Stratfor vice-President Fred Burton told his analysts that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange "needs to be water boarded" until he gave up the code that could reveal important confidential documents, according to emails obtained by WikiLeaks.

Analysts at the US private intelligence firm confirmed that the whistle-blowing site has given a sort of insurance file to its supporters in case of an emergency. "It's a key to a heavily encrypted version of the documents," wrote an analyst. "A spokesman says it will only be used if "grave matters" take place involving WikiLeaks staff. But he didn't elaborate on what those might be."

Burton's response to his analysts is to torture the 41-year-old Assange to extort information on the code. In an online forum, Assange wrote: "The Cable Gate archive has been spread, along with significant
material from the US and other countries to over 100,000 people in encrypted form. If something happens to us, the key parts will be released automatically."

The development came as another email obtained by WikiLeaks disclosed that US prosecutors have secretly indicted Assange. In an email sent to the firm's analysts on 26 January, 2011, Stratfor vice-president Fred Burton said: "We have a sealed indictment on Assange".

The information, apparently obtained from a US government source, was in response to a CBS news article concerning US investigations targeting WikiLeaks. It was classified as "Not for Pub[lication]" by Burton, who also wrote "Pls protect".

Burton was a special agent with the US Diplomatic Security Service and was hired by Washington to investigate the killing of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane, and a number of bomb threats prior to 9/11.