It appears that WNBA star Brittney Griner is now a free woman, according to reports on Thursday, but how she was released has already caused a stir.
CBS News reported exclusively that President Biden signed off last week on swapping Griner for Viktor Bout, a notoriously dangerous arms dealer who has been in a U.S. prison since 2010. The outlet said she was “released Thursday in a one-for-one prisoner swap for international arms dealer Viktor Bout.”
“The one-for-one exchange agreement negotiated with Moscow in recent weeks was given final approval by President Biden within just the last week, according to sources familiar with the deal. The swap, first reported by CBS News, took place on Thursday in the United Arab Emirates,” the outlet noted further.
“A White House official said President Biden was in the Oval Office Thursday morning on the phone, speaking with Griner, and her wife Cherelle Griner and Vice President Kamala Harris were also in the room. Per standard procedure for freed U.S. prisoners, Griner was expected to quickly undergo a medical evaluation,” the outlet continued.
Biden announced the release on Twitter:
Moments ago I spoke to Brittney Griner.
She is safe.
She is on a plane.
She is on her way home. pic.twitter.com/FmHgfzrcDT
— President Biden (@POTUS) December 8, 2022
Who is Viktor Bout, exactly?
Former DEA agent Rob “Zach” Zachariasiewicz explained who he is an op-ed for USA Today and warned against trading him for Griner or, really, anyone.
“Bout, who is known as the ‘Merchant of Death,’ provided the fuel for conflicts across the globe. He was a critical player in the global illicit arms trade not because he could obtain weapons but because he could deliver his destructive cargo anywhere in the world through his control of a private fleet of military aircraft. And he did just that,” he said.
“A tremendous amount of resources and political capital were spent on the critical national security investigation into Bout’s actions. Lives were placed at risk, and tireless efforts were made. Now many voices are not being adequately considered in these deliberations over whether to free Bout in exchange for an American. Those voices include an entire generation of maimed and orphaned inhabitants of war-torn countries throughout the world, especially in Africa,” Zachariasiewicz added.
“In a recorded undercover meeting, he declared to persons he believed to be terrorist facilitators that the United States was his sworn enemy. He offered them, as part of an extensive arsenal of heavy weapons, hundreds of surface-to-air missiles to be used against U.S. military advisers and the Colombian military,” Zachariasiewicz noted as well.
“Negotiating for Bout’s release is a feckless and shortsighted foreign policy. Such actions merely encourage our adversaries to engage in the kidnapping, illegal detention, and ransoming of American citizens throughout the world,” he wrote.