In a Q&A on Periscope today, Julian Assange continued to squirm around questions over what exactly would be required for him to fulfill his promise to face charges in the United States should President Obama grant clemency to Chelsea Manning, as he did on Tuesday.
The problem, Assange seems to say, is that there are currently no public charges against him. The US Justice Department has been investigating Assange and WikiLeaks for seven years over the publication of sensitive documents leaked by Manning. While it's assumed that the DOJ plans to file charges, and has possibly even filed for extradition, none of that is public right now.
"We look forward to having a conversation with the DOJ about what the correct way forward is," Assange said. "We say of course that they should immediately drop the case or they should unseal their extradition request if they have one, unseal their charges if they have one."
Assange didn't state explicit requirements that would have to be met for him to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he's been in asylum for over four years, and face extradition. But he did call for more specifics from the US government on what charges he’ll face and seemed to want some guarantees about his rights throughout the trial.
Asked several times about facing extradition, Assange stated again and again that he was willing to go the United States but alluded to various hold ups. “I’ve always been willing to go to the United States provided that my rights are respected, because this is a case that should never have occurred,” Assange said.
Assange says he believes he would beat any charges filed against him in the United States related to WikiLeaks. But he also seems to be concerned about exactly what charges are filed against him. In one response, he brought up the Espionage Act and showed concern over being unable to use a public interest defense when fighting such a charge in court. This is the same act under which the US would likely prosecute Edward Snowden, given the opportunity.
“We have to have a discussion with the DOJ about what is their proposal,” Assange said. “At the moment, they don’t have a proposal.”
Assange is also wanted in Sweden over rape allegations, which he has denied. He says he will not return to Sweden without a guarantee that they won’t extradite him to the United States.