Wikileaks has been known to release insurance files from time to time.  These are dumps of encrypted files that can only be opened by those who hold the encryption key to do so.  For one, it makes certain that information reaches the public in the event those who hold the information aren’t available to release it themselves.  It can also be sort of a secret holder’s way of saying, “back off, or I’ll go all secret-exposing nuclear on you…”

But Wikileaks’ latest release of such files has everybody talking.  That’s because they’re almost 400 gigabytes large.  That’s large.

So, folks are all wondering, what could possibly be in there?

Maybe it’s related to NSA leaker Edward Snowden, Russia Today summarizes.

The practice of encoding data and then later releasing the key is not uncommon for WikiLeaks, but the sheer size of the files has attracted considerable attention. WikiLeaks followers on Facebook and Twitter speculated on what the documents might contain, and also that the key would be released if anything should happen to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange or NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

“They’re files that will not have the passwords released unless something happens to specific individuals associated with WikiLeaks. Like the insurance file for Assange, which is more from the cables and info Manning leaked out,” Facebook user Tom-Eric Halvorsen wrote on WikiLeaks’ profile page.

The organization aided Snowden in his negotiations on temporary asylum in Russia following the leaking of classified US government data that revealed the NSA’s global surveillance programs. WikiLeaks has indicated that the data disclosed so far is only the tip of the iceberg, and that more revelations will follow.

Others are wondering why Wikileaks is releasing insurance files now.

Wikileaks made quick mention of the Bradley Manning sentencing in one of its tweets referencing the insurance files, as the judge in Manning’s case is expected to hand down the sentencing decision this week.  Some speculate that perhaps Wikileaks thinks it can influence that decision somehow (newsflash: it can’t).

From Gizmodo:

It’s worth noting the timing; Bradley Manning’s sentencing hearing is due to reach a verdict sometime next week. That, and there’s always something going on with Edward Snowden, whose presumably giant cache of sensitive data has only been dribbling out. Could this be his treasure trove? Or part of it?

Or maybe it’s the identities of US Secret agents or a dump of all the personal information of everyone the NSA ever spied on, speculate some folks on Facebook, Reddit and Hacker News.  From the Daily Dot:

But the most popular theories between the comments of Facebook, Reddit, and Hacker News, are that the data contains information about the identities of U.S. secret agents currently serving around the world.

WikiLeaks has always anonymized the names of any agents associated with the data in its leaks in order to protect their identities. But with a filename like “Insurance,” a few people are betting that the website is preparing for a fight with any governments who want to keep its info out of the hands of the public.

Another popular theory is that the files contain the entirety of a dump that came from the latest WikiLeaks hero, Edward Snowden.

“[C]ould it be that Snowden did a database dump of their entire mainframe, like Manning essentially did?” speculated a user called swiddie on Reddit. “The file could contain the personal information on everyone, aka stasi files, the NSA ever spied on.”

That file, if it existed, could be far bigger than 400 gigs.

Assange did mention to Fairfax Media earlier this week that he would like to see Wikileaks roll out some of the information that has not yet been disclosed by Snowden. From The Age:

However he [Assange] did suggest that a wider disclosure of Mr Snowden’s material may yet take place beyond the “heavy US and European focus” of reporting by The Guardian, The Washington Post and Der Spiegel newspapers.

“Hopefully one day, not too far in the future, we will see a WikiLeaks file rollout to media organisations,” Mr Assange said. “That is the way I would do it, like Cablegate [WikiLeaks' release of US diplomatic cables in late 2012] that had an important effect on every country.”

“I would like to see the organisations involved learn from our successes and see a global rollout like Cablegate.

“Everything else being equal, material should be published as soon as possible … otherwise governments or agencies start to cover up, [and] work out how to prepare their spin.”

There have also been some strange back and forth exchanges of late regarding how the legal team representing Edward Snowden’s father Lon feels (or doesn’t feel?) about folks like the Wikileaks camp and Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Or maybe this is all just theater.  Wikileaks and Julian Assange have been known to have a flair for the dramatic, after all.

Whatever is behind the cryptic insurance file waving this time, it’s probably worth noting – as the Daily Dot so aptly points out – the U.S does not respond well to blackmail.