By NICK SCHWELLENBACH
Yesterday, the State Department released its latest annual report on combating human trafficking. The report said that although one Department of Defense contractor employee was investigated and dismissed in the last year, there have been no prosecutions and no contract terminations:
Allegations against federal contractors engaged in commercial sex and labor exploitation continued to surface in the media. During the reporting period, allegations were investigated and one employee was dismissed by a DoD contractor. The Inspectors General at the Departments of State and Defense and USAID continued their audits of federal contracts to monitor vulnerability to human trafficking and issued public reports of their findings and reparations. USAID also created an entity dedicated to proactively tracking contractor compliance with the authority to suspend contracts and debar contracting firms, a positive step toward increasing enforcement in this area. No prosecutions occurred and no contracts were terminated.
Earlier this month, POGO published an investigation into a case of alleged labor trafficking by a DoD subcontractor in Iraq. In that instance, there were no prosecutions or contract terminations. Last year, I and Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig wrote that there have been zero prosecutions or contract terminations ever since a tough-sounding "zero tolerance" policy that emphasized prosecutions went into place nearly a decade ago. Experts inside and outside the government told us there is little appetite and investigative resources to go after these crimes. "Zero prosecutions," we quoted attorney Martina Vandenberg, a former Human Rights Watch investigator, "suggests zero effort to enforce the law."
Nick Schwellenbach is POGO's Director of Investigations.