President Joe Biden’s announcement last week that he’d secured the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner in exchange for setting free Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout wasn’t the first time an American prisoner swap inspired controversy.
RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 2022
Griner, a WNBA basketball star, was released from a Russian prison camp last Wednesday after serving about one month of a nine-year sentence for “smuggling” cannabis oil through a Moscow airport.
- In exchange: Viktor Bout, aka the “Merchant of Death,” an ex-Soviet military officer turned arms dealer, was released by President Joe Biden after 14 years in U.S. prison for conspiring to kill Americans and selling weapons to terrorists.
RELEASE DATE: MAY 2014
Bergdahl, a former sergeant in the U.S. Army, was released by the Taliban five years after he abandoned his outpost in Afghanistan and was captured.
- In exchange, then-President Barack Obama released five senior Taliban figures from Guantanamo Bay.
RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 2014
Gross, a USAID consultant, was released from Cuban prison on humanitarian grounds after serving five years of a 15-year sentence for bringing telecommunications equipment into the country.
- In exchange, Obama released three Cuban intelligence officers who were convicted of conspiring to commit espionage and murder, though the U.S. denied it was a prisoner swap.