Department of Defence graduate employee, 24-year-old Michael Scerba was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for disclosing secret organisation information online.
On 15 October 2012 Scerba downloaded a classified sensitive document from the Defence Secret Network (DSN). Scerba then posted two pages of this document on an image sharing website on the same date with the comment “Julian Assange is my hero.” The operating mechanism within the website deletes posts once they have been superseded by new material or when the posting generates in excess of a specified amount of viewer response or comments. Subsequently, the two pages were deleted. Several people had viewed and commented on the post but it was unknown the total number who had accessed the sensitive information.
The post was discovered and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) began their investigation. A search warrant was executed at Scerba’s home by the AFP and forensic analysis of his computer, and a broken disc located in his bin, confirmed his involvement. The contents of the leaked report are the subject of strict secrecy provisions
In handing down the sentence, Justice Refshauge accepted that Scerba had not intended to compromise national security, although he knew the disclosure could cause harm. “The level of harm may never be known”, his Honour said. Justice Refshauge also accepted there had been no political, ideological, or financial motive for the offending. He found the seriousness of the offence required a sentence of full time imprisonment.
On 5 November 2015 Michael Scerba pleaded guilty in the ACT Supreme Court to the following charges committed on 15 October 2012:
- one count of disclosure of information by current Commonwealth Officer under section 70(1) of the Crimes Act 1914
Michael Scerba was convicted and imprisoned to a maximum of 12 months to be released after three months upon entering into a recognisance order pursuant to section 20 (1)(b) of the Crimes Act 1914 in the sum of $500 and to be of good behaviour for two years.