Talking With Kathryn Bolkovac About Her Experience as The Whistleblower
Posted: 08/16/11 07:48 PM ET
After seeing (and reviewing) The Whistleblower, I contacted Kathryn Bolkovac, whose story is the basis of the movie, and interviewed her. Her answers speak for themselves, but also give such a sense of her persona, grit and determination.
FOSTER: You were faced with a situation where the people you worked with were engaged in something very shocking. Do you have any insight as to how or why they got involved with trafficking?
I really do not think there is clear cut answer for this. Everyone is an individual and is accountable to their individual behavior and potential illegal actions they committed and continue to commit in current missions. I think most people are truly just plain complicit in their thinking and tend to not get involved or look the other way to avoid any form of accountability, especially if they think that something does not directly affect them for their position. Then there is the group of people who can easily be swayed to join in on a pack mentality, who are morally and mentally weak or ignorant. When conditions are right as they have been and still are in many overseas missions around the world, or if they think they will not be caught or judged then it is easy for them to engage in illegal and corrupt behavior. They try to justify and minimize their actions. Finally, there are individuals who are just plain evil and corrupt, they see the money making potential of preying on the helpless and needy, and exploit every opportunity they can to make a buck, especially in an industry that involves sex. They are very good at dehumanizing, denial, and lying about what is going on.
FOSTER: What do you think needs to be done to address the trafficking issue? What can government do?
The trafficking issue at large is too complex to tackle with sweeping reform. There are so many different types of human trafficking each with different dynamics of funding the corruption. Obviously, many adults choose to be trafficked... or illegally transported across many borders to escape horrendous conditions in their own countries. These issues cannot be convoluted with organized criminal syndicates who are providing services to internationals all over the world, in the form of trafficking for forced prostitution. They are involved in the recruitment, abuse, desensitization, and sale of human flesh, into international missions as sex workers. This is what I want to discuss and what I think we can make a huge impact on based on my experiences as a former law enforcement officer, former UN employee, former representative of our U.S. government overseas, and as a former employee of one of the largest private government contractors in the world DynCorp.
FOSTER: What can our government do?
First, in the short term, the United States needs to take a serious look at why we are willing to allow private companies to engage in the profession of law enforcement. Government contractors are a needed and viable means to get many logistical and re-construction efforts accomplished. They are not a viable means for a protection force or as a mechanism for the use in training law enforcement officers in emerging democracies. Law enforcement is not a business. Policing is a calling. Does anyone really believe that private corporations are in this policing and operational mission business for anything but the money? We need to set an example with our own federal police selection units, perhaps via the Department of Justice as an example, why can we not recruit and most importantly train our own community police officers before we send them into these missions? My book accurately describes the pathetic training offered by the private company who sent me overseas, which I am sure was heavily subsidized with my tax dollars. It was a disgrace; none of us had even the minimum knowledge or idea of what we were supposed to be doing once we got into Bosnia.
If we are to continue to send "rent a cops " overseas with inadequate knowledge and inadequate protections from corrupt private companies, some of whom had serious questionable policing backgrounds we might want to stop and think about how this damages our reputation and our goals. The private company who fired me had free reign to treat me however they saw fit, no one was in authority to stop them. They were exempt from all U.S. government accountability and have never been held accountable for what they did to me to this day. How has this changed? It has not.
Second, get the Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (CEJA) out of committee and get it passed. It has been more than 12 years overdue. [NOTE: CEJA would allow the U.S. Justice Department to prosecute government contractors and employees for certain crimes committed overseas. It would complement the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA), which provides similar criminal jurisdiction over Department of Defense employees and contractors but does not clearly apply to U.S. contractors working overseas for other federal agencies.]
Third, make government contractors accountable for their employee actions, by putting a clause in their contracts that require them to facilitate and allow oversight of both external and internal investigations by outside government agencies, when probable cause exists that employees are suspected, or implicated in criminal offenses. They must cooperate in the facilitation of prosecutions. They can no longer just fire people, and hope the problem goes away, which automatically curtails any further investigation.
Fourth, set examples by having the means available to prosecute and convict with meaningful sentences.
FOSTER: What can individuals do?
Learn, read, report, and stop burying your heads in the sand. Many of the people involved in these crimes could be your next door neighbor.
Get local law enforcement initiatives started, and ask your police chiefs this question. What kind of training is being offered to your new recruits and officers on the streets to recognize and investigate all forms of human trafficking?
Do you think a local police chief in the hills of Northern New Mexico, or in the farming community of southern Illinois, is even going to know what we are talking about? Does the local hotel have young female Hispanics working in the housekeeping department? They do not speak English, they have no documents, does he know what wage they are being paid and in what form? Think about it. I have been in these places have you?
FOSTER: Many of the women and girls who are trafficked are promised jobs that don't materialize. What do you think would be effective to get the word out to them so that fewer of them fall prey to these types of promises?
The only effect we can have on this is to stop the demand.
FOSTER: How did you sustain yourself?
Continued faith in our justice system, lots of hard workouts and sweat, many tears and my husband would make me a strong gin tonic with lots of lemon and ice once in a while.
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