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How Anonymous’s big KKK dump got muddled before it even began

A member of the Ku Klux Klan adjusts his hood during a rally Saturday, June 27, 1998, in Jasper, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Anonymous recently promised to share the results of its latest apparent act of vigilante activism, by sharing a list of “up to 1000” Ku Klux Klan members and affiliates with the public. The information dump was scheduled for Nov. 5 — or Guy Fawkes day, a kind of Christmas and Fourth of July all rolled up in one for the online activist collective. But then, what appeared to be lists of names, phone numbers, and emails from that very same information cache suddenly appeared online early. Was the leak already underway?

Although the seeming dump, rolled out in multiple Pastebin files, was picked up widely, there was virtually no verified information accompanying the leak. One anonymously posted Pastebin file said it contained the names of several elected officials who were “associated with either kkk or racist related,” including four U.S. senators and several city mayors.

[What happens when a dox incorrectly identifies you as a member of the KKK]

One of the elected officials on the list was mayor Madeline Rogero of Knoxville, Tenn., who released a strongly-worded statement denying that she was affiliated with the KKK, and seemingly baffled that she’d end up on a list like that in the first place:

“For reasons unfathomable to me or anyone who knows me, my name is on the list.” Rogero wrote on Facebook Monday afternoon.”Given my background, my interracial family, my public record and my personal beliefs, this would be hilarious except that it is probably being seen by a lot of people who have no idea who I am.”

Rogero went on to note that she began her political career “working for the rights of farm workers with Cesar Chavez,” has consistently supported diversity initiatives, and has supported LGBT rights. “In short, I don’t think the KKK would want anything to do with me.”

And then, as the denials from some of those other officials rolled in, the Twitter account for what Anonymous is calling Operation KKK distanced itself from the trickle of information:

The Anonymous news account that initially broadcast the Pastebin files then said that the file listing government officials came from Amped Attacks, a hacker who is known for using DDoS attacks against the web presence of hate groups.

On Twitter, Amped Attacks said that they were sending “proof” of the information they released to several media outlets. “They will sort out the proof and report it,” the hacker’s Twitter account added. It appears that Amped Attacks has not yet sent out the promised proof of their claims. Amped told TechCrunch that he’s not associated with Anonymous, and was acting on his own.

Amped’s promises to follow through with proof haven’t convinced the Anonymous news account, who tweeted:

So, was the information in the Pastebin files made up? Well, not necessarily. But it is also clear that, even if the information is from some Klan database, it’s a different story to understand where the information came from, or what it actually means.

First, the Klan is smaller, and more splintered, than many assume. The organization between 4,000 and 6,000 members across all its U.S. affiliates, at most, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which declined to comment on the specifics of the purported leak. Those members are spread across more than two dozen groups claiming some sort of Klan affiliation.

Gizmodo spoke to one of the individuals whose email was on a leaked list and found just how complicated the verification process can be for these things. Patricia Aiken, who runs a consulting firm that advises law enforcement unions, told Gizmodo that she believes she was signed up for a local offshoot of the KKK by Kirk Eady, a former corrections executive who went to jail. He was eventually convicted of wiretapping Aiken and others.

The trial documents reviewed by Gizmodo present evidence suggesting that Eady signed up Aiken and others for a local KKK chapter. That raises the question: Does the list release contain verified members of the Klan, who would have confirmed their membership sign-ups via email or phone with the local chapter? Or could the list at least partially represent people who were signed up for the KKK by someone else, but may not have confirmed that they actually wanted to join? Aiken, along with at least one other person connected to Eady’s case, say that they never verified their “memberships.”

Anonymous has a history of coordination information leaks against a wide range of groups, and this isn’t the first time they’ve targeted the KKK — last year, the group took over a KKK- affiliated Twitter account, which they later disabled. But now, with sources and veracity of the latest leak in question, some are wondering if the operation is now dead, before it even began:

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