The US Justice Department has alleged that a pro-Russian Twitter account spread confidential information from a criminal case that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team brought against a Moscow-based company for social media conspiracy.
The development on Wednesday highlights just how tense the standoff has become between US law enforcement and the Russian operation accused of interfering in the 2016 presidential election, reports CNN.
The situation stems from terabytes of data in the criminal case against Russian company Concord Management and Consulting, which is accused of funding a social media effort aimed at swaying American voters in 2016.
The Department has been turning over evidence to Concord’s US-based legal team, who can review it with a limited number of people as they fight the case.
Prosecutors on Wednesday alleges that some of the information turned over to Concord before trial got out in October — after a now-suspended Twitter user touted that it had a “Mueller database” and a computer with a Russian IP address published thousands of documents online.
Majority of those documents were part of the case’s evidence collection, and were listed online under labels and folders known only to those involved in the case, the prosecutors said.
Other documents published online and mixed in with the real evidence were “junk material”.
“Certain non-sensitive discovery materials in the defense’s possession appear to have been altered and disseminated as part of a disinformation campaign aimed (apparently) at discrediting ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the US political system,” the prosecutors said in a statement.
The pro-Russia Twitter account, @HackingRedstone, first reached out to a CNN reporter in a private message in October.
“We are anonymous hackers. We are like hundreds of others, but we are the one and only who got the Special Counsel Mueller database,” the message said.
In late October, @HackingRedstone shared a webpage on Twitter that led to the documents from the criminal case.
Concord’s 13 alleged co-conspirators, who are all Russian, haven’t appeared in US court, and are unlikely to be extradited to the US to face their charges.