A whistleblower who uploaded a highly sensitive report obtained from the Australian Defence Intelligence Organization to 4chan is facing charges for leaking the information. When the data was originally posted it was mostly described as “fake and gay” by the few 4chan users who commented on it.
Then 21-year-old Department of Defense graduate Michael Scerba allegedly managed to download the secret DIO assessment relating to the Five Eyes spying program, burn it to a disc, take it home and upload it to the anonymous image-sharing forum in 2012.
The document reportedly contains information regarding the spying alliance between the US, Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand. Prosecutors allege that the first two pages disclose sensitive information about sources, methods and targets related to intelligence gathering, as well as secret details about Australia’s relations with its strategic partners.
Scerba’s 4chan post was allegedly titled "Julian Assange is my hero" and read: "I release what I feel should be in the media: bombings, civilian deaths, actions of the 'terrorists' that just aren't reported in the media."
Four days after Scerba uploaded the information, a former Defense Signals Directorate employee stumbled onto posts talking about the documents while browsing the website. By this point, the original page had been removed. A user, who prosecutors allege was Scerba, complained that no one had believed the documents were real. "Plus to my dismay I just got a bunch of 'fake and gay' remarks and the secret documents went 404 [website not found] about 4 comments 1 hour later," he allegedly posted."So... any other suggestions on how to minimize getting caught by authorities?"
Police tracked the IP address of the posts to Scerba’s house, where they seized his computer and a discarded broken disc which prosecutors say was used to bring the file home. Analysis of the PC found traces of the posted images and evidence that Scerba had been searching online for ways to cover his tracks.
No date has been set for Scerba’s trial, although court records suggest he could plead guilty on one charge in return for a plea deal.