The US Vice-President, Joe Biden, yesterday likened Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks who is currently under house arrest in a private mansion in Suffolk, to a "hi-tech terrorist" and confirmed that the administration is searching for ways to take legal action against him.
The remarks of Mr Biden made during an interview with NBC News were the most bluntly spoken yet from such a senior-ranking American official. They went beyond the more measured complaints of President Barack Obama, who has said that the release by WikiLeaks of secret American cables is "deplorable".
But in common with other officials, including the Attorney General, Eric Holder, there were no direct hints from Mr Biden regarding the nature any legal steps against Mr Assange and what preparations may or may not be under way to charge and seek his extradition to stand trial in the US. "We're looking at that right now," he said. When pressed for details, he said only: "I'm not going to comment on that".
When Mr Biden was asked if he saw Mr Assange more as a "hi-tech terrorist" or as a whistle-blower in the tradition of those who leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times during the Vietnam War, Mr Biden responded: "I would argue that it's closer to being a hi-tech terrorist. This guy has done things and put in jeopardy the lives and occupations of people in other parts of the world. He's made it difficult to conduct out business with our allies and our friends... It has done damage."