What could the file contain?
After much hullabaloo concerning the latest intelligence failure of the United States - namely, the disclosure of classified communications from 2004 to 2009 that relate to the Afghan War - the Wikileaks saga has yet another twist to its tale. After revealing crucial secrets of the Afghan War in the "Afghan War Diary" - things that the US Government hid from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and even its own people - the Wikileaks site and its founder, Julian Assange, felt themselves to be at mortal risk - and understandably so.
The US Department of Defense, the Pentagon, and even the CIA lashed out at Wikileaks for undermining operations in Afghanistan as well as exposing US, NATO and Afghan personnel to further risk. The site hosts a file called "U.S. Intelligence planned to destroy WikiLeaks", dated 18 March, 2008, and this is but a glimpse of the risks that revealing top secret information to the public domain accompanies. It would be prudent to assume that after the 'leak' of approximately 75,000 documents to the public, the CIA would have Wikileaks and Julian Assange in its crosshairs; to be sanctioned with no mercy.
Anticipating this, Mr. Assange posted an "insurance" file on July 30. This file is larger than all of the previous Afghan War Diary files uploaded on the site - about 1.4GB in size - and ostensibly contains documents that the U.S. Government would not want in public domain at all. Hence, the caveat is as follows: though the insurance file has an AES-265 encryption and a SHA-1 checksum, it has a password which allows a user to view its contents once downloaded. If anything were to happen to Wikileaks or Mr. Assange, the password to the insurance file would be made available online so that all those people who have downloaded the file would finally be able to see what the U.S. Government doesnt want you to see. So, to make matters simple: the U.S. Government should ensure Mr. Assange's life and security, unless and until it deems itself capable of dealing with an "insurance" file for the Wikileaks' Afghan War Diary. Hence, posting the insurance file online (without the decryption password) is effective deterrence vis-a-vis any hostile action by the U.S.
Common sense dictates that the U.S. 'turn the other cheek' and not create circumstances which would lead to further damage to the U.S. war effort and intelligence community, and expeditiously cease and desist from threatening Mr. Assange or his colleagues. However, if U.S. cryptographers are able to crack the insurance file password, they may be able to ascertain what is on the file and whether or not the risk of its leakage is worth the risk of "bringing Wikileaks to book". If the U.S. refrains from aggravating Mr. Assange's insecurities, then it becomes obvious that the insurance file material is too valuable for any further risk of leakage.
But what could the insurance file contain?
Could it contain information regarding the commission and deployment of private contractors (such as the nefarious Blackwater/Xe) in the Af-Pak theater? Could it contain information of dealings and agreements about Afghanistan's "newly discovered" mineral wealth? Could it contain procedural and doctrinal decisions of Afghan intelligence services, which were funded by the U.S. CIA and by the Indians as part of their "development strategy" for Afghanistan? Could it contain information about war crimes against the Afghan people - not merely under-representation of collateral damage and casualty numbers but cold-blooded murder in the free-fire zone that is Afghanistan? Could it contain information regarding military plans to use Afghanistan as a staging pad for attacks on Iran? Could it contain details of how the U.S. and NATO troops are secretly negotiating safety and security with the Taliban - the former bribing the latter so that 'combat operations' can proceed smoothly with minimal resistance? Could it contain facts, evidence and policies that endanger U.S. policy in South Asia, or its time-tested friendship with its NATO allies? Could it reveal unthinkably despicable and macabre realities of the belligerent state actors (U.S. and Karzai's Afghan govt.) in the War on Terror?
Only time will tell. The fact remains that unless and until the password of the "insurance" file is decoded or made public, the 'ball' is now in the U.S. Government's court, and their actions will determine how "important" the Wikileaks insurance file is, and the ultimate psychological impact its posting - and eventual leaking - will have for the War on Terror, and for global security as we know it.