Australian officials said Thursday they have no way of tracking those who may have downloaded the sensitive military information, which was allegedly posted online by a junior Australian defense official in 2012.
Australian Department of Defense graduate Michael Scerba allegedly downloaded a secret Defense Intelligence Organization (DIO) assessment, burnt it into a disc, took it home and then posted it on the popular image-based bulletin board website 4chan, Canberra Times reported.
The document reportedly contained information related to the “Five Eyes” spying alliance between Australia, the U.S., Britain, Canada and New Zealand. Its contents remain unknown, but 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 allegedly posted the document with the words “Julian Assange is my hero,” referring to the head of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. Another alleged 4chan post 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."
The DIO reportedly said the leak could seriously harm Australian intelligence interests and undermine its relationship with allies. Court documents of the case reportedly described the discovery of the leak as “fortuitous,” since it was found only when a former Defense Signals Directorate employee saw it on the website.
Before the document was reported to authorities, 14 people had already commented on the post, according to Canberra Times. Another post discussing the leak was seen on the site four days later, where a user, who prosecutors allege was Scerba, complained that nobody believed the leak was 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," the post reportedly read. "So ... any other suggestions on how to minimize getting caught by authorities?"
Scerba was charged in June this year with accessing or modifying restricted data, and disclosing sensitive information as a Commonwealth officer.
The case has drawn widespread criticism for measures that have been taken to ensure the secrecy of the information. Confidential documents of the case have been locked in safes, and strict orders prohibit prosecutors, court officials and defense lawyers from revealing sensitive intelligence information related to the case.