Whistleblower WikiLeaks said today its Web site has been targeted by a massive computer attack, just hours before an expected release of classified U.S. documents.
"We are currently under a mass distributed denial of service attack," WikiLeaks said on its Twitter feed. Efforts to reach the page as of this writing were unsuccessful.
The site released 75,000 confidential files on the war in Afghanistan in July and defied a series of warnings from the Pentagon and other government officials by releasing nearly 400,000 secret files from the Iraq war last month. In a Twitter post last week, the whistleblower site announced it was preparing to release its largest cache of classified documents.
"Next release is 7x the size of the Iraq War Logs. Intense pressure over it for months," WikiLeaks said last week.
In a follow-up Twitter post today, WikiLeaks said newspapers such as El Pais, Le Monde, Der Speigel, The Guardian, and the New York Times would post the files, even if its site was inaccessible. (Update at 1:30 p.m. PT: The files have since been released, revealing among other things that the U.S. ordered surveillance of U.N. leaders.)
The White House has condemned the leaks, saying they put lives at risk, and conservative commentators argued that Wikileaks.org should be shut down by any means necessary.
The WikiLeaks Web site has in the past been proposed as the first public target for a U.S. government cyberattack. One Washington newspaper argued that WikiLeaks' offshore Web site should be attacked and rendered "inoperable" by the U.S. government. A State Department adviser who served under President George W. Bush wrote a column calling on the U.S. military to "electronically assault WikiLeaks and any telecommunications company offering its services to this organization."
Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence specialist, is suspected of being a source for the document-sharing Web site and was charged in June with obtaining "more than 150,000 diplomatic cables" from the State Department.
Update November 29 at 6:24 a.m. PT: CNN reports that a hacker named "the Jester," who claims to have been involved with U.S. Special Forces, is claiming responsibility for the attack on the Wikileaks site "for attempting to endanger the lives of our troops, 'other assets' & foreign relations."