An encrypted cache of uncensored documents that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has circulated across the Internet may ensure that a huge array of secrets will be revealed even if the website is shut down or Assange is arrested.
Tens of thousands of supporters have downloaded the "insurance" file, which has been available since July, and it includes files on BP and Guantanamo Bay, The Sunday Times reported.
Assange has warned that efforts to curtail his activities could trigger a deluge of national and commercial secrets.
- NBC: Assange arranging to meet with police
- WikiLeaks reveals U.S. list of 'critical' sites
- PayPal cuts WikiLeaks from money flow
- WikiLeaks' 'insurance' file to ensure work goes on
- Fed workers told: Stay away from leaked cables
- NYT: Cables discuss vast hacking by China
- Will WikiLeaks fuel old Chinese paranoia?
- Newsweek: Chavez conspiracy theories weakened?
- The who, what and why of WikiLeaks
- More stories, videos about the documents
"If something happens to us, the key parts will be released automatically," he said in a live chat with readers of the Guardian newspaper this week.
One reader asked if he was tempted to release the password for the encrypted file, but he did not respond to the question.
The Sunday Times said the U.S. Defense Department was unsure what was in the file, and computer experts said it was unlikely that the U.S. could defeat its encryption.
Massive wintry storm system plows east
A wet winter storm, bringing dangerous sheets of ice, snow and plummeting temperatures, was barreling east Sunday after wreaking havoc in western parts of the the country, with one emergency official calling it a "historic ice event.
- Gay teacher fired after applying to marry partner
- NJ waitress in anti-gay note flap let go from job
- American veteran detained in North Korea arrives home
- Teen dies aboard Delta flight soon after takeoff
- Massive wintry storm system plows east
Assange is known to possess documents on a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan that killed civilians and Bank of America documents. It is not clear how WikiLeaks obtained the diplomatic documents, but the U.S. government's prime suspect is an Army private, Bradley Manning, who is in custody on charges of leaking other classified documents to WikiLeaks.
WikiLeaks has embarrassed Washington and foreign leaders by releasing a trove of brutally frank U.S. diplomatic cables. The latest batches have touched on U.S. diplomats' view of Afghanistan and North Korea, Iranian nuclear ambitions , and Chinese attacks on U.S. Internet targets .
In the aftermath, Assange has faced a variety of legal and technical pressures.
He is named in an arrest warrant from Sweden on an allegation of rape, but is currently free in Britain while issues surrounding the warrant are worked out. Politicians in the United States have called for his arrest for releasing U.S. diplomatic documents, and some have even said he should be assassinated.
Assange's website has been DDoS attack on WikiLeaks gathers strength and was forced to switch hosts after Amazon.com said WikiLeaks had violated terms of service. The site that provided WikiLeaks a domain name cut off service, saying it was being hit by sabotage attacks.
Only on NBCNews.com
- From belief to betrayal: How America fell for Armstrong
- US to Syria neighbors: Be ready to act on WMDs
- China: One-child policy is here to stay
- New 'Practice Range' shooter game says it’s from NRA
- 'Gifted' priest indicted in crystal meth case
- China's state media admits to air pollution crisis
- French to send 1,000 more troops to Mali
Some of the contingency plans were revealed Friday when WikiLeaks emerged with a Swiss address, WikiLeaks.ch, provided by the Swiss Pirate Party, which champions Internet freedom.
But on Sunday, the Swiss group that now supports the site said the website's main server in France had gone offline.
Denis Simonet of the Swiss Pirate Party said his group is currently redirecting the domain wikileaks.ch to another server based in Sweden.
Simonet told The Associated Press by phone Sunday that the switch could take several hours but that the site that publishes leaked classified documents is still reachable through the numerical address of its Swedish server.
He was unable to immediately say why the French server stopped working.
And WikiLeaks lost a major source of revenue when the online payment service PayPal cut off its account used to collect donations, saying the website was engaged in illegal activity.
The insurance file seems meant to dissuade governments that would attempt to stop Assange's efforts — and to ensure that the material could be released in the event that WikiLeaks is driven offline or Assange is arrested.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.