This Magnitsky Bill is ostensibly about the 2009 death of Russian Sergei Magnitsky. He was refused medical treatment for his illnesses while in pre-trial detention. His arrest had been in connection with a large tax-evasion case.
But the Bill purports his death is part of a deadly pattern in Russia: dissenters get rubbed out. Magnitsky's defenders claim he had been singled out for his criticism of the government. At the same time, though, the death was called a tragedy by Vladimir Putin. Dmitry Medvedev dismissed a number of top local and federal prison officials. With Russia's officialdom repudiating the treatment Magnitsky received, it's hard to understand the role Ros-Lehtinen envisioned for the seemingly superfluous legislation.
With talk of "the Russian state's contempt for the rule of law," the Bill proclaims "anyone can be silenced," adding that there is grave danger in "exposing the wrongdoing of officials of the Government of the Russian Federation."
The evidence? The Bill presents a non sequiturial litany of Russian tragedies, including the murders of American journalist Paul Klebnikov and Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. But all that doesn't align to support the Bill's overall theme that dissenters get killed.
This isn't Ros-Lehtinen's first Russian witch hunt. In 2007, she introduced legislation accusing the Russian government of poisoning reputed former spy Alexander Litvinenko in London. World headlines trumpeted "Former KGB Spy Murdered on Orders of Putin." They cited a deathbed statement by Litvinenko that contained the accusation.
Ros-Lehtinen had called Litvinenko a dissident. Her resolution seemed to say that another dissenter got rubbed out.
The only trouble with that is the whole murder story was a fabrication. I wrote a book titled The Phony Litvinenko Murder. In it I show that Litvinenko was not a spy, and he never worked for the KGB. What's more, the London coroner never deemed his death to be a homicide. And the deathbed statement? It turned out to be a fake. A former Soviet citizen later confessed that it was he who wrote the words, not Litvinenko. He also admitted there was no evidence to back up his accusation against Putin.
So Ros-Lehtinen's resolution literally made a big deal out of nothing.
The fabricator of the deathbed statement turns out to be part of a London-based cabal of former Russians. They hired a top London PR firm to promote their phony story about Litvinenko. According to widely-circulated news reports, this group's aim is to depose the Russian government by force. The group wants to install Prince Harry as a monarch in Russia.
Doesn't all that sound utterly preposterous? But it seems to be the kind of nonsense Ros-Lehtinen was taken in by.
I don't know if those same people cooked up the Magnitsky Bill's indictment of Russia. But listen to what a Massachusetts congressman said when he introduced the Magnitsky Bill: "I would also like to underscore that this effort is far from just a U.S. initiative. Similar legislation is being considered in nearly a dozen other legislatures around the world." So this looks like just another foreign-orchestrated flimflam. I wonder whose PR firm is coordinating this international effort!
Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen seems to have committed herself to a perpetual Russian witch hunt. She's cast her lot with the foreign agitators. But the Congressmen who have sponsored the bill should wise-up and opt-out. They may have been duped at first. But the sponsor and co-sponsors should now withdraw and dissociate themselves from Ros-Lehtinen's nonsense.
Those Congressmen are: James P. McGovern, MA-3; Howard L. Berman, CA-28; Dan Burton, IN-5; Ken Calvert, CA-44; Steve Cohen, TN-9; Gerald E. "Gerry" Connolly, VA-11; Theodore E. Deutch, FL-19; Andy Harris, MD-1; Alcee L. Hastings, FL-23; Wally Herger, CA-2; Maurice D. Hinchey, NY-22; Lynn Jenkins, KS-2; William R. Keating, MA-10; Sander M. Levin, MI-12; John Lewis, GA-5; Tom Marino, PA-10; Jim McDermott, WA-7; Michael H. Michaud, ME-2; Bill Pascrell, Jr. NJ-8; Joseph R. Pitts, PA-16; Charles B. Rangel, NY-15; Peter J. Roskam, IL-6; Edward R. Royce, CA-40; Janice D. Schakowsky, IL-9; Aaron Schock, IL-18; Albio Sires, NJ-13; Christopher H. Smith, NJ-4; Edolphus Towns, NY-10; Turner, Michael R. OH-3; Robert L. Turner, NY-9; Joe Wilson, SC-2; Frank R. Wolf, VA-10.