by James Holbrooks
On Thursday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange — who’s been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 to escape extradition to the United States — offered to serve time in a U.S. prison if President Obama would pardon whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
“If Obama grants Manning clemency,” a post on WikiLeaks’ official Twitter account reads, “Assange will agree to US prison in exchange — despite its clear unlawfulness.”
If Obama grants Manning clemency, Assange will agree to US prison in exchange — despite its clear unlawfulness https://t.co/MZU30S3Eia
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) September 15, 2016
Assange, who since 2010 has been sought for questioning by Swedish authorities regarding an allegation of rape — a charge he vehemently denies — is also the subject of a long-running investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for his role in publishing sensitive material via WikiLeaks. Assange fears that giving himself over to Swedish officials will lead to his extradition to the United States.
WikiLeaks, which Assange founded in 2006, didn’t become a household name until Chelsea Manning began supplying the organization with material in 2010. Among the varied files provided by Manning was classified footage of U.S. soldiers shooting dead over a dozen Iraqis — including two Reuters journalists — from an Apache helicopter in July of 2007. That video came to be known as Collateral Murder.
Manning is currently serving a 35-year sentence at a military barracks in Leavenworth, Kansas, following her court-martial in 2013. Complicating her situation is the fact that Chelsea, who was born Bradley, is transgendered, and has been diagnosed by the Army’s own doctors as having gender dysphoria.
Manning claims this facet of her existence has caused her much hardship while attempting to serve out her sentence — to the point of attempted suicide. Last week, while in solitary confinement, Manning announced via her attorneys she would begin a hunger strike in protest of her treatment.
“I have asked for help time and time again for six years and through five separate confinement locations,” her statement reads. “My request has only been ignored, delayed, mocked, given trinkets and lip service by the prison, the military, and this administration.”
“Until I am shown dignity and respect as a human again, I shall endure this pain before me,” she concludes.
Earlier this week, the Department of Defense stated Manning qualifies for gender reassignment surgery under a new policy that goes into effect in October. Manning ended her hunger strike following that announcement.
Assange’s apparent willingness to give up his freedom for the sake of Manning’s comes a month after his attorney, citing the “Clinton Precedent,” attempted to convince the Department of Justice to drop its investigation into the WikiLeaks founder.
Pointing out that criminal intent, or a lack thereof, was the key factor in FBI Director James Comey’s recommendation that no charges be filed against Hillary Clinton amid her ongoing email server scandal — and, further, that the DOJ dropped its investigation the day after Comey announced his conclusion — Assange attorney Barry Pollack asked that all charges against his client be “promptly dismissed” under the very same reasoning.
“The pending criminal investigation into Mr. Assange is plainly based on his newsgathering and reporting activities,”Pollack wrote in an August 16 letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch. “WikiLeaks has published information out of a single overriding motivation: its belief that the information being published is newsworthy.”
“The extensive third-party media coverage of information published by WikiLeaks confirms that WikiLeaks’ assessment in this regard was correct. WikiLeaks’ intent was lawful. It was not to aid enemies of the United States or to obstruct justice; it was to inform the public about matters of great public interest.”
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