On Wikileaks and Chelsea Manning’s Commutation

Today, President Obama commuted Chelsea Manning’s sentence, effective May 17. May she have the fortitude to withstand five more months of prison.

Among the many responses to the commutation, many people are pointing to a tweet Julian Assange wrote in September, promising to agree to US prison if Manning got clemency.

Assange made a very similar comment more recently, on January 12.

To Assange’s credit, he has long called for clemency for Manning; and whatever you think of Assange, his anger against Hillary was in significant part motivated by Clinton’s response to the Manning leaks. Manning might have been able to cooperate against Assange for a lesser sentence, but there was nothing Assange did that was not, also, what the NYT has done.

Indeed, the oddity of Assange’s original tweet is that, as far as has been made public, he has never been charged, not even for aiding Edward Snowden as a fugitive.

Nevertheless, since the comments, Assange’s European lawyer said he stands by his earlier comment (though she points out the US has not asked for extradition).

But I’d like to point to a third tweet, which might explain why Assange would be so willing to be extradited now.

The day after Assange repeated his promise to undergo extradition, just as the uproar over the Trump dossier led Christopher Steele to go into hiding has been roiling, Assange also tweeted a comment at least pretending he thought he might be murdered.

Sure, Assange is paranoid. But while Assange has been hiding behind purportedly American IDed cutouts, claiming plausible deniability that he got the DNC emails from the Russians, he surely knows, now, those people were cut-outs. The Russians, Trump, and any American cutouts that Assange could ID would badly like him to sustain that plausible deniability.

And the Russians have a way of silencing people like that, even in fairly protected places in London.

So while Assange could just be blowing smoke, Assange may well be considering his options, coming to the US on a plea deal versus dealing with Putin’s goons.

All of which might make such deals more attractive.

Update: Here’s Assange’s latest on this.

34 replies
  1. bevin says:


    The fervour of your belief in the Russian conspiracy is almost touching. But it is unconvincing. and this despite your well earned credibility.

    • Bob In Portland says:

      It’s like reading a book with a beginning and an end but a lot of the middle missing.

      We’ve been working our way through reports on evidence never proven, just alleged, and then all of a sudden we’ve moved on to gunplay with Boris and Natasha over Assange.

  2. seedeevee says:

    he surely knows, now, those people were cut-outs


    I still do not understand your insistence on the “Russians did it”.  Of all of the people that could have gotten those e-mails and all of the enemies the Clintons and the Democratic Party have I would always go last with the one the CIA and the politicians point their finger at.

  3. John Casper says:


    Any idea what the red-squiggly line under “fervour” means?

    The fervor of your” disbelief “in the Russian conspiracy is almost touching.”

    Please apologize to ew for the disrespectful comment.

    • Bob In Portland says:

      And where does the soup spoon go?

      I notice that there are a lot of people populating the internet in the last week who demand apologies for disagreeing with someone. Wrong request. If we’re searching for truth in the hideyholes of Washington, D.C., the last thing we want or need is absolute trust in anyone’s theory without evidence.

      Certainly, Assange’s willingness to be returned to the US may have something to do with Manning, but I don’t necessarily see the how and why. There are plenty of theories that put Assange and Greenwald with ultra-rightists, which would suggest that Trump is the embodiment of full-throttle fascism (consider Thiel as part of the ultra-right) and that Assange would see Trump as a protector. But that suggests the ultra-right is just dandy with dropping the rollback against Russia. In any case, I’m not even sure if we know the rosters of both teams.

      If Assange’s virtual surrender has to do with protection from the new US regime, there are a lot of blanks and the blanks need to be filled in before I embrace the “Russians did it” meme. Right now, as I see it, the the whole thing was a domestic intelligence operation with a lot of Ukrainian input. There seem to be a lot more strings leading back to Kiev than Moscow, and anyway, it’s in Kiev’s fascist nature to blame the evil in the world on the Jewish-Russian conspirators, so I’d be doubly unsure about Russia’s involvement other than cheering for the candidate who doesn’t want to go to war against them.

      But if you, John Casper, are so worried about the offense that emptywheel may feel regarding a skeptical comment, you have become more of a hindrance than a help in this.

      So does the soup spoon go to the right of the plate, to the left of the plate, or above it?

  4. bmaz says:

    Maybe the good Mr. Assange should just quit the duplicitous baloney diversion as to US charges and case (of which there are none), and simply remand himself to Sweden, the one, and only, actual place that “does” have a legal claim in personam on him. A jurisdiction in which he would enjoy just fine protections and due process. Seems a lot better idea than manufacturing First Amendment centric, and detrimental to him and the First Amendment, contrived criminal plea proceedings in the US on charges that do not, by all rational indication, exist.

  5. Evangelista says:

    John Casper,

    The “red-squiggly line under “fervour”” on your computer means your computer’s spell-check is set to “English-US”, rather than “English-UK”.

    “Please apologize to [bevin] for the disrespectful comment.” And maybe back off the prissy fault-finding, since we operate today in a ‘global’ environment where both other-than-United States-spellings and even other than native English speakers (let alone only native American English speakers) are intended to be welcome in conversations, even if their syntaxes and spellings are not as yours.

  6. Bill Stewart says:

    Assange’s current legal problem is that England would extradite him to Sweden to face investigation for rape charges. Officially he hasn’t been charged with crimes in the US, he may have passed the statute of limitations for anything he did, and he may even hope his buddy Trump owes him a favour and won’t have the CIA kidnap him. Maybe he’s hoping Brexit will happen and that’ll stop the extradition to Sweden? Or just hoping that people will forget about his rape problems if he starts blabbing about a US extradition that’s fictional.

    • bmaz says:

      Can’t say this with an abundance or certainty or authority, but I think the international law, and legal principals, that the Swedish hold on Assange are really predicated, are far more established and tested than the “EU” itself.

      I would be stunned if Brexit ultimately affected this issue, unless some party decides to make it a convenient excuse.

  7. Evangelista says:


    It is a delight to see you weighing in on U.S. law issues and referencing such basics as the Bill of Rights and necessity for allegations to exist, especially after your recent assertion that the FBI may, in the United States, engage in Intelligence collecting ‘legally’.  The problem for the FBI, that makes your advocacy an advocacy of illegal activity (and any gratuitous, meaning sans real, not hunch-wunchy, probable cause, intelligence-gathering the FBI does in the U.S. illegal) is the same that makes Assange’s throw of himself into the slow-grinding gears of a U.S. judicial jurisdiction a safe noble-gesture and purely histrionic (and that makes your assertion of the Swedish jurisdiction being “A jurisdiction in which he would enjoy just fine protections and due process” fatuous):  There has to be a something, and a something ‘probable’ enough for allegation to get legal traction on.  In the (Constitutionally constituted) U.S. “Presumption of Innocence” robs the best intentioned FBI “actions on assumption of intention” of legal traction (in the “presumption of guilt” re-composed U.S. that your advocacy presumes this will be not the case and your FBI will be able to assume on any damn assumption i may damn well want to assume on), while in the sky-scape construction Assange assumes, of a U.S. (your U.S., the Constitutional one can’t prosecute publishers for telling the servants’ secrets to the nation’s owners) with an Damoclean Sword poised extant extradition action ready to implement, it is the in-the-sky ephemerality of the “extradition” that obviates real danger.

    The Swedish case is a different case, being a real imposition undertaken through real actions and given faith and credit by a second authoritarian nation (Britain) to impose real imposition, but based on a false allegation, an allegation that in a genuine judicial jurisdiction would be as ephemeral as Assange’s extradition construction, except for the liability that the treatment of a falsity as a reality would impose, in both Britain and Sweden, if both, or either, were legitimately legal ‘legal’ jurisdictions.  “Rape” and “consensual” are, after all, mutually exclusive, and worse, when married producing an oxymoron.  And then there is the “cultural law” in Sweden, which makes actual rape, not only non-consensual, but even forced, not ‘legally’ rape provided the aggressor is ‘a person of colour’…  Assange’s ‘crime’ in Sweden, affirmed criminal by Britain, is having had consensual sex with a Swede while being fair-haired and light-complected…  “A jurisdiction [of]…fine protections and due process”, indeed… Another delight, to me, in fact, a hilarity…

      • maybe ryan says:

        The comments here have gotten much more acrimonious than I remember.  You’ve got a tough job now.  I don’t even remember what name I used to post under.  Just thought I’d offer some sympathy.

        • bmaz says:

          Thanks. I think you did comment as Ryan in the past. And, yes, the tone and substance of comments has changed remarkably over all the years. But times and sentiments of people change over time, as do the actual specific people commenting, and that is organic and healthy too in its own way.

    • John Casper says:


      You wrote of bmaz “…especially after your recent assertion that the FBI may, in the United States, engage in (sic)Intelligence collecting ‘legally’.”

      1. When and where did bmaz assert what you claim? Please provide a link.

      2.  Are you claiming that all the FBI’s intelligence gathering is illegal?

      2.1 If so, on what basis? Please provide a link.

      • bmaz says:


        Just to be clear, the FBI is the “in the US” domestic arm. They absolutely can do “intelligence collecting” legally here as appropriate under the Constitution, statutes and EO’s.

        This is not, at least should not be, in any dispute.

  8. John Casper says:


    What’s your spell-check set to?

    You’re channeling Sec. Clinton’s “global village” to defend bevin?

    When did the President-elect become a fan of the United Nations?
    “Trump’s English-only campaign”

    Why is bevin addressing emptywheel with a UK spell-check?

    Are you and bevin still upset about the Revolutionary War 1775 – 1783?

    What’s “unwelcome” is gratuitous insults from commenters too lazy to keep up with ew’s amazing work.

    I’m waiting on your apology to ew.

  9. b says:

    If I were Assange I would be afraid of MI6 (some parts of the CIA)  and “contractors” like Steele, not of the Russians. There is no reason for them to off him – zero – and despite all the horror stories  strewn about him by “western” services Putin is not the man to order such nonsense out of revenge or whatever.

    If the cutouts were used by some secret service (how about the Israelis?) how would Assange ever know?

    There is still zero evidence that Russia had anything to do with the DNC and Paneta leaks. Insiders or (Republican?) paid or unpaid hackers  are way more likely.


    • emptywheel says:

      I agree that’s definitely possible.

      Whoever the greatest threat, however, I don’t think Assange’s concerns for his health were entirely nonsensical.

      That said, I’ve had access to a great great deal of non-public evidence and I’m quite confident RU was involved in the hack and there were cut-outs.

      • ess emm says:

        Can you corroborate any of the evidence? are you going to write about it? And if so when? Because otherwise your position on this matter is sketchy

      • Bob In Portland says:

        Then you’ll have to expect a lot of us to be skeptical because I haven’t seen anything here to show Russian culpability. Your source wasn’t named Chalupa or Alperovitch?

  10. bloopie2 says:

    I think I recall reading recently that the US still has an “open investigation” into Wikileaks.  And, Assange cannot know if there is a secret indictment out there, even though there have been no “leaks” about same.  So, why isn’t he justified in being fearful of entering US jurisdiction, and even of being spirited away just as other enemies of our state have been?  What would a cautious lawyer advise him to do—chance it anyway?

    • bmaz says:

      Actually, there has been a lot of information, both on and off the record, to indicate that, while investigation into Wikileaks is ongoing (do you think that should not be, especially given their involvement in the 2016 election??), there is not a single shred of evidence that there are any charges and/or indictment, sealed or otherwise.

      I can’t speak for other “cautious lawyers”, but I can certainly say that I would advise Assange that he cannot live his life in fear of things that are not there. I would never advise such a client to hole himself up like a mole in an Ecuadoran embassy broom closet over vaporous tripe.

      • bloopie2 says:

        Sound reasoning; a low risk level.  And as you noted above, Sweden seems to be a decent choice at this time–some risk there for sure, but not an unanticipated amount when you consider how close to the edge he has lived for so long.

      • Jeff Kaye says:

        Actually, there has been a lot of information, both on and off the record, to indicate that, while investigation into Wikileaks is ongoing (do you think that should not be, especially given their involvement in the 2016 election??)

        What exactly did Wikileaks do that was any different than what The New York Times does? What “involvement” in the 2016 election are you talking about? Should any media organization (or blogger!) who publishes leaked material be investigated?


  11. klynn says:


    This whole mess has so many lose threads and who knows which one to pull…

    I have been asking for quite some time why did the RNC develop the name for their tech and data arm Para Bellum Labs.

    After Mike Connell and the Man-in-the-Middle scheme, who knows what is possible. However, I found it interesting that Trump referred to the leaked emails as, “Watergate on steroids,” He has this practice of comments and Tweets being veiled and yet they fail and end up stating the obvious. “Watergate on steroids” would be another way of stating an information war.


    Ah Watergate…With the GOP is everything old, new again but on steroids? For years everyone wondered about the purpose of the break-ins to the DNC Headquarters. Magruder finally told the world in 1987:

    ”I want to be honest about what happened here,” he said. ”It was a planned burglary . . . . As far as I know the primary purpose of the break-in was to deal with the information that has been referred to about Howard Hughes and Larry O’Brien and what that meant as far as the cash that had supposedly been given to Bebe Rebozo and spent later by the President possibly.”

    Magruder went on to confirm the secondary motive as well, saying that the burglars were also looking for information the President’s men could use to keep the Hughes-Rebozo transaction ”under wraps” during the election campaign.


    So, why go on a wandering thought about Watergate and point out the reason for the break in? Enter Roger Stone oppo researcher and Nixon lover with his ties to Wikileaks. Read this article closely and pay attention to the language and timing of a statement, 7 weeks before a Wikileaks dump:


    “…time in the barrel…” Really? Barrel? ParaBellum on Stone’s mind?
    With Stone’s worship of Nixon, maybe a group of plumbers (after all the GOP have one named “Joe” – I mean Sam) are the “inside the DNC” source leaking the info. The motive is still the same — find blackmail money trails to throw everyone off the scent of the bigger background money trail of the GOP candidate.

    I don’t know…This is all craziness. “Watergate on steroids” that quote just keeps appearing…


    And scroll this post to read it being used to brand HC:


    And Assange likes steroids too. He said HC would be Hitler on Steroids. Yet the RNC names their data arm Parabellum? Hmmm. What is this with “big muscle” juice and Hitler?

    Enough ramblings…

    So will we discover a metaphorical state-run doping story in all of this? I don’t know. But EW is correct to at least notice the Tweets and to be asking the questions she is asking in this post.

    • Bob In Portland says:

      I lean towards Len Colodny’s version of things. Remember, Hillary was working that one too, as part of the Democrats’ legal staff, which suggests to me that Trump’s reference to Watergate is more than reminiscing about past coups. It’s remembering past assignments of Hillary in intelligence and dirty tricks.

      • klynn says:

        Bob In Portland… I hear you but in terms of the texts EW is addressing in this post, the following quote stands out from the Miami Herald piece linked above:
        “…Roger Stone, a self-described master of the political dark arts and the longtime ally of Donald Trump, admits he has had “back-channel communications” with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange over the release of thousands of emails stolen from the Hillary Clinton campaign.
        Stone, however, said he was not provided the hacked material in advance nor was he involved in the timing of their release.
        “I do have a back-channel communication with Assange, because we have a good mutual friend,” Stone told CBS4 News Wednesday evening. “That friend travels back and forth from the United States to London and we talk. I had dinner with him last Monday.”

        Assange was granted asylum by the government of Ecuador in 2012 and has resided ever since in that country’s London embassy.
        In the interview with CBS4 News, Stone denied he has ever had direct contact with Assange.
        “I have not talked to him,” Stone said. “I have not met with him.”
        Stone’s involvement blossomed as an issue after the latest WikiLeaks dump that included embarrassing emails from John Podesta, chairman of the Clinton Campaign.
        Tuesday evening, Podesta accused Stone of plotting with WikiLeaks.
        Podesta pointed to a Tweet Stone posted on August 21, which stated: “Trust me, it will soon [be] Podesta’s time in the barrel.”
        Seven weeks later Podesta’s emails were made public.
        Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/election/donald-trump/article107882287.html#storylink=cpy

  12. MaDarby says:

    There is a clique of “Truth Telling” journalists who rave on and on about their “Truth Telling” and exposing evil government doings while still supporting the Neoliberal status quo and its butchery. The established power structure is corrupt and kills illegally on a massive scale…but we wouldn’t want to change the government to the point that we loose our status as THE “Truth Tellers”.

    I am often overwhelmed by the brilliance of these “Truth Tellers” typified by this sentence: “Sure, Assange is paranoid.” Stunning, a psychological analysis from ten thousand miles away. Stated as accepted fact.  The “Truth Tellers” really know their “Truth.”

    The smarmy way Assange is treated by this smug clique is disgusting.

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