It’s not just her and they’re not really hackers — and actually, there’s no evidence that they’re acting at Wikileaks’ behest. Mastercard, Visa, and a few other prominent sites have already been hit, as you’ve no doubt seen on Drudge, but as far as I know no one’s system has been broken into. This is all being done via DDOS attacks, which are designed to knock a site offline by slamming its server with so much traffic that it can’t cope with the load. Evidently that’s what almost happened to SarahPAC, but they managed to head it off.

As for what Palin meant when she said her “personal credit card information” has been attacked, that’s unclear for the moment. Maybe she’s referring to the Mastercard/Visa takedowns?

Hackers in London apparently affiliated with “Operation Payback” – a group of supporters of Julian Assange and Wikileaks – have tried to shut down SarahPac and have disrupted Sarah and Todd Palin’s personal credit card accounts.

“No wonder others are keeping silent about Assange’s antics,” Palin emailed. “This is what happens when you exercise the First Amendment and speak against his sick, un-American espionage efforts.”

Palin has criticized Wikileaks founder Assange, writing on Facebook that his “past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders?…Assange is not a ‘journalist’ any more than the ‘editor’ of al-Qaeda’s new English-language magazine Inspire is a ‘journalist.’ He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands.”

I’m not sure how Tapper’s so sure who the culprit is. Wikileaks itself has been DDOS’d a bunch of times, presumably by freelance “hackers,” since the latest document drop. Maybe the London group did hit Palin and Mastercard, or maybe it’s copycats who also support Wikileaks, or maybe it’s freelancers looking to get in on the action for whatever reason. The ‘Net’s becoming a freefire DDOS zone, which makes it hard to keep track of who’s firing each of the bullets. Assuming he’s right, though, I don’t see how Wikileaks benefits from the effort. Sixty percent already think the group has harmed the public interest by revealing diplomatic cables; that number will go up when they’re inevitably blamed, rightly or wrongly, for all the site attacks. Jack Shafer at Slate said yesterday that those verrry shady Swedish sex charges would end up benefiting Assange ultimately because people will sympathize with him and rally to his side. Maybe, but the DDOS wars will achieve the opposite.

One thing they do accomplish, though, is prove that even giant entities can only do so much to defend themselves from dedicated, widely distributed individuals acting in concert. Lesson one in that regard was Wikileaks vs. the State Department and now here’s lesson two. (In fact, the DOJ is still struggling to figure out a way to defend American interests against Wikileaks.) A lot of government agencies and corporate IT departments will be spending more on security next year, no doubt.