Accuracy in Media

The Sunday CBS “60 Minutes” program aired a dramatic story about murder and corruption in Russia and the criminals who run the regime in Moscow. But it did not mention the failure of the Obama administration to challenge the Putin regime over its blatant human rights abuses and official corruption.

Obama has officially been in favor of a “strong Russia” since a speech he made in Moscow in 2009. “America wants a strong, peaceful and prosperous Russia,” he said.

Businessman Bill Browder, who ran an investment fund in Russia called Hermitage Capital Management, told “60 Minutes” that “The Russian regime is a criminal regime. We’re dealing with a nuclear country run by a bunch of Mafia crooks. And we have to know that.”

It appears that Obama does not want to recognize this fact.

The story was narrated by correspondent Scott Pelley, who is also the anchor and managing editor of the “CBS Evening News.” He began the story by saying, “Russia has been showing the world glistening scenes of the Winter Olympics. It’s a rare opportunity to brighten a national image that often skates on the thin ice of corruption. One authority estimates that 20 percent of the Russian economy is skimmed by graft, and a lot of that by government officials.”

It may be worse than that. As AIM recently noted, Russian activists estimate that $30 billion of the $50 billion cost of the Olympics has been stolen by corrupt officials linked to Putin.

Exposing corruption in Russia is a valid journalistic project. But what about the “national image” of the Obama administration and its failure to challenge and expose what’s happening in Russia? This was a glaring omission in the CBS report.

Most of the “60 Minutes” story was a Pelley interview with Browder about the death of his Russian attorney, Sergei Magnitsky, in 2009 in Russia. Magnitsky was imprisoned and then killed by Russian authorities after he uncovered official corruption involving the theft of $230 million.

Browder has become an “Enemy of the State” in Russia, and has been threatened with death.

Pulling no punches when it came to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the story made it clear that he is part of the corruption and cover-up. He has explained away Magnitsky’s murder by Russian authorities as an accidental death and nothing to be concerned about.

Putin said, “Do you think no one dies in American jails. Of course they do. So what?”

Russian officials claimed that Magnitsky, who was beaten and tortured to death, had died from a heart attack. He was prosecuted after his death, along with Browder, for tax evasion.

However, Congress passed the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act at the end of 2012 over the objections of the Obama Administration. It placed visa and financial asset bans on Russian officials either involved in Magnitsky’s case or accused of human rights abuses.

It was in July 2009 that Obama told the New Economic School in Moscow that the U.S.-Russian relationship required a new tone recognizing a strong Russia. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton even presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a gift-wrapped red button that was supposed to signify a “reset” in relations.

With the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and even various conservative groups, Obama also pushed Congress to grant Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status to Russia, giving them access to American capital.

After PNTR was granted, Putin showed his gratitude by giving asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden, in a case writer Edward Lucas calls “the West’s greatest intelligence disaster,” benefiting America’s enemies.

While Obama threw a temper tantrum over an anti-gay propaganda law in Russia, his administration has failed to implement and enforce the Magnitsky Act. In fact, as noted by David Kramer of Freedom House during a recent press conference, the Obama administration has not updated the list, as required, and has been challenged on this by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Robert Corker (R-TN).

The senators said, “On December 20, 2013, we received the Department of State’s first annual report. Disappointingly and contrary to repeated assurances and expectations, this report indicates that no persons have been added to the Magnitsky list since April 2013, and it does not provide adequate details on the administration’s efforts to encourage other governments to impose similar targeted sanctions.”

In addition to the prestige of hosting the Sochi Olympics, Russia holds the presidency of the G8 group of nations, and is also hosting the G8 summit in June in Sochi.

The “60 Minutes” show featured this exchange with Browder:

Scott Pelley: What’s happened to these people [Russian officials involved in Magnitsky’s death and cover-up] now that you’ve exposed them?

Bill Browder: A number of them received state honors. They’re still valued people no matter what anyone says about them abroad.

Scott Pelley: What does that tell you?

Bill Browder: That tells me that this goes right up to the president of Russia.

Scott Pelley: Why do you say so?

Bill Browder: Because the president of Russia has basically gone on record and he’s denied that there was any crime that was committed by any official. He’s on the record saying Sergei Magnitsky was a crook and he’s gone on the record saying that I’m a crook. He’s clearly involved in the cover-up.

Browder continues to press for justice for Magnitsky and has launched a website and videos to expose “the untouchables” in the Russian regime involved in the murder and cover-up.

The website exposes one group, the Klyuev Organized Crime Group, which has “the full cooperation and protection of high ranking Russian government officials in law enforcement, the Tax Ministry, and the FSB, the successor to the KGB.” It adds, “Because the Klyuev Organized Crime Group contains members of the Russian government and because the highest authorities in Russia are protecting it, it is no longer possible to consider the group independent of the Russian government. Its crimes are state sanctioned.”

At the end of his “60 Minutes” report, Pelley noted that the U.S. Department of Justice had filed suit against 11 companies “alleging that they used Manhattan real estate transactions to launder some of the money stolen from the Russian treasury” in the case.

But he didn’t utter a word about the administration refusing to fulfill its legal responsibilities under the Magnitsky act. And there was no indication that a comment was sought from Hillary Clinton about whether she believes her “reset” in relations with Russia has been successful.

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  • jamesmace

    Neither did CBS say anything about the Russian hamfisting in Ukraine.

  • GT90ford .

    Putin was pissed on NBC’s coverage of the Hotel’s readiness, the unsafe water, the lack of privacy inside the Olympic competitors compounds. But, when the slipped up with their (Russia) report of someone turning on a shower, pointing out the shower sprayer out of the tub and on at the time (which I doubt happened), only served to tell the world they have camera’s in the guest bathrooms in Hotels.
    But no, the U.S. media isn’t going to say anything serious out of Russia. Anyone even suspected of being a Chechen or any Terrorist murders. They are back to their cold war status.

  • boysenberry

    But no, the U.S. media isn’t going to say anything negative about OUR current administration, which has huge problems with surveillance (NSA) and is on the way to lawless governing with a phone and a pen.
    I think we should clean up our own house first.
    BTW, the athletes and families had great accommodations in Russia, its the media the Russians didn’t provide the best for. They didn’t trust them.

  • dave3200

    CBS should do a follow-up program to address the crime and corruption in our own current administration. Or, perhaps a Series would be better. Might they be able to cover most of it in a 12-part Series? I don’t know. 12 hours might be cutting it short, especially if they broaden it to include congress & SCOTUS.

  • bob570

    Absolutely, 30 to 50 Billion is chicken feed, compared to Washington, and their Trillion Dollar deficit every year.

  • pekin

    Excellent Cliff !! I want to know WHY so many of OUR Congressmen show support of PNTR, esp. since 2 of them are Here, in IA !! ~ Constance

  • Richard Hellstrom
    Read – Halliburton and The Russian Oil Deal at the examiner.

  • terry1956

    There is something seriously wrong with Obama.
    He was raised to be a big well connected con artist like his mom’s side of the family but he never learned management skills like they did.
    What was the only real job he ever had, working a few months part time in high school at Baskin Robbins in Hawaii?

  • terry1956

    All foreign trade deals likely should be canceled with trade authority being put back in its constitutional place with Congress.
    The framers promised in the Constitutional ratification debates at the state levels that normally the federal government would normally get most of its revenue from custom duties and taxes on other foreign sources.
    Except for a few years mostly around the War of 1812 and the Civil War that was a majority of the revenue source for the first 120 plus years.
    Until 1861 import taxes was usually 80% to 90% of federal revenue being almost 98% in 1825.
    When Jackson was president the federal budget was funded with only import taxes and land sells plus the debt was paid off in full.
    Its time we get back to that promise gradually.
    First by totally eliminating the federal income tax and federal payroll tax on US earned income of US citizens and US corporations.
    Second- Elimnate the entire group of internal federal excise taxes on fuel, tires, booze and tobacco produced in the US.
    Third- Send obligations to senior and disabled citizens to the states to eliminate a one size fits all option preferred by only congress and the president.
    Fourth- a flat 10% rate on the following- imported goods, imported services, US corporate and US governments foreign income, US income of foreigners, US income of foreign corporations and foreign governments and foreign income of US citizens.
    Fifth- an American price tax on the compensation of foreign workers in the US based on the prevailing compensation to a majority of the non union American workers doing the same type of work.
    Thus if the non union compensation to a American laborer is 10 dollars an hour if the Foreign laborer works for 8 dollars an hour in total compensation the foreigner labor will have to pay the federal government a three dollar an hour tax, one dollar or 10% of the American price plus the difference in what they get paid and what Americans gets paid.
    If they work for 10 dollars an hour the tax is 1 dollar an hour, if they work as a laborer for 30 dollars an hour compensation ( wages and benefits total) they will pay 3 dollars an hour but when they become naturalized that 3 dollars an hour tax will be eliminated.
    Sixth- Gradually build up to the American price tax on imports over say a 5 to 10 year period.
    For example if a shoe made in America sells retail for 50 dollars that’s the American price.
    A shoe made in Italy that would sell retail for 50 dollars without import taxes would sell for 55 dollars with the flat 10% import tax.
    By the 5th to 10th year the similar Shoe made in Red China that would sell for 25 dollars retail without import taxes would have a 120% import tax charge to bring the retail price of the shoe made in communist China up to the American price plus the flat 10% tax on the American price.
    Seventh- To balance a founders intent federal budget which should be less than 1.6 trillion for fiscal year 2015 the federal government would get the balance from a head tax on the states based on the number of people living in the state.
    If the tax on foreign sources brings in for fiscal 2015 about what the current federal corporate income tax brings in then maybe 1.4 trillion would come from the poll tax ( not a voting tax)
    Thus based on the 2010 census of around 308 million that would be around 4,545 dollars each and every state government, county or local government will pay the tax with the sources preferred by the people within the jurisdiction instead of a one size fits all monopoly.
    TN. might prefer a sales tax, NY might prefer a income tax, NH might prefer a property tax, AK might prefer oil and mineral royalities, KS. might prefer a mix.
    Sevier County TN. a major tourist area might prefer a sales tax and a hotel/motel tax, Fentress County TN. with less retail might prefer property tax and royalities on coal, oil and natural gas.
    It will be paid to avoid the federal government sending a higher bill to each household say 5,000 dollars each or 20,000 for a family of 4 which of course would take all of the income of many households, half the income of many more and a third or more of a majority with 4 in the household.

  • Merc

    Right – we need to investigate the Trump ties to Russia – absolutely

  • Merc

    I agree – Trump needs to be investigated

  • Lora

    As a typical Obama zombie, Merc is simply too stupid to recognize how Putin benefited much more from Obama than he ever will from Trump.