Well, it appears that some of the attention focused on human trafficking (including the movie The Whistleblower, the story of U.N. peacekeeper Kathryn Bolkovac, who blew the whistle on sex trafficking in post-war Bosnia) in the last year may finally be paying off.
Some members of Congress have introduced measures aimed at preventing human trafficking by government contractors and subcontractors.
The bipartisan proposals (End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act of 2012, S. 2234 and H.R. 42), which include some of the reforms that POGO has recommended, are sponsored by Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). Rep. Lankford is likely to offer his bill as an amendment to the defense spending package being considered by the House this month. Both bills would require contractors to create plans to prevent trafficking and requires companies to closely monitor and report the activities of their subcontractors.
The measures also call for penalties, including suspending or debarring or criminally prosecuting violators. Sen. Blumenthal said current law is insufficient and ineffective and fails to prevent abuses. “Modern-day slavery by government contractors — unknowingly funded by American taxpayers — is unconscionable and intolerable,” Blumenthal said.
And, really, all of us should feel pangs of guilt for the human rights violations perpetrated by those profiting in the name of the American people. POGO launched a campaign this week, urging people to tell their Members of Congress to support the anti-trafficking legislation.
It comes too late to help those workers who were abused during our decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But our presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and in military bases all over the world continues. And the invisible army we rely upon to keep those bases running needs this protection as much as ever.
The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is an independent nonprofit that investigates and exposes corruption and other misconduct in order to achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.
A version of this article was cross-posted on POGO’s blog.
Photo by Ira Gelb.
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