A plan by Anonymous, the online hacktivist collective, to reveal the names of 1,000 KKK members has already descended into a convoluted mess filled with false accusations and stringent denials.
Anonymous had planned to launch Operation KKK, revealing the identities of 1,000 klansmen, on Nov. 5. The date is significant because its known as Guy Fawkes day in Britain. Fawkes was a terrorist who tried to blow up the British parliament in 1605 in a failed attempt to assassinate King James I. A Guy Fawkes mask was worn by the lead character in the movie V for Vendetta, who was a terrorist fighting against an oppressive British government. That mask has been adopted by Anonymous activists.
Operation KKK came about during an ongoing war of words between Anonymous and the KKK over the Ferguson protests. When the KKK threatened to use violence against protesters, Anonymous responded by saying it would go public with their identities.
However, the plan went awry when a hacker, who goes by the name Amped Attacks, decided to release some of the information early. Amped Attacks, who is not affiliated with Anonymous, told TechCrunch he hacked into KKK databases and websites and found the names of several senators and mayors.
“I worked for nine days to gather and verify all the information that was gathered before its release. I got the information from several KKK websites when I [hacked] them and was able to dump their database,” said Amped Attacks, who has also taken down the Westboro Baptist Church’s website. “I went through many emails that was signed up with these sites and a few of the emails that sparked my interest was the ones of the politicians in question there would be no reason for them to be signed up on any KKK website unless they supported it or was involved in it.”
The information, including email addresses and phone numbers, was posted to Pastebin. Some of the names on the list include Sen. John Cornyn, Sen. Dan Coats and Sen. Thom Tillis. The list also contains the names of four Democratic mayors and one Republican mayor, according to Raw Story.
Many of the politicians named on the list have already taken to social media to deny the accusations.
“For those who are asking—I have never had any affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan and deplore all forms of racial discrimination,” wrote Coats in a post on Twitter.
However, the list is flawed. Some of the names on the list simply don’t add up. Knoxville, Tenn. Mayor Madeline Rogero, whose name is on the list, got her start in politics as an advocate for the rights of migrant farm workers alongside Cesar Chavez.
“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,” she said in a statement.
Lexington, Ky. Mayor Jim Gray, also named on the list, is gay. A woman involved in an interracial family and a gay man seem like unlikely candidates to be members of a white supremacist organization.
However, just because your email is on a KKK mailing list, it doesn’t mean you’re actually a member. Gizmodo interviewed Patricia Aiken, who runs a consulting firm that advises law enforcement unions. She found her name on the list and suspects it was placed there by Kirk Eady, the former deputy director of the Hudson County Correctional Center. Eady was convicted of wiretapping Aiken and other union members at the jail.
Anonymous has distanced itself from the information released by Amped Attacks. They still plan to go forward with their information release on Nov. 5
“The Pastebin links sent to us regarding #OpKKK were sent to us by anonymous individuals. The actual release for Operation KKK will be 5 Nov,” said the group in a tweet.