You may have seen, as our family did, that President Biden was able to speak with Cherelle Griner, Brittney Griner's wife. It was great news that the President was able to take the time to speak to the family of a wrongful detainee. Any wrongful detainee. Our family is grateful that President Biden reaffirmed that he was focused on Paul's case and that of wrongfully detained Americans around the world.
[Readout of President Biden’s Call with Cherelle Griner]
But mostly I was glad that Ms. Griner received the call she has been advocating to receive from the President. It is hard to convey how corrosive being a member of a wrongful detainee's family can be. A call from anyone in the government to show that they care can be hugely beneficial to morale, to help you keep at your advocacy and support for your loved one. It can reassure you that your loved one has not, in fact, been forgotten. And no call could matter more than one from the President.
Fortunately, we have been assured by Secretary Blinken, in a call he had recently with family members, that all wrongful detentions remain a priority [06/22/2022]. But each case is a separate instance of injustice. And each one demands different treatment and may demand a different resolution. It may also result in the U.S. government allocating different resources, including a phone call from the President.
[State Department Press Briefing – June 22, 2022]
That can be hard to take in as a family member. And not because you begrudge another family the resources or even their joy when their loved one is freed and yours is not. But because you wonder: is that what makes the difference? In our case, was it a meeting with President Biden that meant that Trevor Reed was freed? Media stories and social media certainly made that case back in April. Each family has limited resources to bring to bear themselves. If the US government is inconsistent in how it allocates their resources, what is a family to do? What does it mean when requests to meet or talk with the President are ignored?
As I've told some of you, I don't think a Presidential phone call is dispositive. And while it would be an honor to speak to President Biden, I know he's got more important things to do than make that call. I don't for a minute think that President Biden or Secretary Blinken or National Security Advisor Sullivan or even Attorney General Garland is unaware of Paul Whelan's wrongful detention. It would be much more meaningful for someone on President Biden's staff to call our family to say Paul is on a plane home. Or to tell the Department of Justice to spend some research time to determine whether their prejudice against wrongful detainee trades and deterrence has any basis in fact. Or to tell the various Executive agencies charged with solving, and then pre-empting future, wrongful detentions to be more creative and then act.
[ The U.S. has long been wary of prisoner exchanges—and the Justice Department reflexively opposes them ]
Communication from anyone in the U.S. government is a blessing. I'm glad the President was able to help someone today to endure their side of their loved one's injustice.