Former agents of the US Drug Enforcement Administration involved in the prosecution of the “merchant of death” Victor Booth described his trade to Russia for the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner as a “disgrace” and a “serious threat” to the national security of the United States. .
Griner, who has been held in a Russian prison since February, was released Thursday to cheers from Biden administration officials. But former DEA officials have previously opposed the release of Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer, and at least former DEA Special Agent Derek Maltz slammed the news as a “blow to the rule of law.”
“Americans should be very careful when traveling around the world. This decision has put Americans at great risk,” Maltz tweeted Thursday, calling Booth’s arrest a “total disgrace.” He oversaw the agents who secured Booth’s arrest in Thailand in 2008. Before his release, Booth served 25 years in federal prison in 2011 for conspiring to kill Americans in support of a Colombian terrorist organization.
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After reports of a possible trade for Bout emerged in May, one former official said the trade would be a “slap in the face” to those who worked tirelessly to put him behind bars.
Michael Brown, former chief of operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration, wrote Article for Foreign Policy magazine That Bout in August was “dangerous”. Brown, a 35-year veteran of federal law enforcement, was tasked with “ultimate oversight” of the operation that led to Booth’s arrest and incarceration.
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“Bout’s bypass would not only be a slap in the face to the law enforcement officers and operatives who worked to bring Bout down, but many of them would have risked their lives in the process.” the United States and its allies,” Brown wrote.
He explained that Booth was a former Russian intelligence agent who was involved in the arms trade in the 1990s. “By 2003, he had become the world’s most notorious arms dealer, arming US-designated terrorist organizations, insurgent groups, drug cartels and corrupt regimes around the world,” Brown wrote.
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“Booth’s massive international enterprise,” according to the US government, “can transport tons of tanks, helicopters and weapons anywhere in the world,” he continued. “It has been particularly damaging to Africa, where rebel and terrorist groups have killed hundreds of thousands of innocents with their weapons, as depicted in the Nicolas Cage film. Lord of War. “The weapons Bout sold to the Taliban were used against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.”
The US government targeted Booth with sanctions in 2004 and ordered the DEA to arrest him in 2006 under anti-narcotics laws. Two years later, the DEA, in cooperation with Thai police, conducted a sting operation in Bangkok that saw Booth arrested. He was accused of conspiring to sell weapons, including portable surface-to-air missiles, to be used against US personnel in Colombia, and of his public statements declaring that he had “fought the US for 10 to 15 years”. .”
Brown predicted that Bout, if released, could become an asset to Russia by “planning and executing covert supply missions in support of Russian proxies in Africa, such as the Wagner Group, Venezuela and other hot spots.”
“A trade war will encourage Moscow and other rogue regimes to hold Americans hostage, furthering the precedent of Biden replacing Trevor Reed, an American who was in Russia earlier this year, with another Russian criminal imprisoned in the United States,” Brown warned. “We can expect Moscow to double down on Americans trading with Russian cybercriminals extradited to the United States by allied nations.”
Fox News has reached out to Maltz and Brown for further comment.