Bloomberg News: President Biden made a bad deal for Brittney Griner

My cmnt: O’Biden deserves NO credit whatsoever for “bringing” Griner home. After leaving 100s of Americans and Afghans who worked with us behind in his disgraceful Afghanistan troop withdrawal we all saw his true colors. The reason this brain-dead, demented Faux-president made a horrendous trade for Griner is that she represents everything the democrat base deems important. As a female, androgynous, black, lesbian, basketball player she checks all of the boxes of a top democrat constituency. She represents the ultimate in the democrat hierarchy of victimhood.

My cmnt: Like his buddy Obummer, who exchanged known Taliban terrorists and murderers properly kept in Gitmo for the deserter Bowe Bergdahl, O’biden made a very bad deal. Of course deserters do represent another highly admired democrat constituency.

Four Taliban members swapped for Bowe Bergdahl now in Afghan government

By Samuel Chamberlain September 7, 2021 – The New York Post

Four of the five Taliban members released from Guantanamo Bay by the Obama administration in 2014 in exchange for admitted US Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl are part of the Islamic fundamentalist group’s new hardline government in Afghanistan, according to local media reports.

The four members of the so-called “Taliban Five” who have joined the new government are Acting Director of Intelligence Abdul Haq Wasiq, Acting Minister of Borders and Tribal Affairs Norullah Noori, Deputy Defense Minister Mohammad Fazl, and Acting Minister of Information and Culture Khairullah Khairkhah. The fifth member of the Taliban Five, Mohammad Nabi Omari, was appointed governor of eastern Khost province last month.

Afghan outlet TOLOnews published a list Tuesday of members of the new “caretaker” government, which features several familiar faces who helped run the war-torn country between 1996 and 2001 — when the Taliban were forced from power by US-led NATO forces following the 9/11 attacks.

Wasiq, Fazl and Khairkhah all held positions in the former Taliban government — Wasiq as a deputy intelligence chief, Fazl as army chief of staff and Khairkhah as interior minister.

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The release of WNBA star Brittney Griner after 10 months of Russian detention is cause for justifiable celebration. It has spared Griner from the possibility of years in a Russian penal colony, a punishment that far exceeded her alleged offense, and reunited her with friends and family.

President Joe Biden deserves credit for his commitment to bringing her home. That doesn’t mean the deal to secure her freedom was a good one.

Griner’s release came after months of negotiations, held amid escalating tensions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. She had been arrested in February at a Moscow airport on charges of possessing small amounts of cannabis oil. Despite admitting guilt and issuing a public apology, she was sentenced to nine years and transferred to one of Russia’s notorious prison camps, where inmates are typically subjected to brutal living conditions and forced labor.

Welcome as Griner’s release may be, though, much about this process gives cause for concern.

One worry is the deal itself. In exchange for Griner, the U.S. agreed to pardon Viktor Bout, a convicted arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence in Illinois. Bout was responsible for supplying weapons to rogues and terrorists around the world — many committed to killing Americans — from the Taliban to Colombia’s leftist FARC rebels to former Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. (His exploits earned him the nickname “Merchant of Death.”) He’s believed to have links to the Russian intelligence apparatus and to members of President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. A Kremlin spokesperson called Bout’s release from U.S. custody “a true Christmas present.”

Given the intense public interest in Griner’s case, Biden had considerable motivation to make a deal. Yet on balance the U.S. got the worst of it. Bout’s conviction in 2011 came after years of painstaking effort by U.S. intelligence, diplomatic and law enforcement agencies. Exchanging such a dangerous criminal for an athlete with no discernible intelligence value to Russia is, unavoidably, an affront to the U.S. justice system. The Biden administration also dropped its insistence that the Kremlin include Paul Whelan, the former U.S. Marine serving a 16-year sentence for alleged espionage — a concession that Putin will undoubtedly use as a propaganda tool to bolster his flagging image at home.

It’s also fair to question the administration’s priorities. By one estimate, 60 U.S. citizens are held as hostages or otherwise wrongfully detained overseas. (The government does not publish an official number.) Given the administration’s self-congratulatory social-media barrage following the release, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Griner’s celebrity was a major reason her cause was treated with outsized urgency. Whelan’s family gave a very generous statement celebrating Griner’s release — while also noting that it was “a catastrophe for Paul.” Other families may feel the same way.

A final concern is about the precedent this case sets. In its almost desperate willingness to do a deal, the Biden administration has risked emboldening other regimes to detain prominent Western citizens and use them as leverage. Going forward, Biden needs to make clear to America’s adversaries — and to the public — that while the U.S. remains committed to seeking the release of all citizens held unjustly abroad, it will not come at the expense of the country’s national security.

As democracies around the world have learned, negotiating prisoner swaps is a dirty business. America should welcome Griner’s return unreservedly. But it needs to take a hard look at the process that brought her home.

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