Julian Assange has labelled the US government "terrorists", hitting back at the regime after an outspoken attack on the WikiLeaks founder by US Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden was asked in an interview on NBC TV's Meet the Press on Sunday whether he thought Assange was a hi-tech terrorist, or a whistleblower like those who released the Pentagon Papers, a cache of secret documents that revealed US military policy in Vietnam in the 1970s.
Biden replied: "I would argue that it's closer to being hi-tech terrorist."
Biden also claimed that WikiLeaks had "done damage" to US interests - in marked contrast with an interview he gave on 16th December (opens in new tab), in which he dismissed the leaks, claiming "no substantive damage" had been caused.
The Vice President's comments come after WikiLeaks outed more than 250,000 secret US diplomatic cables (opens in new tab), straining American relations with a number of foreign governments.
Assange hit back at Biden today in an interview with El Pais.
He told the Spanish daily, "terrorism is defined as the use of violence for political purposes", and asked:
"Biden's administration continues to take offence at our organisation and the press with a violent or political objective, so who are the terrorists?"
Assange also complained about the conditions of his "high-tech arrest" at Ellingham Hall, a house owned by friend Vaughan Smith, where he has been staying since being freed on bail by London's High Court last Thursday.
The 39-year-old currently faces extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about alleged sexual assaults on two women. He denies all allegations.
"I have electronic jewellery which means if I leave the house outside of curfew times then an alarm will go off," he told the paper. "It is very Orwellian."
Assange's conditions are in stark contrast to the treatment US Army Private Bradley Manning is reported to have received (opens in new tab) in custody.
Manning is accused of being the source of classified government materials passed to WikiLeaks concerning the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been kept in solitary confinement since his arrest more than six months ago.
According to sources close to Manning, he has been refused the right to exercise in his cell, and even denied a pillow or sheets on his bed.
US prosecutors claim that Manning was in personal contact with Julian Assange, and are reported to be considering a plea bargain with the private in order to gain information that may secure Assange's conviction on espionage charges.
Assange denies any knowledge of Private Manning, but confirmed last week (opens in new tab) that WikiLeaks had donated $50,000 towards the private's defence fund.