- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2017

President Obama’s decision to commute Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning’s remaining prison sentence doesn’t mean Julian Assange will surrender to U.S. authorities anytime soon, an attorney for the WikiLeaks founder indicated Wednesday.

Mr. Assange, 45, offered as recently as last week to hand himself himself over to the Department of Justice in exchange for the release of Manning, a former intelligence analyst convicted in 2013 of supplying the WikiLeaks website with a trove of sensitive U.S. military and diplomatic documents.

Despite Mr. Obama’s decision Tuesday to grant Manning a commutation, an attorney for Mr. Assange said the White House fell short of precisely meeting Mr. Assange’s demands.

“Mr. 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, Mr. Assange’s U.S.-based attorney, said in an email to The Hill sent Wednesday.

“Mr. Assange had called for Chelsea Manning to receive clemency and be released immediately,” Mr. Pollack added.

Manning, 29, admittedly supplied WikiLeaks with hundreds of thousands of State Department and Pentagon documents acquired during her deployment in the Iraq War. She was arrested in 2010 before subsequently being convicted of espionage and subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison before being handed an early release date this week of May 17, 2017.

Mr. Assange, meanwhile, has spent the majority of that span under self-imposed exile at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Despite being granted political asylum by Quito in 2012, he’s been unable to leave the compound in the years since without being all but certainly apprehended in connection with an arrest warrant issued in Sweden where he’s wanted for questioning regarding an unrelated investigation.

According to Mr. Assange, though, surrendering to prosecutors in Stockholm would inevitably lead to him being extradited to the U.S. and tried for espionage not unlike his source.

In the interim, Mr. Assange has repeatedly offered to give himself up in exchange for the soldier’s release.

“If Obama grants Manning clemency, Assange will agree to U.S. prison in exchange — despite its clear unlawfulness,” WikiLeaks tweeted on Sept. 15, 2016.

“If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to U.S. extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case,” WikiLeaks tweeted Jan. 12, mere days before Mr. Obama announced as much.

Addressing reporters during his final press conference in office, Mr. Obama on Wednesday said the WikiLeaks’ founder’s fate wasn’t a factor in making his decision with respect to granting clemency to Manning.

“I don’t pay much attention to Mr. Assange’s tweets, so that wasn’t a consideration,” the president said.

“Assange is still happy to come to the U.S. provided all his rights are guaranteed despite White House now saying Manning was not quid-pro-quo,” WikiLeaks tweeted following Mr. Obama’s remarks.

Despite never publicly charging Mr. Assange with any crimes, the Justice Department indicated in a court filing last week that matters related to WikiLeaks are currently subject to a years-long, ongoing criminal probe.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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