Server Hosting Leaked Secret U.S. Police Files Seized by Germany

German police photographed outside the Reichstag in Berlin on May 16, 2020.  (Photo: Sean Gallup, Getty Images)
German police photographed outside the Reichstag in Berlin on May 16, 2020. (Photo: Sean Gallup, Getty Images)

German authorities have reportedly confiscated a server used by the group DDOSecrets to share leaked confidential records belonging to more than 200 state, local, and federal American law enforcement agencies.

DDOSecrets, which Twitter recently banned for distributing hacked material, published last month some 269 gigabytes of police data — known as #BlueLeaks — dating back to 1996, including confidential emails, audio and video files, and other myriad documents such as police and FBI bulletins and files related to intelligence-gathering tools.

Twitter Bans Journalist Organisation for Linking to Leaked Secret Police Files

Twitter confirmed on Tuesday night that it had permanently banned the account of Distributed Denial of Secrets, a journalist organisation that earlier this week made accessible to the public one of the largest repositories of leaked U.S. law enforcement documents to date.

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Journalist Emma Best, a DDOSecrets cofounder, tweeted Tuesday morning that the group’s primary public download server had been seized by prosecutors in Zwickau, a town near Germany’s border with the Czech Republic. Best said the group is working to obtain additional information but presume the seizure is related to the release of the #BlueLeaks files.

Germany’s embassy in the U.S. did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Motherboard first reported on the seizure.

The BlueLeaks files are said to be the result of a hack, according to analysis by the National Fusion Centre Association (NFCA), which was first reported by security blogger Brian Krebs. Best informed Wired reporter Andy Greenberg last month that the material was supplied by someone who claimed affiliation with the hacktivist group Anonymous.

A screenshot of a letter shared by Best reportedly from the group’s hosting company stated that “[u]ntil now we were not allowed to inform you accordingly” of the seizure. It identified Germany’s public prosecutor’s office as responsible. “Please understand that we are not allowed to provide any further information regarding this case,” the letter says. (Disclosure: Best has previously contributed reporting to Gizmodo.)

Best said online that the seized server was only used to distribute documents to the public and that it had “no contact with sources.”

DDOSecrets, which has worked with several major U.S. publications, including the Washington Post, was permanently banned by Twitter last week. A Twitter spokesperson pointed Gizmodo to the company’s policy against distribution of hacked material, which is, at best, loosely followed. Major news organisations routinely publish leaked and hacked documents.

The Supreme Court has held that journalists may legally print and report on materials obtained through criminality, provided the journalists themselves are not involved in the unlawful act.

During an interview with Wired, Best stated that DDOSecrets had worked to scrub the #BlueLeaks files of personal information, but acknowledged that in the millions of pages of documents released, some sensitive details were still likely to be found.

This is a developing story.

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