BlueLeaks is the name of a huge data set that a group of US activists recently published. It contains many thousands of internal records from law enforcement agencies across the United States to the FBI. The information published goes back up to 24 years, but newer information is also included. The most recent documents date from June 2020, and some of them already deal with the Covid 19 outbreak in the USA and the demonstrations against police officers following the death of George Floyd.
Especially in view of the nationwide protests against police violence the leak has some political explosiveness. The FBI has opened an investigation to find the source of the data. And American authorities are obviously very interested in preventing their spread - they have also engaged a German public prosecutor.
The 269 gigabyte dataset of the Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets) group was previously available online via a server located at a provider in Saxony, and all of its documents were searchable for everyone. The Zwickau public prosecutor seized this server on July 3, as was announced today. The prosecutor wrote in a statement that there was a "request for preliminary security in the context of international legal assistance in criminal matters".
DDoSecrets is a group of Canadian and American journalists and activists. The name alludes to the term distributed denial of service, which stands for an attack in IT security in which a large number of requests are directed to a server. Like WikiLeaks, the group is committed to revealing hidden information and relationships.
A spokesman for the public prosecutor admitted on the phone that they knew that DDoSecrets was a journalistic project, but did not want to provide any further information. Since it is an American procedure, no information is given.
The notice says the seizure is "a provisional measure." Only when the official request for legal assistance had been received would "an examination be carried out to determine whether and to what extent legal seizure of data with the purpose of being released as evidence to the US authorities would be considered". The Federal Office of Justice decides whether the server will then be delivered to the USA.
Journalism is not a crime
DDoSecrets is amazed by the German administrative assistance. In the United States, the police would never have gotten this way, writes Lorax Horne, a member of the group, in a message to ZEIT ONLINE. After all, the data was not obtained itself, but only made publicly available. "The Supreme Court ruled that journalists are allowed to publish hacked data. DDoSecrets is only the publisher and German police officers have marched into our office and confiscated our publications." Publishing information should not be a criminal offense. Such a development must worry everyone who is interested in a healthy media landscape.
The server at the provider in Saxony was the collective's most important download server, and it contained more than just the BlueLeaks data sets. The seizure will only delay publication and will not prevent it, said Horne, that copies of the files are available.
Other distribution channels of the group have already been closed. Twitter deleted the @DDoSecrets account, links to the data record are provided with a warning by the platform. Due to the seizure of the server, this link is currently no longer accessible.
In the past, DDoSecrets has published leaks on a wide variety of topics, such as data on tax refugees in the Bahamas, neo-Nazis or emails from the Chilean military.