Bout, convicted in 2011 of attempting to sell tens of millions of dollars worth of missiles to Colombian guerillas so they could shoot down U.S. helicopters, was dubbed the "Merchant of Death" at the time and sentenced to decades behind bars.
His release was so egregious, in fact, that even Democrats were critical of Biden, and that doesn't happen very often at all.
“This should be a moment of deep reflection for the United States government to recognize we have a serious problem with hostage-taking of Americans,” Sen. Bob Menedez (D-N.J.), head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said after hearing the news.
“The Russians and other regimes that take American citizens hostage cannot pretend that there is equivalence between the Brittney Griners of the world and people like Viktor Bout, the so-called ‘Merchant of Death,’” Menendez continued. “Nothing could be further from the truth, and we cannot ignore that releasing Bout back into the world is a deeply disturbing decision.
“We must stop inviting dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans overseas as bargaining chips, and we must try to do better at encouraging American citizens against traveling to places like Russia where they are primary targets for this type of unlawful detention,” he added.
Other national security experts are equally perturbed and dumbfounded.
“I think there is a concern that [he] would return to doing the same kind of work that he’s done in the past,” a senior Defense Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic, told Politico after Bout’s release.
“Every Africanist who has been working on this for years and years probably will have a little piece of flutter of disappointment inside” that Bout was released, the official added. “If his network … were to come to fruition, then we would definitely share the challenges of what illicit weapons or illegal weapons could mean for their prosperity.”
Derek Maltz, a former DEA special agent in charge, described the release as a “blow to the rule of law.”
“Americans should be very careful traveling around the world,” he told Fox News. “This decision has put Americans at a huge risk.”
Well, it turns out that there was some rhyme to the deep state's reasoning after all; it turns out that Bout has a history working with American covert operations.
Journalist Michael Tracey tweeted a screengrab of a story from 2008 noting that Bout flew more than 1,000 supply missions into Iraq on behalf of U.S. forces there.
"'Notorious arms dealer' Viktor Bout, freed today in exchange for Brittney Griner, flew an estimated 1,000 supply missions for the US in the Iraq War," he noted.
"Notorious arms dealer" Viktor Bout, freed today in exchange for Brittney Griner, flew an estimated 1,000 supply missions for the US in the Iraq War pic.twitter.com/fUxeU1KvCc
— Michael Tracey (@mtracey) December 8, 2022
The ABC News story reported at the time:
When U.S. officials announce the arrest of a notorious arms dealer and drug-runner this afternoon, the fact that his planes flew U.S. supply missions in Iraq will likely go unmentioned.
In a January 2005 letter to Congress, then-Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz admitted the Defense Department “did conduct business with companies that, in turn, subcontracted work to second-tier providers who leased aircraft owned by companies associated with Mr. Bout.”
At the time, Bout was already a wanted international fugitive. Intelligence officials had considered Bout one of the greatest threats to U.S. interests, in the same league as al Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden. Interpol had issued a warrant for his arrest; the United Nations Security Council had restricted his travel.
But that didn’t stop U.S. government contractors from paying Bout-controlled firms roughly $60 million to fly supplies into Iraq in support of the U.S. war effort, according to a book released last year by two reporters who investigated Bout. And it didn’t prevent the U.S. military from giving Bout’s pilots millions of dollars in free airplane fuel while they were flying U.S. supply flights.
None of this should surprise anyone, given that our government has been corrupt for decades and the deep state does nothing if not for itself at the expense of We the People.