Hillary Clinton has accused WikiLeaks of being a "subsidiary of Russian intelligence" and slammed its founder Julian Assange as a "nihilistic opportunist who does the bidding of a dictator." In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Four Corners scheduled to air Monday (16 October) night, the former Democratic presidential candidate alleged that Assange worked with a Russian intelligence operation to interfere in the 2016 election and damage her bid for the White House.
Clinton said the operation was directed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"Assange has become a kind of nihilistic opportunist who does the bidding of a dictator," Clinton told ABC's Sarah Ferguson. "WikiLeaks is unfortunately now practically a fully owned subsidiary of Russian intelligence."
In January, US intelligence agencies concluded that Putin ordered a complex, multifaceted influence campaign that included cyberattacks, misinformation campaigns and more to undermine American democracy, hurt Clinton's chances and help Trump win the presidency.
The 25-page report also assessed with "high confidence" that the Russian government directed the hacks on the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Democratic officials before relaying the stolen material over to WikiLeaks to publish online.
WikiLeaks steadily published thousands of embarrassing emails and documents linked to Democratic officials in the months leading up to the November election.
"Our intelligence community and other observers of Russia and Putin have said he held a grudge against me because as secretary of state, I stood up against some of his actions, his authoritarianism," Clinton said. "But it's much bigger than that. He wants to destabilise democracy, he wants to undermine America, he wants to go after the Atlantic alliance, and we consider Australia an extension of that."
Russia has earlier dismissed allegations of meddling in other nations' elections as "baseless" and has denied any involvement in the DNC hack. Assange has continued to deny the emails came from the Russian government or any "state parties."
Clinton also alleged that WikiLeaks attempted to deflect attention away from the controversial 2005 Access Hollywood recording of Donald Trump's lewd comments about being able to get away with groping and sexually harassing women.
WikiLeaks published over 2,000 emails stolen from the personal account of Clinton's former campaign chair John Podesta on 7 October last year -wood the same day that the Washington Post published the Access Hollywood tape.
"WikiLeaks, which in the world in which we find ourselves promised hidden information, promised some kind of secret that might be of influence, was a very clever, diabolical response to the Hollywood Access tape," Clinton said. "And I've no doubt in my mind that there was some communication if not coordination to drop those the first time in response to the Hollywood Access tape."
The former US secretary of state is currently touring the UK to promote her new book "What Happened" in which she details several factors that led to her defeat in the 2016 election.
At the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Clinton said Russia launched an information war during the presidential campaign.
"It is a clear and present danger to western democracy and it is right out of Putin's playbook," she said.
Clinton also said the US was "in the dark about the weaponisation of social media." In recent weeks, Facebook, Twitter and Google have come under intense scrutiny over their platforms' being inadvertently used in Russia's campaign to spread misinformation during the election.
"We know Russian agents used Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and even Pinterest to place targeted attack ads and negative stories intended not to hurt just me but to fan the flames of division in our society," Clinton said. "Russians posed as Americans pretending to be LGBT and gun rights activists, even Muslims, saying things they knew would cause distress."
"In addition to hacking our elections, they are hacking our discourse and our unity. We are in the middle of a global struggle between liberal democracy and a rising tide of liberalism and authoritarianism."
She also warned that a "new kind of Cold War" is just getting started.
"Russia's weapons of choice may not be tanks or missiles, but let me be clear: this is a new kind of Cold War and it is just getting started," she said, the Times reported. "We may in the 19th century have fought wars on land and sea and in the 20th century moved to the air, but in the 21st wars will be increasingly fought in cyberspace. America, the UK and its allies need to approach the threat with new courage and resolve together."
Assange took to Twitter to hit back at Clinton's latest remarks saying "there is something wrong with Hillary Clinton."
"It is not just her constant lying," he tweeted. "It is not just that she throws off menacing glares and seethes thwarted entitlement... "Something much darker rides along with it. A cold creepiness rarely seen."