Why Prisoner Swaps With Foreign Countries Can Be So Controversial

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While the U.S. government has a firm policy of not negotiating with terrorist organizations for hostages, when it comes to foreign governments, that’s not the case. For years both Democratic and Republican administrations have participated in prisoner swaps, according to NBC News. “The reality is that hostages come home in negotiated settlements,” Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post columnist who had been imprisoned in Iran for more than a year, told NBC. “There is always some sort of concession.”

The practice can be controversial. Many feel the policy only encourages U.S. adversaries to illegally detain more U.S. citizens. But leaving Americans in dangerous and desperate conditions isn’t a palatable option. “We have to make tough choices and engage in tough negotiations to bring these American citizens home.” State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said in response to criticism over the latest prisoner swap (via NBC). On September 18, 2023, the Biden administration swapped five Americans for the same number of Iranians and released $6 billion in Iranian funds back to that country, per the AP. Another issue involves uneven swaps in which innocent Americans get traded for dangerous international criminals.

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