WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange says he’ll surrender to U.S. if Chelsea Manning is released from prison

Julian Assange seems to be getting lonely being holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he’s been for five years. But no one can forget about the WikiLeaks founder’s plight with the law. This week, WikiLeaks tweeted that Assange would surrender to the U.S. if Chelsea Manning is released from prison, but that’s not a deal American officials are likely to take him up on. Assange isn’t asking Obama to pardon Manning, which would mean wiping the charges away after serving her 35-year-sentence, but is asking for clemency, which means commuting her sentence and letting her go home early.

President Obama has granted clemency to 575 inmates during his presidency, which is more than the past nine presidents. He’s also denied more than 9,000 requests, so it depends how important Assange is to the ongoing investigation into WikiLeaks in relation to Manning serving time for 19 charges, including 6 counts of espionage and theft. But the U.S. is currently still building a case against Assange for espionage, and there are many hurdles to extraditing the WikiLeaks founder and charging him under the Espionage Act. Both the U.K., where Assange is now, and Sweden, where he could be extradited to face rape charges, have said they wouldn’t allow the United States to extradite Assange if he would face the death penalty. So there are many obstacles to Assange’s plan for a give and take with the American government.

Manning was more clear cut, if only because she was a U.S. citizen and a member of the military. Manning is in a military prison because of Assange and WikiLeaks. In 2013, she was sentenced to 35 years in prison, so clemency would mean that after just 3 years, Manning could get out of the other 30-some years she has left. Back in 2009, Manning, who had a security clearance while serving as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, was one of the first “leakers” to contact WikiLeaks. Assange personally walked Manning through the process of turning over U.S. data to the organization, including the now-famous video of a 2007 Apache helicopter attack that killed two Reuters journalists, along with the thousands of diplomatic cables that brought WikiLeaks, and Assange, international attention.

Assange’s offer to turn himself in came this week just before a Swedish court upheld a decision to extradite Assange from London to face two charges of sexual assault there. The Ecuadorian Embassy has said it will allow an interrogation of Assange in London on Oct. 17. Assange is fearful that after facing charges in Sweden, he could more easily be extradited to the United States to face his espionage charges. This offer seems like a way to pre-empt that in a way, but the kind of exchange he’s suggesting just doesn’t happen in real life. This is not a George Clooney movie.

Assange might be hopping on the negotiation train because this week, Edward Snowden, another whistle blower (or traitor, depending on your perspective) like Manning, had the American Civil Liberties Union ask Obama for a full pardon. Snowden told The Guardian, “There are laws on the books that say one thing, but that is perhaps why the pardon power exists —for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, when we look at the results, it seems these were necessary things, these were vital things.”

That really depends on how you look at the act of leaking classified information. Assange is a weird dude and since the original dump of U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010 through WikiLeaks, he has lost some cache with supporters. His most recent request sort of shows a little break from reality, since there isn’t even a real case or charge against him in the United States right now. The WikiLeaks cause might be noble, but its leader is a complete whackjob.

Manning was recently charged for a suicide attempt this summer and went on a hunger strike in order to get the Army to grant her a gender transition surgery. They did this week, but conditions for Manning in Leavenworth, an all-male prison, are still terrible. If Assange really wanted to help Manning, he might try using his resources to help Manning fight for her rights in prison (which is just more realistic than total clemency) instead of making some bullshit offer that really serves to just get his name in headlines.

Assange also doesn’t seem to realize that with Manning’s sentencing, the U.S. “got” one of the players in the WikiLeaks dump in 2009. Assange is right to think the U.S. would like to talk to him, but prosecuting him could prove difficult, and it just looks a little paranoid for him to think America would essentially “trade” one prisoner for a mere interrogation. But Assange isn’t dumb. He knows that and this looks more like a publicity stunt since a new movie about Snowden’s case, directed by none other than Oliver Stone, is in theaters now. Assange just seems hungry for a little more attention.