WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, in the face of increasingly heated criticism and calls for his prosecution, has made it known that he's prepared to unleash a vast reserve of government documents if he's detained on any charges, if the WikiLeaks Web site is shut down, or in the event that he himself is killed. In July, Assange began distributing an encrypted 1.3-gigabyte file over the Internet, which tens of thousands of people have since downloaded. Assange calls this file his "insurance policy," and his lawyer, Mark Stephens, told reporters that Assange will release the encryption key if he's brought to trial for his involvement with WikiLeaks, or for the sex crimes charges issued by Interpol.
The encrypted file is said to contain full, uncensored versions of all the U.S. documents WikiLeaks has obtained, with names and details left intact. Stephens has referred to the file as "a thermonuclear device," and commentators are measuring the importance of Assange's gambit as the furor over WikiLeaks grows ever higher.
There's No Stopping WikiLeaks, laughs John Cole at Balloon Juice. "The documents are going to get out there. You may make it difficult to centralize things, but all it takes is one person with email to make sure the documents keep moving. And there are a lot of folks out there willing to engage in a little civil disobedience to make sure these files see the light of day."
Assange Is In a Tight Spot The Sunday Times points out that "WikiLeaks is now battling for its survival," noting that "Amazon, which hosted the website, refused further access to its servers last week. A site that provided WikiLeaks with its domain name, EveryDNS.net, also cut off its service because it said it was being inundated with sabotage attacks." The Times also reports that "tens of millions of personal computers were hijacked last week in an act of sabotage that crippled the WikiLeaks website. WikiLeaks revealed that a 'denial of service' attack that temporarily shut down the website used a network of 'zombie' computers, which were infiltrated by the hackers."
Assange Is Losing the Moral High Ground, warns Tim Fernholz at The American Prospect. "If Assange's blackmail threat is taken seriously, he will have no accountability whatsoever--for the actions of his organization or himself ... Assange's organization raises a serious who-watches-the-watchmen problem, especially when it is acting to both protect itself from institutional critics and protect its founders from prosecution for crimes that are, depressingly, typically evaded by powerful men." Fernholz also wonders: "Doesn't this secret cache of emergency documents contravene the idea that all information should be freely available? Now, rather than serving the governments or corporations it was lifted from, or at least public awareness, it appears that WikiLeaks is using the power of that information for its own benefit."
Bring It On For William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection, this isn't a complicated issue. "I say we call Assange's bluff, even if it is not a bluff. No negotiation with terrorists."