"Operation KKK" seeks to expose high-ranking members of the white supremacist group. As it did last year, Anonymous is leading a campaign to release the personal information of alleged Klan members, assuming its favourite stance — righteous sower of chaos. Hold the pitchforks: There's good reason to doubt what these hackers are publishing.
So far, hackers has published phone numbers and email addresses of alleged KKK members to Pastebin. The "official" OperationKKK account, however official it can be, is distancing itself from that dump:
This account has NOT YET released any information. We believe in due diligence and will NOT recklessly involve innocent individuals #OpKKK
— Operation KKK (@Operation_KKK) November 2, 2015
I contacted the email addresses published to hear the other side of the story. One of the recipients called me within minutes. "I'm not a member of the KKK," Patricia Aiken told me. She sounded weary.
Aiken is the president of the Excessive Discipline Protection Database, a New Jersey-based consulting group that advises law enforcement unions. Her businesses' email address appears in the Anonymous dump.
"This was done by a high-ranking employee at a jail to harass a union member," Aiken told me. That employee, Aiken alleges, is Kirk Eady, the former Deputy Director of the Hudson County Correctional Center. Eady is currently on the other side of the bars. He was convicted for wiretapping Aiken, along with other union-affiliated coworkers at the jail, in September.
Evidence in the court case included an email thread showing another one of Eady's targets, union representative Daniel Murray, trying to piece together how he got signed up for the Pelham, North Carolina-based Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan mailing list.
In the sentencing transcript, the prosecutor links Eady to the KKK prank on Murray:
There was the testimony about Mr. Murray being signed up for the KKK, and how Mr. Murray didn't sign up for the KKK, and there was evidence put forth that suggested that was Mr. Eady.
Now, I know the defence disputes that, and they cited to the transcript. However, if the Court looks at the complete transcript of the testimony of Ms. Freeman, there is a point where she is hesitant to answer the question. There is a side bar taken, and Ms. Luria once again repeats the question about when Ms. Freeman spoke with law enforcement prior to trial and was talking about Mr. Murray being signed up for the KKK, what did she say. And in her response, she mentions that Mr. Eady told her about it, and Mr. Eady told her in sum and substance, "Don't F with me."
Now, as the defence points out, Mr. Eady didn't clearly say yes, I was the person that did it. But when somebody poses a question like that, and your response is "Don't F with me," I think that strongly suggests that you are the person that did it.
Aiken and Murray believe Eady did the same KKK signup scheme to her business. After receiving notice that she was in the Anonymous dump, she went back through her email and found a sign-up message from the same Pelham, North Carolina-based chapter of the Klan as Murray, from the same time period Murray was signed up.
Murray is now concerned that he'll be in the next batch of email addresses. "Am I on the list?" Murray asked me. "I'm just worried about my family."
It's hard enough to tell, in a dump like this, whether the databases are what Anonymous says they are. Aiken's story corroborates the notion that at least some of the material came from the Klan — but illustrates that even with that provenance, you can't take the underlying information at face value.
A hacker called Amped Attacks, who says he is not affiliated with Anonymous, released a separate Pastebin dump today: A list of politicians "that are associated with either kkk or racist related."
The list includes Sens. Thomas Tillis (R-NC), John Cornyn (R-TX), John Hardy Isakson (R-TN), and Dan Coats (R-IN), as well as several mayors. Many are publicly denouncing the reports:
Claims that I have ties to the KKK are totally false and irresponsible. I’m proud to be the Mayor of the @CityofFortWayne (1/2)
— Mayor Tom Henry (@MayorTomHenry) November 2, 2015
I am opposed to everything the KKK stands for. I have no idea where this information came from, but wherever it came from, it is wrong.
— Mayor Jim Gray (@JimGrayLexKY) November 2, 2015
Four sitting US Senators in the Klan would be a major political scandal, except there's no corroborating evidence available to Amped Attack's claims.
This could be a "spread a rumour the candidate fucked a pig so they have to deny it on record" situation, though Amped Attack defended the validity of his outing when I asked where the information came from (all sic):
several databases was dumped from different kkk websites that all linked their emails to the politicians in question and the only way their emails would have been on there to begin with is if they showed support when signing up for filled out an application
"Couldn't someone else have signed them up for it though?" I asked.
"They had to go through a verify process and a link is sent to their email to click to verify it is really them signing up," was his response, though he declined to provide documentation. He then refused to give me his email address due to "death threats," though he claims that he will send out documentation to media organisations soon.
It's tempting to get behind Anonymous' mission to expose some of the worst creeps in the US. Who doesn't want to piss off the KKK? But accusing someone of being a member of the Klan is an allegation that can upend their life, and assuming that what you see on Pastebin is a trustworthy data dump is a mistake.