It’s Plane to See: A Plane with Assange or Another One? [Updated]

[NB: Check the byline – this isn’t bmaz (who beat me to publishing a post about Assange. LOL) Update is at the bottom of this post. /~Rayne]

A couple weeks ago Politico’s Jake Sherman tweeted about the USDOJ’s plane:

The plane left from Manassas Regional Airport which observers note is where the DOJ stations their detail which handles extraditions.

As you can see it returned days later on Saturday, March 23. It was about this time frame that WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange became jittery about possible extradition to the U.S.

It was hard to tell if Assange was right; every time WikiLeaks tweeted since the plane left UK’s London Luton Airport — where MI5 has a hangar — that extradition was imminent, nothing happened. Many folks had a chuckle watching the night-long tweet stream by journalists covering the Ecuadoran embassy in London, watching pro-Assange activists setting up camp but not seeing any resulting arrest and seizure.

Until this morning at roughly 10:00 a.m. local time London.

Assange was charged by the UK with breaching bail after he failed to report for Sweden’s extradition order; Assange plead Not Guilty. The Crown Court found him guilty; he may face 12 months in jail at a later date.

Read bmaz’s take on Assange’s extradition to the U.S. and the DOJ’s charges against him.

Now here’s where it gets interesting for me, given how upset many of us were with Attorney General Bill Barr’s appearance before Congress in which he hedged about the Special Counsel’s Report except to say it would be released next week:

Emphasis mine. Was the plane Barr mentioned a figurative one or a literal one?

This is an open thread.

UPDATE — 2:50 PM EDT —

AFP tweeted a graphic with a timeline of events preceding Assange’s removal from the Ecuadoran embassy:

It’s thin on entries, missing a date when the sexual assault charges were filed in Sweden for example. But it does give a feel for the manner in which events led up to Assange’s trip to Metropolitan Police station today.

Via Twitter, Marcy re-upped her post from last year related to prosecuting Assange:

Worth a re-read; in my opinion, Marcy’s November 2 post is also worth a re-read:

US Government Reveals It Has Video Evidence of Joshua Schulte Sharing Classified Information as Ecuador Restricts Assange’s Legal Visits

I don’t think Conspiracy to Commit Computer Intrusion (18 USC 371, 1030(a)(1), 1030(a)(2), 1030(c)(2)(B)(ii)) is enough to warrant extradition alone.

Otherwise a Leicestershire 18-year-old would have been looking extradition for his attempted hacking of U.S. officials in October 2015, instead of eight charges of “performing a function with intent to secure unauthorised access,” and two of “unauthorised modification of computer material.”

The waiting game continues.

98 replies
  1. Rayne says:

    Maybe it was just a slip of the tongue. Or maybe it was a coded signal.

    Just seems like a really odd turn of phrase in the middle of a hearing.

    • Geoff says:

      Someone who has a lot of time on their hands can probably go back and search all of Lotso Bear’s written manifestos and oral utterances, and see how often he likes to use that phrase. I don’t hear it often anywhere else, and it doesn’t really strike me as the appropriate phrase for the moment.

      Speaking of Toy Story 3, I am desperately hoping that we don’t follow that script any longer than we have already. Right now, I’d say we are about at the point when we’ve entered the garbage incinerator, and Lotso has one last chance to do the right thing. You probably recall how that turned out. If it comes to be that he acts vindictively even in his possible moment of redemption with respect to the Mueller report, well, we can still hope three aliens come to save us. But right now, I’m feeling like the characters holding hands near the end.

      • Stacey says:

        I saw a re-run segment on Nicole Wallace’s MSNBC show yesterday, I think, where her interview with Chris Christie some weeks ago used the phrase regarding Matt Whitaker’s role at AG office regarding the Mueller report was “to land the plane”, meaning I’m sure, foam the runway, etc. for the report to land as politely as possible. I’m sure Chris Christie is no insider at this point, but I think Barr’s use of the phrase in testimony is probably not related to any specific plane anyone might be on and where it might land. I can more easily imagine that the Mueller report has many euphemisms floating around in the DOJ that people use to refer to it by now, and given that it has seemed like a circling plane…or sword over certain heads, this is a perfectly understandable one, it seems to me.

      • Mainmata says:

        “Stick the landing” (making a good plane landing) is prety common but his expression was extremely odd and not really appropriate to the “redaction” (i.e. wholesale hacking) process IMO.

        • Tracy Lynn says:

          I learn something every time I come here. I honestly didn’t know “sticking the landing” really referred to a good plane landing. I’ve always heard it as a gymnastics term as in “Mary Jo stuck the landing on that quad-double inside-out backflip.”

  2. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Great catch, Rayne.

    I’ve only been getting odd bits of news this week — probably like most people. Consequently, I would never have connected the dots you are connecting (in large part, because like many people, I was unaware of the ‘until the plane’s on the ground’ dot).

    Great, great catch.
    Now, if anyone can explain WTF it all means…
    Sh!t : fan

  3. bmaz says:

    This stupid ass plane that everybody freaked out about was prior to that in Grand Junction Colorado. Anybody freak out over that? No. Of course not. It was NEVER about Assange, that is NOT how extradition works. And anybody that thinks DOJ certified Gulfstreams are extraordinary extradition vehicles are nuts. This was bullshit from moment one.

    • Rayne says:

      LOL Well clearly the Gulfstream didn’t carry Assange on the 23rd. I do wonder if it was about preparation ahead of today’s extradition.

      I need to go back and check on timing of Assange’s freakouts about extradition; there had been a much larger government plane that flew from US to UK and I wonder if he freaked out about that one, too. Again, he wasn’t on that plane.

      • bmaz says:

        That was just never how it was going to work. UK got primary. That Gulfstream was never about Assange, despite the hype.

        • bmaz says:

          What??? Seriously, I do not know what that means. Would you like to engage on the real story today, or the plane nonsense? And, I am sorry, I may be a bit touchy on this, but there are FAR more important things going on than this plane bunk.

        • BobCon says:

          Sorry, the humorous reference aged fast. I guess it’s a sign of the times when a cabinet secretary is forced out of office for an addiction to private jets and less than two years later it’s hard to remember.

  4. Sandwichman says:

    I took it as an allusion to Senator Kennedy’s earlier remark about finishing his questioning on time.

  5. viget says:

    Simple answer may be it wasn’t to grab Assange, but rather for DOJ officials in International Affairs to travel to London to discuss the extradition of Assange?

    I’m guessing Assange was getting serious signals that his time in the embassy would be up soon, he probably just wanted the world to know about it.

    BTW, whatever happened to his pre-commitment stuff? Haven’t heard anything on any secrets being leaked recently… Was his grab such a surprise that he couldn’t activate his dead man’s switch?

    • Rayne says:

      N996GA’s trip might also have been related to coordination in the event a No-Deal hard Brexit did come to pass on March 29. The flight left the U.S. exactly 10 days before that date.

      • viget says:

        Was going to ask about why this would matter, but here’s the link why it would matter:


        Basically, the treaty is with the EU, and then also with the 22 nations as well.

        • viget says:

          For the n00bs around here, this is an example of “showing your work and doing your own homework” that the commenters and moderators like to see around these parts.

          I almost fell into the trap. I am proud of myself for managing to quickly google the answer and fixing my initial comment within the 5 minute edit window, with only seconds to spare.

        • Rayne says:

          Yup, that’s one reason. Not certain what other law enforcement cooperation agreements would also be affected in the event of a No-Deal hard Brexit but extradition is definitely one of them.

          I should point out there was another recent extradition from the UK — but Ireland specifically — which may have been the one related to the DOJ’s N996GA flight into Luton, though this is still open to debate. There was a ruling on Thursday, March 21, by the Director of Public of Prosecution regarding the case of Eric Eoin Marques, indicted on charges relating to distribution of child pornography over the internet. What’s not clear to me is if the DPP which made the decision was in London, Dublin (with Republic of Ireland) or in Northern Ireland (definitely has a separate DPP). Anyhow, the timing of this ruling and extradition sync with N996GA’s flight to/from Luton, though it seems odd if N996GA was used that the flight didn’t go in/out of Dublin.

          Makes me think there was a lot going on related to that one plane’s flight.

        • Valley girl says:

          ~~I should point out there was another recent extradition from the UK — but Ireland specifically~~
          Rayne, I assume that there was a typo or two here, b/c Ireland is not part of the UK. Northern Ireland is part of the UK.

        • Rayne says:

          This is the part that’s not clear. I did say Ireland because I don’t know if the DPP in the Republic is there under an agreement with EU law but in parallel construction with the UK and Northern Ireland. I should have been more specific that the plane flew in to London Luton Airport but might have been there for business in both London AND Dublin.

  6. ctcynic says:

    Given that President Trump has said nothing about today’s arrest of Assange how likely is that Assange gets pardoned?

    • Rayne says:

      Come on. You can hazard your own guess at the likelihood instead of poking around here. Do you have anything constructive to add or is this just a drive-by? It’s weak sauce for a first time comment here.

      • Tepid Enough says:

        As opposed to the weak sauce from you folks the past few days? Your cranky attitude and power tripping is insufferable considering the nice job dropping the ball on Barr. Going back to the pieces around the confirmation hearings is embarrassing.

        • Rayne says:

          Hey chickenshit. Nice of you to drop your emotional load and run without actually doing anything constructive around here.

          I’m letting this one through so the community can see what kind of crap we’re getting.

          Ta-ta. Don’t let the door hit you. Much.

        • P J Evans says:

          Self-descriptive username, much?
          What do you expect the Dems in the Senate to do, when they’re the minority? They can’t even get bills scheduled, never mind passed. The House is better – but the Rs can still block a lot of stuff. (And they certainly are trying to do so.)

        • Tech Support says:

          Criticizing the moderation seems silly. First off, it’s the price of admission. You knew the job was dangerous when you took it. Secondly, “last few days” wut? The mods are as consistent as they are merciless.

          Additionally, even if EW, or the mods, or the Dems were somehow culpable in the Barr appointment, your rationale for bringing that up is flat wrong because the Barr quote isn’t from the confirmation hearing. It’s from Tuesday.

          This is the part where you turn to the camera and look sheepish while the sad trombone plays.

    • Rugger9 says:

      Except Kaiser Quisling did, claiming he didn’t really know about Wikileaks for which he was set upon by the MSNBC mashup of something like 160+ speech moments in the last 5 months of the 2016 campaign.

      Nothing to see here….

      Pardons need a crime first, I would think, and DOJ only filed the one count. Perhaps our lawyers can explain whether outside of Ford’s pardon of Nixon (any crimes he may have committed… IIRC) such a blanket pardon could stand.

      Sater would get one first, I think.

  7. Bill Smith says:

    Won’t Assange end up serving at least sometime for bail jumping in the UK first? His lawyers will slow down any extradition to the US.

      • Bill Smith says:

        Golly, bmaz, because this was a post with breathless comments on DOJ aircraft flights.

        That list of flights came from FlightAware. Someone might want to check ADS-B Exchange and see if that plane made any fights that were suppressed if they are really interested in its movements.

        • Rayne says:

          Look, Bill, this post was hardly ‘breathless’ as I wrote it about flights made weeks ago on which Assange clearly wasn’t in spite of others’ ‘breathless’ tweets. That was the first point. The second was the odd turn of phrase Barr used when there was a pending arrest and likely extradition about which he must have known. Do I need to write a tighter logline for you on each post?

          Quit being a dick here. It’s not like we have a shortage of them, we don’t need another.

        • Bruce Olsen says:

          For most men, the one they have proves to be an overwhelming challenge.

          Sorry, slightly OT

  8. Marji says:

    I believe barr was mumbling a whole paragraph, something about we’re building the plane as we fly it, then repeated something to that effect, then ended with the landing the plane part. Anyone have a transcript?

    • Tech Support says:

      Here’s a more complete quote which reinforces the idea that it was a metaphor and not a slip:

      “BARR: I’m not going to — I’m not going to — as I said, I’m landing the plane right now and I’ve been willing to discuss my letters and the process going forward but the reports going to be out next week and I’m just not going to get into the details of the process until the plane’s on the ground.”

    • Rayne says:

      Thanks, Marji, I’ll see if I can find a transcript covering a wider portion of that testimony. I’m afraid I only caught the hearing in chunks.

  9. Simon Williams says:

    Couple of points I’d make, if I may?

    It would seem difficult to really compare across to cases where there were health reasons behind the decision not to extradite.

    I would, however, highlight that the case has been moved to Crown Court and that would hint towards Assange receiving a custodial sentence of a few months for absconding while on bail. How that interacts with any US, or Swedish, extradition proceedings is one for learned friends.

    • bmaz says:

      Simon, Hi and welcome. Yes, think that is a fair assumption. I do not know exactly how this plays out either yet, but you are likely pretty close.

      • Simon Williams says:

        Hi bmaz. Thank you, and I did read your post today on the extradition treaty. :) There’s certainly ample time now for things to change from the US side, and seems reasonable to wonder whether it was a ‘just in case’ measure, although I also wonder whether the Swedes may ultimately take precedence here given circumstances. Once his supporters have paid to force it all the way up to ECHR, of course.

  10. Thomasa says:

    Has whoever is pursuing the indictment of Assange really thought this through? I wonder. Assange doubtless knows things about the current administration and both parties that they would rather stay buried. Barr you may remember lobbied hard for Casper Weinburger to be pardoned before he came to trial in the Iran Contra scandal lest he implicate GHW Bush. There were 16 other pardons also FWIW.

  11. Rapier says:

    The Assange situation is evolving. He presents risk and opportunity for the GOP. After all he became an ally and knows where more than a few bodies are buried vis a vis Russia and the campaign. Let’s not forget his deep well of information has trouble for everyone on every side.

    If they go after him why would he not hit back. As pointed out the single charge and possible escape from extradition open the possibility that he just might go free. A decision has not been made yet I would think. Let it become obvious that if he plays ball with the GOP then things just might go his way on the extradition thing. I don’t see any downside politically to letting him off the hook. Trumpsters are now inclined to like him now. Non Trumpster Hillary haters are very inclined to love him I have found. One calling for him getting the damn Nobel Prize. Go figure. The Intelligence world, the Deep State of Trump’s telling surely hates Assange. I mean there are many pluses for them to let him go.

    You don’t control the world by planning everything in advance. You take advantage off every opportunity offered and never act on principal. Except the principal of winning every skirmish.

    • Rayne says:

      I think Trump and the GOP have gambled on Assange’s insurance file containing mostly information damaging to the Democratic Party. Wonder what the trigger is which sets it free?

      • P J Evans says:

        I wonder how much of the RNC server’s contents got to WikiLeaks. And who in this maladministration has that information.

      • timbo says:

        It’s an shady gamble…considering that Assange seems to have encouraged Manning to steal as much and as many US secrets as possible. I wonder how the career boys down at the Pentagon, State, CIA, etc, are taking this mostly hands-off approach to Assange on the extraditable charge?

  12. Jockobadger says:

    Just did my unpleasant but daily review of tr*mps Twitter acct. The top 3: 2 retweets from the daily caller and 1 from Chuck Woolery! Chuck Woolery for Christ sake! An aging game show host and the daily caller? JHFC

  13. harpie says:
    6:51 PM – 11 Apr 2019
    [quote] BREAKING: Swedish software developer who is allegedly close to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is arrested at Quito airport, Ecuadorian official says.[end quote]
    The Latest: Ecuador arrests Swedish software developer

    A senior Ecuadorian official says a Swedish software developer living in Quito and who is allegedly close to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been arrested as authorities attempt to dismantle a blackmail ring that in recent days had threatened to retaliate against President Lenin Moreno. […]

    • Rayne says:

      Oh my. I wondered after reading that earlier DailyBeast piece how badly Assange’s relations with Ecuador had been damaged. The content collected and dumped on Moreno and his family appeared figuratively like biting the hand that fed him.

      There’s the chance this was a set-up, of course, but he could have addressed all of this by simply taking his lumps with Sweden years ago.

  14. cat herder says:

    Life in 2019 feels like being sprayed with firehoses that are each spraying streams of slightly smaller firehoses that are each spraying streams of flaming dumpsters. I may smash my cable modem with a hammer and take up bird watching.

    • P J Evans says:

      Bird-watching is actually relaxing. A nice walk in a park, sometimes, and people who you may actually like being with. (I haven’t done it in years, since the friend I went with moved out of state.)

      • cat herder says:

        The reason I used bird watching as a spur of the moment example is that a few days ago I spotted a giant nest way the fuck up in the very tip-top of a 100+ foot pecan tree. There are two giant birds making food runs all during daylight hours that last less than 10 minutes round trip, obviously feeding chicks. I have no idea where they are finding a reliable supply of food that nearby. The tree is about 1/4 mile away and very tall and all I can make out about the birds is that they’re a uniform dark color and have got to be more than 5 foot wingspan.

        According to the research I have done there are no birds in this area (central Mississippi) that are this big, and raise chicks as a pair, and build nests in the top of large trees. Vultures don’t build nests and don’t nest in trees. Golden eagles don’t breed anywhere within 3000 miles of here. None of the hawk family is this large except the common black hawk, but they breed almost exclusively in coastal areas and we’re 150 miles inland. I am stumped.

        • timbo says:

          I thought there was a breeding program for the eagles east of Lake Pontchatrain somewhere 25+ years ago; went and so it in fact. Maybe it’s been working? Looking at the intertubes, I see that it was bald eagles nesting that I went and looked at. Maybe they’re golden bald eagles? ;D

        • Trent says:

          That’s a big-ass pecan tree… any catfish farms nearby? How about Great Blue Herons? They can eat a hell of a lot of fish. The trout stocking program on the Chattahoochee has increased their population around here exponentially.

        • Kick the darkness says:

          Are you able to glass them with binoculars? Dark phase red-tail hawks will look uniformly dark at 1/4 mile, but 5 ft would be pushing the upper limit on wingspan. If near lake/river, osprey comes to mind as another possibility, and they might be willing to fly aways for a big solid nesting tree. Lots of white underneath, but might not be apparent when perched, backlit, or if mostly see upper side of wings and back as they fly back and forth at distance. Pretty big with long wings, but overall slim looking. If common black hawk refers to the same bird I’m thinking of (arid southwest in USA) it would, to use a birding phrase, stop traffic in Mississippi. Sexually mature bald eagles will have the diagnostic white head/tail, although juveniles are uniformly dark. Bringing up golden eagles piqued my curiosity. They regularly migrate and winter throughout the east, and have been reported to occur year round in spots in the southern appalachians and the everglades. Like bald eagles, they will build nests in the tops of big trees. There are these rumors of nesting, but never confirmed AFAIK.

        • cat herder says:

          Yes, there have been a few reports/photos of bald eagles nesting locally, but these ain’t them. I can see them well enough to rule out any white markings and especially not on the head. I watch them with (not very good) binocs, don’t have any camera gear suitable for this kind of thing. Body type/size/habits just scream ‘golden eagle!’ to a non-bird-person like me though. Only the location is wrong, wrong, wrong.

          I’m going to contact the State bird people, see what they say.

        • P J Evans says:

          Out of curiosity, what kind of binocs are you using? I have a pair that’s 8×20 (maybe 10×20) “sport” binocs that I use for birding, because they’re light weight (though not very high quality). My 7x50s are much better quality but too heavy for long use. Some people use spotting scopes for this, though those need tripods.

        • cat herder says:

          I HAVE PHOTOS!

          Goddamn cellphone through 40 year old Sears binocular photos, but they came out better than I ever would have guessed. One shows mom/dad landing with some piece of food in its beak, other is a beautiful full profile shot from underneath as mom/dad leaves again.

          Where is a non-asshole hosting site where I can put them up?

        • cat herder says:

          I am distinctly abnormal. I don’t allow any Google cookies, only access my Gmail thru Thunderbird, and only allow Google javascript on a page-by-page basis. I even have most of their unnecessary fonts and script hosting domains blocked in my hosts file.

          Are there any anonymous, free, allows direct access to images without embedding in an ad-infested html page hosting sites like there used to be ~10 years ago?

        • Rayne says:

          I can’t think of any off the top of my head. Flickr has been acquired and changed their business model recently. You’re better off editing down to a couple choice shots and sharing via a photo service provider like Snapfish, a free blog like, or other social media platform.

        • Kick the darkness says:

          Those little cell phone lenses are amazing things. If you find a way that satisfies your criteria, load them up! If you got a shot from underneath, still completely dark?

        • cat herder says:

          These are 1:1 crops, not enlarged (all the blurriness is present in the originals).

          These are on a machine I control, I can shut it down whenever I want. So don’t be afraid of the non-https.

          and… that isn’t a pecan tree, I noticed today the known pecan trees closer to me are not fully leafed out yet. Don’t know what it is. (no I’m not going to embark on a mystery tree identification project next)

        • Kick the darkness says:

          The profile of the flying bird in the second picture, uniform dark markings and appearance of the nest would fit well with crows. Although that would not fit would your impression of their size. Have your heard them make any sound as they approach or leave the nest?

        • cat herder says:

          Definitely not a crow, unless there are crows big enough to snatch up and carry off a small human or a large dog. Preliminary ID of golden eagle.

          I do have audio of *something* I have been hearing out there for many years, but it always shuts up as soon as I go out to look. Sound is a close match only with golden eagle.

          Audio file and another non-zoomed-in picture that gives an idea of scale located over here:

        • Kick the darkness says:

          The audio link didn’t work for me on the whatbird site. Despite their difference in size, the overall “jiz” of a crow and GE in flight are remarkably similar. Here is a link I found from a guy who photo’d them side by side and you can see the profile similarity (ttps:// I dropped the “h” to avoid loading in the thread. One thing to look for-the GE will have a real sharp eagle hook to its beak, which is one thing i was looking for in your photos. In a past life I monitored a few GE, one BE nest and some falcon nests as part of a breeding raptor program. Eagles nests are “flattened” on top and are sufficiently large so that an adult human could curl up inside. Definitely get it pinned down because if it is a GE, it may well be a first nesting record for MS. Remarkably good pics BTW!

  15. Margo Schulter says:

    As an aside to punaise and all, maybe the allusion to defenstration (however cruel, unusual, and disproportionate a response to a good pun) is prompted by the approaching 600th anniversary of the first Defenestration of Prague (30 July 1419). And please keep those puns coming!

    • Tom says:

      Cruel and unusual, yes, but probably quicker and less painful than execution by lethal injection.

    • P J Evans says:

      Defenestration is traditional for puns, at least in the circles I travel with. OF course, it’s not very useful if you’re on the ground floor.

        • P J Evans says:

          One of the colleges I went to had buildings designed on the “cluster plan” – multiple corridors on each floor, running at right angles like a street grid, so that classrooms had names like “Acacia F203”. The only way you could defenestrate anyone effectively was by throwing them through a second-floor window, either into the cafeteria (on the ground floor) or out of the chemistry lab (which had the best view on campus: from San Jose all the way to Mt Tamalpais, about 70 miles, on a good day).

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