A whistle-blower anonymously published a highly sensitive report obtained from an Australian spy agency on the website 4chan, but his document was soon automatically deleted after it failed to gain much attention. Those 4chan users who did view the document dismissed it as "fake and gay". The Defence Intelligence Organisation assessment contained information that could have been exploited by foreign intelligence services and risked causing serious harm to Australia's national security interests, according to the Australian Department of Defence.
Michael Scerba, a Department of Defence graduate, faces two charges after allegedly disclosing the document in 2012 in a 4chan post titled "Julian Assange is my hero".The post allegedly made by Scerba 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."
Court documents reveal that a former Defence Signals Directorate officer made the "fortuitous" discovery of the leak on the notorious chat forum after it was posted, but by then people had already commented on the report.
A subsequent post that prosecutors claim was made by Scerba stated: "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 and 1 hour later."
Scerba was identified by the Australian Federal Police, who tracked the IP address of the original post. At his home they found a broken disc in a bin, which prosecutors claim contained a 15-page document obtained from the agency. Despite being dismissed by 4chan users, the Department of Defence claims that there is no way of knowing who might have obtained the report. The documents were reportedly marked with "Secret, 5 eyes", referencing the alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US.
The date for Scerba's trial is yet to be set, though court records suggest that he will plead guilty to at least one of the charges brought against him. Justice Andrew Refshauge stated: "I have read a confidential affidavit, filed without objection, which sets out reasons, which I accept, as to why the public disclosure of the contents of the affidavit and the sensitive information would be prejudicial to national security. It appears that [Scerba] has proposed to plead guilty to one count and the other count may also be subject to a plea, although that has not yet been proposed."