Julian Assange
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks on the balcony of the Embassy of Ecuador in London on May 19, 2017 JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has clashed with CIA director Mike Pompeo after the high-ranking US official said he was "working to take down" the whistleblowing website.

Speaking at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) National Security Summit this week (19 October), Pompeo likened the anti-secrecy website to other examples of what he has dubbed "non-state intelligence services" – comparing it to Hezbollah, Isis and Al-Qaeda.

"They are an enormous threat, we are working to take down that threat to the United States – to reduce the threat," he said during the Washington DC conference.

He discussed Russia's alleged state-sponsored hacking operation during the US election last year and promised that the clandestine CIA is set to become a "much more vicious agency" in the near future.

Referencing the alleged similarities between the three terror groups and WikiLeaks, he commented: "None of them sit at the UN – these are all non-state actors each of which not only have cyber-capacity but they look and feel like very good intelligence organisations."

Pompeo said "the world has moved" and pledged that his agency will refine how it works to combat "non-state threats" and "state intelligence adversaries."

His comments come as WikiLeaks is releasing documents detailing a variety of CIA cyber-tools, disclosed under the codename "Vault7". The source of the leak remains unknown.

After the director's speech, Assange, from his personal Twitter account, hit back: "WikiLeaks = ISIS. The CIA hasn't just jumped the shark here - it has gone into orbit."

It's far from the first time the two men have butted heads.

Assange, who remains living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London under political asylum, was the subject of Pompeo's ire in April this year, not long after he took the position of top chief.

In his first speech, the newly-appointed director called the WikiLeaks boss a "coward hiding behind a screen" and asserted that his website's output was "abetted by state actors like Russia".

Indeed, the US intelligence community believes that is accurate – that it helped to influence the outcome of 2016's election via a series of damaging leaks. Assange has denied that claim.

"When the director of the CIA, an unelected public servant, publicly demonises a publisher such as WikiLeaks as a 'fraud,' 'coward' and 'enemy', it puts all journalists on notice, or should," Assange responded in an op-ed for The Washington Post on 25 April this year.

At one point in recent history, you wouldn't have been criticised for asserting that Pompeo was actually a fan of Assange's work. Last August, he tweeted a direct link to its publications.

"Need further proof that the fix was in from Pres. Obama on down? BUSTED: 19,252 Emails from DNC leaked by WikiLeaks," he wrote in July 2016. It's clear that is no longer the stance.

Mike Pompeo
CIA Director Mike Pompeo arrives at the U.S. Capitol before briefing members of the House Intelligence Committee May 16, 2017 in Washington DC Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images