The Anonymous group of activist hackers, which has been blamed for the PlayStation Network outage, appears to have broken into a civil war related to the Sony attack.

The facts about this case are pretty murky, but there is some kind of drama playing out in Internet chat rooms where one set of hackers is at odds with another. Yes, the hackers are getting hacked.

Anonymous is a chaotic and fluid hacker group that has tangled with Sony for months because the Japanese company sued a hacker, George “Geohot” Hotz, for jailbreaking, or circumventing the security system of the PlayStation 3. That lawsuit was settled just before the 77-member PlayStation Network went down.

Presumably, the simple narrative suggests that Anonymous, or some of its rogue members, went on to hack the PSN, causing an outage that angered millions of hardcore gamers and movie watchers. Anonymous’s leadership, such as it is, issued a press release saying the hack wasn’t its work and that Sony’s security team was “incompetent.”

Sony pointed the finger at Anonymous again in its letter to Congress, saying that a file was left on its newly hacked The Station servers. That file was called “Anonymous” and it mentioned part of the group’s slogan, “We are legion.” Anonymous came out again and says it wasn’t them.

That raised the notion of whether a splinter group within Anonymous was responsible for the Sony attacks, and that prospect has now become more plausible, since Anonymous, whose leadership has never been clear, has reportedly erupted into a civil war.

A portion of the Anonymous leadership has broken off and called itself AnonOps. A hacker in that group, going by the hacker code name Ryan, broke off from that group and then he hacked into the web site of AnonOps. He vandalized it pretty thoroughly and then posted the internet protocol addresses of AnonOps leaders and their chat logs. Those addresses might be used by law enforcement to track down the hackers.

The leadership of AnonOps then sent a message about Ryan’s attack and said he had control of a couple of domain names used by AnonOps. But the statement noted that AnonOps still had control of and will continue to publish its news there.

“We would strongly advise all users to stay away from and and they should be considered compromised,” the statement said.

The most interesting thing that could come from this is that the hackers might steal enough stuff from each other and post it publicly so that a number of things could happen. For instance, they might conclusively say whether Anonymous members were responsible for the successful attack on Sony and how it was perpetrated. It also might lead to the publication of information that could lead law enforcement to make progress in their investigation of the Sony matter.

In an audio statement yesterday, Anonymous leaders said that individual Anonymous members may have acted apart from the group in attacking Sony, but the group as a whole, or at least its leadership, was not responsible. In the attack, Sony says that 100 million customer names and other personal information were exposed and as many as 10 million credit cards might have been exposed. The Anonymous leadership said it does not condone credit card theft.

“A more likely explanation is that Sony is taking advantage of Anonymous’ previous ill will towards the company to distract users from the fact that the outage is actually an internal problem with the company’s servers,” the message said.

Sony has suggested that Anonymous’ previous attack on its sites distracted its security team and allowed the attacker to get in through a back door.