OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
A video of WNBA player Brittney Griner being swapped for convicted Russian terrorist and arms dealer Viktor Bout at an airport went viral after observers noticed something very odd about it.
The clip, which was taken by the Russian news agency Tass, shows Griner, dressed in a red jacket, walking across an airport tarmac with three men as Bout walked towards them with a man next to him. “Bout shook the hands of a couple of people in the video before an obvious cut appeared in the film. The footage then resumes just moments later showing Griner walking away from Bout,” the Daily Wire reported.
Russian news agency TASS publishes footage of the Brittney Griner/Viktor Bout exchange. pic.twitter.com/QmOItTEQ3O
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) December 8, 2022
Critics noted the cut instantly, “and it appeared as though Griner was posturing herself to shake Bout’s right hand when the footage was cut,” the Daily Wire noted.
The outlet reported further that in 2011, Bout was convicted on charges of terrorism for attempting to supply tens of millions of dollars in anti-aircraft missiles to FARC rebels in Colombia so they could shoot down U.S. military helicopters.
“There’s a jump cut here at :13 as everyone is shaking hands and hugging and right before it looks like Griner maybe going in to shake hands with Bout?” political commentator Stephen L. Miller tweeted. “Probably not great optics there to have your star prisoner swap shaking hands with the most notorious arms dealer on the planet.”
Newsmax host Rob Schmitt tweeted in agreement: “You can tell Griner went in for a handshake with Viktor Bout and it was completely edited out.”
Citing official sources, CBS News reported exclusively that Griner was “released Thursday in a one-for-one prisoner swap for international arms dealer” 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.
In a tweet from his official Twitter account, Biden wrote: “She is safe. She is on a plane. She is on her way home.”
In August, reports claimed that Russian officials had confirmed that Moscow was in talks to swap Griner and another American being held in Russia, Paul Whelan, for Bout, the notorious “Merchant of Death” arms dealer who has been imprisoned in the United States since 2010.
At the time, a former DEA agent sounded the alarm on this potential deal, calling it “dangerous” for the U.S. and the West.
Rob “Zach” Zachariasiewicz, in an op-ed for USA Today, warned against trading Bout for Griner.
“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,” the former DEA agent wrote.
“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,” he 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 further.
“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 added.