Much of the ongoing debate about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange being kicked out of the Ecuadorean embassy in London has centered on whether he could somehow avoid being taken into U.S. custody once his legal woes with the Brits were sorted out. The second question I’ve posed since we heard he would be leaving was whether or not the White House even wanted to deal with the hassle of bringing him here. But now there’s a new twist to the story. Could Assange be planning to come to America voluntarily?
There were some rumors about this earlier in the week but they seemed too unlikely to bring up here. Now, however, there’s at least partial confirmation that the story might be true. Wikileaks is claiming that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee has invited Assange to testify before them without specifying a time or location. And Assange is supposedly giving the proposal serious consideration, assuming he gets something in return. (NPR)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is “seriously considering” a request to testify in person before the U.S. Senate intelligence committee about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to a statement from his lawyer.
Assange has been holed up at Ecuador’s embassy in London since 2012, in part over fears that he could be extradited to the U.S. and potentially face trial over leaking massive troves of documents.
On Wednesday, the WikiLeaks Twitter account posted a letter that it says was delivered to Assange via the U.S. embassy in London. The purported document is signed by committee Chairman Richard Burr and Vice Chairman Mark Warner and asks that Assange “make yourself available for a closed interview with bipartisan Committee staff at a mutually agreeable time and location” as part of the probe.
You can read the letter yourself. It looks official enough and the committee members aren’t denying it. (Though they’re not confirming it, either.)
BREAKING: US Senate Intelligence Committee calls editor @JulianAssange to testify. Letter delivered via US embassy in London. WikiLeaks' legal team say they are "considering the offer but testimony must conform to a high ethical standard". Also: https://t.co/pPf0GTjTlp pic.twitter.com/TrDKkCKVBx
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) August 8, 2018
If this offer is authentic it would have some wide-ranging implications on a number of nagging issues. It’s coming from the two senior members of the Intelligence Committee representing both parties. What would they want to talk to Assange about now? We’ve been interested in possibly arresting him over the publications of the massive trove of military intelligence files he got from Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning, but I seriously doubt he’s interested in coming to America to discuss that. Would they want him to talk about where Wikileaks got the hacked DNC emails from the 2016 election as part of the Russia probe? That’s the more likely answer.
But to get him to voluntarily fly to Washington (assuming that’s where it would happen), he’d probably be demanding complete immunity and a promise that he wouldn’t be taken into custody for any reason. That’s a big ask and if the U.S. is even considering offering it they must think he’s got some seriously interesting stories to tell. Of course, since the letter specified “a mutually agreeable time and location,” they might even be considering traveling to England to talk to him. Wouldn’t that make for some intriguing news cycles?
So could this really be how the Julian Assange saga ends after all these years? He signs an agreement, gives a bit of testimony and rides off into the sunset, returning to the helm of Wikileaks and suffering no consequences? It hardly seems possible, but then again it’s 2018. The boundaries of possibility have been stretched rather thin.