Suggested listing

A Russian version of this piece was published by Комсомольская Правда (June 27, 2012)

A piece of legislation, the Magnitsky bill, is steadily moving through the bowels of U.S. Congress. It bears the name of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian tax attorney who died under suspicious circumstances in the Moscow police custody in 2009. If adopted, the bill will create a list of Russian officials suspected in “human right abuses.”

Legislating by creating lists is an interesting invention of our perennially innovative lawmakers. The problem with the Magnitsky bill, though, is that it’s unclear which exactly American interests were affected by Magnitsky’s tragic death. For, if our elected officials do take into account the U.S. national interest – or care about human rights in their own country – they ought to consider a number of completely different lists.

They could start, for example, with creating an Adam Montoya list. In 2009, Montoya was sentenced to a prison term for counterfeiting commercial checks and credits cards. Shortly after arriving at the Pekin, Illinois, federal penitentiary, Montoya began complaining of abdomen pain.  For nine days, he pleaded with his guards to take him to the doctor; they refused and instead gave him Tylenol. On the morning of Nov. 13, 2009, Montoya was found dead in his cells. The autopsy showed that he had died of internal bleeding caused by a burst spleen. Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice denied a wrongful death and personal injury claim filed by the Montoya family.

Why did Congress not create a list of people responsible for Montoya’s death? Is it because our legislators have no interest in an “ordinary” victim of the U.S. criminal justice system?

Well, if members of Congress do prefer high-profile cases in distant countries, they would have considered creating a “bin Laden” list. We know that for the 6 years preceding his death, Osama bin Laden had been living a comfortable life in an upper-middle-class city of Abbottabad, Pakistan.  Does anyone in their right mind believe that bin Laden’s whereabouts were a secret for Pakistani authorities? The only unknown, perhaps, is whether they simply “knew” about his presence in Abbottabad or were providing him with active operational support.  It also remains to be established whether this knowledge rested with a bunch of middle-level military and ISI officers or went all the way to the top of Pakistani military and intelligence leadership.

Why then did Congress not create a list of Pakistani military and intelligence officials who should be held responsible for harboring the al-Qaeda leader, whether willingly or by an outrageous dereliction of professional duty?  These individuals must be denied entry into the United States — and their banks accounts frozen — until the Pakistani government provides a comprehensive report on what it knew about bin Laden’s multiyear sojourn in Abbottabad. And mind you, we aren’t talking here about a case of mid-level corruption in Russia, as in Magnitsky case; we’re talking about the world’s once most wanted terrorist responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people.

Sticking with Pakistan for a bit more, Congress could have also considered creating the Shakil Afridi list. Afridi is a Pakistani doctor who cooperated with the CIA to help locate Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. For this act of courage, Afridi was sentenced to 33 years imprisonment for treason. Why did Congress not create a list of Pakistani investigative and judiciary officials responsible for the outraging treatment of a man who risked his life defending our national security?

I’ll explain you why: lobbyists hired by the Pakistani government rushed to Capitol Hill and told members of Congress that Islamabad knew nothing. Zero. Zilch. And guess what? It was enough for our usually vigilant legislators to drop the matter.

A lesson that Russia has so far stubbornly refused to learn is simple: Moscow must begin lobbying its interests in the United Sates. For, with a functional pro-Russian lobby, the Magnitsky bill would have never emerged.

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
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29 Responses to Suggested listing

  1. I absolutely agree with you Eugene.

    By the way I think the parallel you draw with Pakistan is a brilliant one. Logically the US ought to be on far worse terms with Pakistan than it is with Russia. After all jihadi terrorists and Taliban fighers who are killing Americans have their bases there. I completely agree with you by the way that it beggars belief that the Pakistanis were unaware of Osama bin Lauden’s presence in Abbotabad (if he’d been found holed up in compound near Damascus would anyone have any doubts that the Syrians knew he was there?). Yet Pakistan has an organised lobby in the US that represents its interests so it gets away free.

    • Eugene says:

      Dear Alexander,

      My last year’s post on “bin Laden list” actually includes some facts (including money involved) with regards to the actions of the Pakistani lobby in the US:

      So let me put it as cynically as I only can: Russia is always guilty because it doesn’t contribute to the election campaign of US congressmen.


      • rkka says:

        “Russia is always guilty because it doesn’t contribute to the election campaign of US congressmen.”

        I can see the headlines the instant a US congress-critter accepts a dime from a Russian lobbyist…

        It wouldn’t be pretty.

        • Eugene says:

          “…a US congress-critter accepts a dime from a Russian lobbyist…”

          This isn’t how it works. There are many “subtle” ways to make political contributions that are often made difficult to track. US congressmen take money — indirectly, of course — from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China and from some US-operating Russian companies. Have you ever heard outcry?

  2. rkka says:

    “A lesson that Russia has so far stubbornly refused to learn is simple: Moscow must begin lobbying its interests in the United Sates.”

    Wouldn’t help. The Anglosphere Foreign Policy Elite and Punditocracy hate Russia, and nothing is going to change that except abject Russian submission on every issue, like the AFPE&P got from Gorbachev and Yeltsin.

    “”For, with a functional pro-Russian lobby, the Magnitsky bill would have never emerged.”

    And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

    • Eugene says:

      Wouldn’t help? Let’s try first. Surrendering in advance makes bad policy — and politics.

      If all wishes were horses, U.S. politics would have been made exclusively at Kentucky Derby. But it’s not.

      • rkka says:

        What I suggest is that the Russian government hit the AFPE&P where it hurts, the wallets of the plutocracy that funds them, if the Magnitsky bill passes. They should do that by slapping punitive tarriffs on US exports to Russia. GM’s Russian division is the most profitable one GM has, so GM cars get tarriffs. Same with aircraft from Boeing. Same with US meat products and services.

        “But what about the WTO?” you will ask.

        At present, practically none of Russia’s exports to the US benefit from the WTO. The US sells vehicles, aircraft, meat products, and a wide range of services to Russia. Russia sells a bit of oil, and aluminum, and other raw materials to the US. Oh, and Stoli.

        Russia would win a trade war with the US.

        Then, once it is clear who can do what to whom economically, the Russian government can then negotiate with the USG with nonsense like the Magnitsky bill off the table, since the US plutocracy will have learned what happens when they give Anglosphere Russophobes too much influence.

        But as things stand now, a lobbying effort would just be p*ssing into a hurricane.

        • Eugene says:

          I agree with your first (and also last) point. If Russia stopped making unspecified retaliation threats, but instead told very specifically which countermeasures to the Magnitsky bill it will undertake, the whole outcome of the bill could have been different. The Obama administration could have struck a better deal with Congress, or the business lobby would have extinguished the bill in its cradle. Now obviously it’s too late.

          I, however, disagree on the WTO. The energy and subsoil mining companies are usually not subject of the WTO rules, so it’s not surprising that they won’t benefit from Russia’s WTO membership. But turning your argument from its head back to its feet, it’s Russia’s other companies, including IT, that suffer from high US tariffs, which must be gone once Russian is in the WTO. Meaning that more Russian companies will be able to sell their products in the US.

          I won’t argue with you on Stoli: you seem to be an expert here. But let me remind you that Russia controls about 40% of the U.S. market for the fuel for nuclear power stations. And, by the way, who’s flying Americans to the international space station?

  3. AK says:

    Excellent article, Eugene!

    I didn’t know that thing about Afridi. On the one hand, the US should have offered to exfiltrate him and given him US citizenship for his services. If they didn’t and just left him hang out to dry then that’s just disgraceful. On the other hand, what he did WAS treason – cooperating with a foreign intelligence agency on his own country’s soil. So the Pakistani prosecution was justified. I do not think that would be cause for an “Afridi List”.

    • Eugene says:

      Thanks Anatoly!

      I’d leave it to some other than Pakistani lawyers to qualify Afridi’s actions. After all, bin Laden was a foreign national residing in Pakistan illegally — and I’m not sure whether it was PROVEN Afridi knew he was cooperating specifically with the CIA.

      That said, I’m flexible: let’s compose a joint bin Laden/Afridi list:)


  4. says:

    I remember John McCain was trying to get Oleg Deripaska to grease his palms. Should we conclude that Deripaska is part of the anti-Putin (or Russia) establishment? Because McCain has not stopped his usual grandstanding on Russia.

    And for your list, I would suggest the people involved in the state murder of Cameron Todd Willingham. The forensic scientist brought into reexamine the case called the fire marshal’s testimony characteristic of “mystics or psychics”.

  5. Alex says:

    “Moscow must begin lobbying its interests in the United Sates”
    In this particular case, there is a strong competition on the “market”. I am sure that the US Senators who support/push the various versions of Magnitsky list all are selfishly fighting for the human rights and the greater good for the whole mankind and have no other reasons to be interested in the case.. However it is hard to say the same about Browder and Firestone.

  6. Eugene says:


    I’m sure you know that our senators ALWAYS selfishly fights for the human rights — as well as other worthy issues. Yet, miraculously, someone ALWAYS contributes to their election campaigns.


  7. Andor says:

    I suggest adding to the list the 1989 US invasion of Panama. The disproportional use of force by the US Armed Forces caused over a thousand of civilian deaths. Many of the victims burned alive in their own homes.

  8. Dear Eugene,

    I have just read this comment on Interfax, which I must say I found very depressing.

  9. Eugene says:

    Dear Alexander,

    I find it depressing too. However, I’m not surprised at all, as the approach “The worse for the Kremlin, the better for us” is quite typical for the Russian opposition. It actually goes way back to famous Lenin’s WWI slogan “Wish the defeat to your own government!” 🙂

    What Alexeyeva and Co. don’t fully realize is that neither the Magnitsky bill nor Russia’s potential retaliation can really affect the relations between the two countries. Russia-EU relations is a different matter, because Russia can inflict serious damage on EU should it decide to retaliate. That’s why the adoption of a Magnitsky bill, European style, doesn’t look very likely to me at this point.


      • marknesop says:

        Perhaps a “Pat Tillman Bill” ought to be considered also. Pat Tillman, football hero who turned down a substantial pro sports contract offer to join the U.S. Army Rangers instead, was somehow killed by his own troops in Afghanistan. I say “somehow killed” because the initial story was that he was killed by the enemy while heroically defending his comrades in an engagement. Suspicions that this was a lie, and that the army was cynically exploiting his death for propaganda purposes, followed quickly, and it developed that he was accidentally killed by his own fellow soldiers, although the army fought valiantly to cover it up and military lawyers exchanged congratulatory emails on their success at thwarting investigators. Medical reports later suggested an even more bizarre possibility; that the 3 closely-grouped M-16 rounds in his forehead argued he had been shot from a distance of around 10 yards, giving birth to the theory that he had been deliberately killed because of the danger he represented as an “anti-war icon”.

        That’s not really a human-rights issue, although his family suffered terribly, but the senior military officers and military lawyers who were part of the cover-up should not get away free. They should go on some kind of punishment list so everyone knows who they are. If that occurred in the Russian military we would never hear the end of it.

        • Eugene says:

          Thanks Mark!

          You open a topic for crowdsourcing, and the results begin pouring in…:)

          Perhaps, I’d draw a line where national security issues may get involved. I’m not saying they were in the Tillman case, but at least the Army can claim that.

          And this is what troubles me in the Magnitsky case: which exactly U.S. national interests were damaged? One guy on Twitter tried to explain me that some money was laundered through U.S. banks. (No proof of that, as far as I know.) So, I asked him? Why not punish first U.S. banks for making profits on dirty money? He disappeared.

          All right, I think my next post will be about Adam Montoya case #2.


          • marknesop says:

            I am completely confident that if the Russian government and its prosecutors did not believe they had a solid case against Magnitsky, they would drop it, and hope people forgot it and moved on. As it is, the country is being dragged through the muck daily for putting dead Magnitsky on trial, making his poor mother endure a living hell, bla bla bla – the usual violins playing to the gallery of bobbleheads. Why would the Russian government submit its nation to such a flood of vituperation if there was any truth to the Saint Sergei story? I’m sorry he’s dead, as I’m sorry for everyone who dies short of what they could have expected to be a normal lifespan. But Browder is a little hazy on the details of why he was barred from returning to Moscow, and he said nothing about it at the time – probably because it would spook investors. He likewise said nothing about poor Sergei Magnitsky being jailed until he was dead, at which point he suddenly became overcome with sorrow about his situation and vowed that Russia would suffer for it. Bill Browder could have afforded the finest lawyers in Russia to beat on the government’s doors daily, demanding the charges against Magnitsky be substantiated or dropped, and that his case be heard at once. Is it normal for those awaiting trial for simple fiscal malfeasance to wait for months and months? Can the government not put on its case faster than that? Perhaps not, if suspicion continued to grow and the investigation to spread.

            So here we are now, with dead Magnitsky to finally have his day in court; according to the source I read, the first-ever posthumous trial for Russia. Once again, suggestions that Russia deliberately provokes the west just for the fun of it are unsubstantiated, and there is considerable evidence to the contrary. If the Russian government believed the likely result would be “not guilty” , and the world would spit on Russia for killing an innocent man, it would not continue to pursue the matter. Obviously, the government believes there is something there and that it can prove it.

            • Eugene says:


              I’m afraid you overestimate the power of Russian “government,” if you mean by that the Kremlin and the White House. The bureaucracy in Russia is so huge and powerful that no “government” can effectively control it anymore. On the other hand, is it different from any other country?

              So, I personally wouldn’t guess the motifs of the government. But Browder’s motif seems quite clear to me — and I think I already alluded to that in this space. You have someone working for you dying defending your interests — regardless the cause. Normally, you would have to properly compensate the family of the deceased. However, if you claim, as Browder did, that the deceased was an innocent victim of a repressive regime, then not only you don’t have to pay anything; you become the victim yourself.

              The Cardin’s motif is even simpler: he’s up for re-election this year, and obviously needs campaign contributions.

              Am I oversimplifying?


  10. Dear Eugene,

    On checking your blog today I noticed that your article or a variation of it has been published in Komsomolskaya Pravda.

    The first thing to say is Congratulations! This is a truly excellent article and I am delighted that it is receiving the attention it thoroughly and richly deserves.

    I do very much hope that your article is read and its lessons are properly considered. Obviously one article by itself is not going to change everything but as the Chinese like to say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and this article offers a good and big step in the right direction.

    • Eugene says:

      Dear Alexander,

      Thank you very much. My only concern is my ability to keep this commitment in addition to many other I already have. Writing itself is the easiest part 🙂


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