Bloggers have noted that it's 20 times larger than the batch of 77,000 secret U.S. military documents about Afghanistan that WikiLeaks dumped onto the Web last month. Contributors to tech sites such as CNet have speculated that the file could be a way of threatening to disclose more information if WikiLeaks' staffers were detained or if the site was attacked, although the organization itself has kept mum.
"As a matter of policy, we do not discuss security procedures," WikiLeaks said Thursday in an e-mail response to questions about the 1.4 gigabyte file.
Editor-in-chief Julian Assange was a bit more expansive - if equally cryptic - in his response to the same line of questioning in a television interview with independent U.S. news network Democracy Now!
"I think it's better that we don't comment on that," Assange said, according to the network's transcript of the interview. "But, you know, one could imagine in a similar situation that it might be worth ensuring that important parts of history do not disappear."
Assange, a former computer hacker, has expressed concern over his safety in the past, complaining of surveillance and telling interviewers that he's been warned away from visiting the United States.
Since the publication of the Afghanistan files, at least one activist associated with the site has been questioned by U.S. authorities. Programmer Jacob Appelbaum, who filled in for Assange at a conference last month, was reportedly detained and questioned about the site by officials after arriving in the U.S. on a flight from the Netherlands.
U.S. officials have had harsh words for Assange, with Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying he and his colleagues had disclosed potentially life-threatening information and might already have blood on their hands.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has refused to rule out the possibility that Assange could be a target into the military's investigation into the leak.