EnlargeCarl Court, Getty Images
reader comments 61
Share this story
Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, backed out of his pledge Wednesday that he would surrender to US authorities if President Barack Obama granted clemency to Chelsea Manning.
Manning, a whistleblower serving a 35-year-sentence for leaking classified material to WikiLeaks as an army private, had her sentence commuted by President Barack Obama on Tuesday.
Instead of being released in 2045, Obama said Manning could leave military detention May 17.
But just days before the commutation, WikiLeaks tweeted that Assange—who is living in a self-imposed exile in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London amid fears he could be charged in the US for exposing the secrets Manning leaked—tweeted, “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case.” As recently as Tuesday, WikiLeaks said that Assange “stands” by the promise.
But on Wednesday, Assange’s lawyer blinked and said no dice—that Assange would not honor his statement.
The lawyer announced a new caveat that was not stated in WikiLeaks’ original statement, leading many to speculate that Assange’s offer wasn’t genuine.
Assange welcomes the announcement that Ms. Manning’s sentence will be reduced and she will be released in May, but this is well short of what he sought,” Barry Pollack, Assange’s U.S.-based attorney, told The Hill.
Assange had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately,” Pollack added.
On Wednesday, meanwhile, Obama said he did not take into consideration Assange’s original pledge when deciding to grant clemency to Manning, who has been imprisoned since 2010.
“I don’t pay much attention to Mr.
Assange’s tweets, so that wasn’t a consideration,” the president said in his last televised news conference before president-elect Donald Trump is sworn in Friday to become the 45th president. Obama also reiterated what his spokesman said the day before: that Manning was shown mercy because “justice has been served.”
“The notion that the average person who was thinking about disclosing vital, classified information would think that it goes unpunished, I don’t think would get that impression from the sentence that Chelsea Manning has served,” Obama said.
On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said you also couldn’t compare NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s case to Manning’s. Many have called for Obama to show mercy to Snowden, who is living in Russia.
“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” Earnest said. “Mr.
Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”
The 29-year-old Army private Manning was court-martialed in 2013 for forwarding a cache of classified documents to WikiLeaks.
After being convicted of leaking more than 700,000 documents and video, Manning—then known as Bradley—announced that she is transgender and would be going by the name Chelsea.
Manning said in a clemency petition to Obama that she “did not intend to harm the interests of the United States or harm any service members.” She said an early release, not a pardon, was needed so she could continue her medical treatment.
Assange has also skipped bail after a European arrest warrant was issued in late 2010 by Scotland Yard on behalf of Swedish officials who sought the extradition of the 45-year-old Australian in connection to sexual assault allegations.
EnlargeCarl Court, Getty Images