The hacking group Anonymous is denying involvement in the Monday leak of alleged Ku Klux Klan members that included several prominent U.S. senators and mayors.
The anarchist hacktivist group has made waves recently with its vow to unmask 1,000 alleged KKK members on Nov. 5 as part of its ongoing cyber war against the white supremacist organization.
On Sunday and Monday, initial data appeared on the text-sharing site Pastebin, which most took to be a preview of what was to come.
The data included dozens of emails and phone numbers, but most notably the names of roughly a dozen prominent politicians. High-profile Anonymous-affiliated accounts started retweeting links to the Pastebin dump, as well as photos of the lawmakers, making it difficult to determine if Anonymous was taking credit for the information.
Throughout the day, the politicians shot back on Twitter, with one senator calling the rumors “baseless Internet garbage of the worst kind.”
But by late Monday, the “Operation KKK” team, which has been leading Anonymous’s digital assault against the Klan, was disavowing any involvement with the leaks.
“#OpKKK was in no way involved with today's release of information that incorrectly outed several politicians,” the group tweeted from its account.
The early details were not the “official release” that Anonymous still plans to dump on Thursday at 11 a.m., another tweet clarified.
Indeed, the hacker behind the dump, who went by “Amped Attacks” or @sgtbilko420 on Twitter, denied any affiliation with Anonymous.
“i do however respect #OpKKK,” the leaker clarified in a tweet.
Anonymous has been digitally sparring with the KKK since the unrest in Ferguson, Mo., last year sparked by the police killing of an unarmed black teen.
Initially, hackers went after KKK-affiliated Twitter accounts and websites, forcing them offline or taking them over. But the activity soon died down.
Then this past week, Anonymous said it was planning to resurrect its online onslaught by outing 1,000 alleged KKK members nearly one year after the collective first declared war on the Klan.
The Klan likely has somewhere between 3,000 and 8,000 members, according to several estimates.
The back-and-forth has highlighted the dispersed and confusing nature of Anonymous, which has no official hierarchy or spokesperson.
The incident could damage the reputation of Anonymous for normally leaking correct information, said Gabriella Coleman, an anthropologist who studies and writes about the group.
Anonymous chat rooms were brimming Monday night with discussions about how to bounce back from the unexpected leaks, she said.
“Their ability to accept anyone and everything is both a strength and a weakness,” she said. “And this is one the weaknesses playing out in real time.”