LONDON – WikiLeaks said President Barack Obama may have saved Chelsea Manning's life by granting clemency to the former Army intelligence analyst Tuesday. But the secret-spilling site said little about founder Julian Assange's promise that he would agree to extradition to the United States if Manning got clemency.
The statement came after Obama announced that Manning would be released May 17, cutting her sentence for leaking classified government and military documents by almost 30 years. She attempted suicide twice last year, her lawyers have said.
"Ms. Manning is a hero, whose bravery should be applauded," Assange said in the statement. "Journalists, publishers, and their sources serve the public interest and promote democracy by distributing authentic information on key matters such as human rights abuses and illegal acts by government officials. They should not be prosecuted."
Assange went on to demand that the U.S. government "should immediately end its war on whistleblowers and publishers, such as WikiLeaks and myself," but he made no mention of a pledge that he made on Twitter five days ago in which he appeared to offer himself up to U.S. authorities in return for Manning's freedom.
The pledge, posted to Twitter on Jan. 12 at 2:40 p.m. EST, said: "If Obama grants Manning clemency Assange will agree to US extradition despite clear unconstitutionality of DoJ case"
Assange lawyer Melinda Taylor suggested that he wouldn't go back on his word. "Everything that he has said he's standing by," she said in a brief telephone conversation with The Associated Press.
She added that WikiLeaks has yet to learn from U.S. and British authorities whether the American government has requested Assange's extradition to the United States.
Taylor didn't respond to a later email message asking why Assange made no mention of his pledge in his statement.
Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London more than four years ago to avoid extradition to Sweden, where authorities are investigating his role in a possible sex crime. Assange has refused to travel to Sweden, saying he fears being extradited to the U.S. over his involvement in publishing classified documents.
Assange's U.S. attorney, Barry J. Pollack of Miller & Chevalier, said that Assange welcomed Obama's action and that the war on whistleblowers should end now. Pollack said he has asked the U.S. Justice Department to clarify Assange's status.
"The Department of Justice should not pursue any charges against Mr. Assange based on his publication of truthful information and should close its criminal investigation of him immediately," Pollack said.
Associated Press Writer Danica Kirka reported this story in London and AP Cybersecurity Writer Raphael Satter reported from Paris.