However, the bill sets out to do a job that's already been done. The Obama administration claims it has already taken punitive action against those Russian officials.
The legislation seems to allege that Magnitsky's death was a human rights abuse, representative of intentional policies and practices of the Russian state. But, the facts refute that allegation. The Kremlin's own Human Rights Council reported that Magnitsky had been murdered. The death was called a tragedy by Vladimir Putin. Dmitry Medvedev fired a number of top local and federal prison officials. The Russian government continues to seek a full accounting of the corruption and malfeasance that led to Magnitsky's death.
Given the foregoing, the Magnitsky bill is clearly neither a necessary nor constructive action to support human rights in Russia. The bill seems to be a trumped-up cause that is the product of an international effort to destabilize Russia. It in fact is not an American bill. The Magnitsky bill follows a template provided by foreign agitators who appear to be seeking destabilization and deligitimization in Russia. This foreign effort has resulted in similar legislation being introduced in multiple countries around the world. That's even been acknowledged by some members of Congress.
Destabilizing Russia is not in the interests of the Russian people. It also is not in the interests of the United States. Alienating Russia will compromise burgeoning American business interests there. It will also disadvantage U.S. diplomatic efforts to "reset" the relationship between the two countries.
This Magnitsky disinformation caper is reminiscent of the trap Congress fell into over the Alexander Litvinenko case. In 2007, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) introduced legislation accusing the Russian government of poisoning reputed former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko in London. News reports had quoted a deathbed statement by Litvinenko that fingered Russian president Vladimir Putin. The only trouble is that 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. The deathbed statement 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. It turns out the fake story had been perpetrated by a wealthy arch-enemy of Putin's. But Congress swallowed it all hook, line, and sinker.
It looks like members of the U.S. Senate now have been tricked into supporting another foreign initiative that would have negative consequences for the United States.
I sought comment from two Senators caught up in the fiasco. Sen. Richard Blumenthal is my senator here in Connecticut. He's also a co-sponsor of the Magnitsky Bill. But when I asked his office to comment, the staffers told me they didn't want to talk about it. It was a strange response to give a constituent. I also contacted the office of Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA). He's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, and was responsible for the bill's consideration being put off until June 26. His office not only wouldn't comment, but wouldn't even explain why Webb had asked for the delay. There doesn't seem to be much transparency surrounding this legislation.
The Magnitsky Bill (S-1039) was introduced by Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) and has the following co-sponsors:
Kelly Ayotte, R-NH; Mark Begich, D-AK; Richard Blumenthal, D-CT; Roy Blunt, R-MO; Barbara Boxer, D-CA; Sherrod Brown, D-OH; Richard Burr, R-NC; Robert P. Casey, Jr. D-PA; Tom Coburn, R-OK; Susan M. Collins, R-ME; Christopher A. Coons, D-DE; John Cornyn, R-TX; Jim DeMint, R-SC; Richard Durbin, D-IL; Lindsey Graham, R-SC; Tom Harkin, D-IA; James M. Inhofe, R-OK; Mike Johanns, R-NE; Ron Johnson, R-WI; Mark Steven Kirk, R-IL; Jon Kyl, R-AZ; Mike Lee, R-UT; Joseph I Lieberman,. I-CT; John McCain, R-AZ; Robert Menendez, D-NJ; James E. Risch, R-ID; Marco Rubio, R-FL; Charles E Schumer,. D-NY; Jeff Sessions, R-AL; Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH; John Thune, R-SD; Tom Udall, D-NM; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI; Roger F. Wicker, R-MS; Ron Wyden, R-OR.
I wonder if any of them will do their own homework on this bill, realize what they've fallen into, and have the courage to get out before the damage is done.