence directorate, which is headed by Brig. Gen. John M. Custer.
The New York Times had not yet responded to a request for comment by FOX News about how it obtained the chart, but a spokeswoman for the newspaper said it will.
The report came on the heels of an announcement by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday that he stands behind a plan to spend no less than $1 billion to beef up Iraqi security forces beyond their current levels.
To date, the federal government has spent about $10 billion in this area, according to a recent Pentagon special inspector report.
Any such proposal would require White House and congressional approval. The plan is an attempt to continue efforts to shift control to Iraq.
FOX News' Mike Emanuel and Nick Simeone contributed to this report.