There are reports that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is willing to face extradition to the United States. WikiLeaks has published classified information stolen from the US government on numerous occasions, but there is currently no indictment against the group’s Australian founder.
On Jan. 12, WikiLeaks tweeted that “If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case.” Yesterday, President Obama announced that he would commute the sentence of Bradley “Chelsea” Manning, the US Army soldier convicted of stealing 750,000 pages of army documents and videos and giving them to WikiLeaks.
Among the documents that PFC Manning gave to WikiLeaks were incident reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that mentioned the names of civilians working with coalition military forces. WikiLeaks published these documents without redacting the names. The Taliban subsequently announced that it was using the WikiLeaks documents to track down Afghans aiding the US military. “If they are US spies, then we know how to punish them,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman quoted in The Telegraph.
A second tweet on Jan. 17 said, “Assange lawyer @themtchair on Assange-Manning extradition ‘deal’: ‘Everything that he has said he’s standing by.’” It is not clear if Assange considers Obama’s commutation of Manning’s sentence, which fell short of a full pardon, to be sufficient to trigger his promise to surrender to authorities.
Assange has been protected from extradition by his residence in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since 2012, but it isn’t the US that has been trying to bring him to justice. Sweden has been seeking Assange’s extradition so that he can stand trial on charges of the rape and sexual assault of two women in 2010. Assange could also face charges in Britain for violating bail.
Even though there is no formal indictment of Assange in the US, the WikiLeaks founder has maintained that he was fearful of extradition to the US if he left the Ecuadorean embassy. WikiLeaks tweeted a link that purports to show documents indicating that there are current “pending proceedings” against Assange by the US Department of Justice.
An additional tweet on Jan. 17 said, “Assange is confident of winning any fair trial in the US. Obama’s DoJ prevented public interest defense & fair jury.”
So far, there has been no reported movement of Assange from the Ecuadorean embassy. There is also no report of firm arrangements for Assange to give himself up to British authorities.