The Federal Bureau of Investigations has opened a probe into a former Navy officer who is accused of having helped spread classified leaked documents across social media.
In late 2021, a social media influencer known as Donbass Devushka was exposed for spreading Russian propaganda. The investigation into Donbass Devushka’s true identity by Malcontent News and online movement “NAFO” revealed that the influencer was actually Sarah Bils, a former US Navy Legal Clerk who legally changed her name to Lyudmila Mikhailova Karakova.
Bils had claimed to have been born in Russia, Ukraine, Gaza, and the US, but her birthplace was Voorhees, New Jersey, and her parents had no connection to Russia, the Soviet Union, Ukraine, or the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Bils was a Chief Petty Officer with a NOS of ATC-Chief Aviation Electronics Technician in the US Navy and was required to hold a security clearance and report foreign contacts, including online friendships through social media, and her business contacts in Poland for the specialized fish food she sold through Cascadia Aquatics. It is unclear if she made the proper security disclosures to her chain of command.
Just last week, Jack Teixeira, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, was arrested by the FBI in relation to leaked classified documents that had been circulating online. Teixeira held the highest-level security clearance and was in charge of a private Discord group called Thug Shaker Central, where the documents were discussed. The leaked documents pertained to the war in Ukraine and were initially shared on Discord, Twitter, and 4chan.
As Donbass Devushka, Bils spread Russian propaganda on Twitter, Telegram, a podcast, and a YouTube channel, gaining a large following after the invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Her claims of being in the Donbas during the conflict were false; she was actually in court in Oak Harbor, Washington, for a domestic case with her husband.
The investigation also revealed that Bils had been injured in a car crash on September 14, 2021. While rumors on social media claimed that she had been dismissed from the Navy due to a drunk driving incident, her mother denied these allegations. A review of court records did not show any previous criminal case for Bils under any of her current or previous names.
Bils had cultivated a reputation for being knowledgeable and trustworthy in the tight-knit community of freshwater tropical fish enthusiasts, and her prior interviews for Cascadia Aquatics had provided Malcontent News with enough information to expose her as a Russian propagandist years later. Her face, voice, and accessories in her home on a since-deleted episode of the Aquarium Co-op Podcast matched her alter ego on social media.
The investigation raises concerns about the US Navy’s vetting process for security clearances and the potential for foreign influence on US personnel through social media.