Mitt Romney's tax returns are allegedly no longer secret. An unidentified group claims to have stolen Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's tax returns from PricewaterhouseCoopers' Tennessee offices.
Mashable is reporting a hacker group claims to be in possession of "all available 1040 tax forms for Romney." The group, which is yet unidentified, posted on the text-hosting site PasteBin that they had illegally entered PricewaterhouseCoopers' Nashville office on Aug. 25, 2012, accessed the computers, made copies of the returns and escaped. PasteBin is popular with the hacker group Anonymous.
The unnamed group is threatening to release the returns to the public unless a ransom is met. They're asking for $1 million USD in Bitcoins. The Bitcoin is a peer-to-peer electronic currency with no central banking authority — thus, it's very difficult to track.
If PricewaterhouseCoopers pays by Sept. 28, the information the hackers claim to hold will "remain a secret forever." However, a statement addressed to PricewaterhouseCoopers, again on PasteBin, states that "other interested parties will be allowed to compete," for the release of the tax returns. The second statement also admits that the returns will be sent to "all major media outlets."
As reported by The Tennesseean, the Williamson County Republican Party in Tennessee notified local police when a suspicious package arrived at their offices last Friday. The package allegedly includes, "copies of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s tax returns hacked from an accounting office." The local Democratic party office admits to receiving a package as well. Both contain a thumb drive and a letter matching the details on PasteBin.
If PricewaterhouseCoopers fail to act before Sept. 28, "the entire world will be allowed to view the documents with a publicly released key to unlock everything," reads the hacker's statement.
Romney's tax returns have been to this election what Barack Obama's birth certificate was to the 2008 election. Romney released his 2010 returns and the Washington Post extrapolated his 2011 filings, but his full tax history is still a closely guarded secret. Even after its release and authentication, Obama's birth certificate is a topic of discussion amongst some groups. If the hackers do have Romney's tax information, it would take some time to ensure there was no forgery or tampering.
The Obama campaign and other Democrats have challenged Romney to release the information. According to Politifact, "only two general election candidates have revealed no more than two years of tax returns." One is Sen. John McCain in 2008 and the other is Gov. Romney. In the 2008 Democratic primary, Sen. Barack Obama released seven years of tax returns, and Sen. Hillary Clinton followed suit shortly thereafter.
Phone calls to PricewaterhouseCoopers' Nashville and United States central offices by Discovery News were not answered.
As a final statement, the hackers allegedly wrote, "Who-ever is the winner does not matter to us."
UPDATE: USNews is reporting PricewaterhouseCoopers' statement which said, "We are aware of the allegations that have been made regarding improper
access to our systems. We are working closely with the United States
Secret Service, and at this time there is no evidence that our systems
have been compromised or that there was any unauthorized access to the
data in question."
The hacker's statement explaining the caper at the Nashville PricewaterhouseCoopers office:
The other statement explaining the situation and how payment is to be delivered:
Credit: Paul Cunningham/Corbis