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Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Whistleblower

By Kathryn Bolkovac and Cari Lynn

Published by Palgrave Macmillan

ISBN: 978-0-230-10802-8


When Nebraska police officer and divorced mother of three Kathryn Bolkovac saw a recruiting announcement for private military contractor DynCorp International, she applied and was hired. Good money, world travel, and the chance to help rebuild a war-torn country sounded like the perfect job. She was soon shipped to Bosnia, where DynCorp had been contracted to support the UN peacekeeping mission. She was assigned as a human rights investigator, heading the gender affairs unit. The lack of proper training provided to her sounded an alarm bell, but once she arrived in Sarajevo, she found out that things were a lot worse than she imagined. At great risk to herself, Kathy began to unravel the ugly truth about officers involved in human trafficking and forced prostitution, and their connections to private mercenary contractors, the UN, and the U.S. State Department. Soon, she was demoted, then fired. Feeling threatened with bodily harm, she fled the country, bringing the incriminating documents with her. Thanks to the evidence she had collected, Kathy won a lawsuit against DynCorp, finally exposing what they had done. Here, Kathy warns of the inherent danger when we contract out our wars and that it is our responsibility to protect the weak and disenfranchised in times of peace. Both gripping and inspiring, this amazing true story of courage and honour in the face of insurmountable odds shows that just one voice can make a difference.


Now an award-winning movie taglined "a drama based on the experiences of Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraska cop who served as a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia and outed the U.N. for covering up a sex scandal," The Whistleblower is much more than that. It's an exposure of the worst kind of corruption, human rights abuse, vile self-interest, lies, fabrications and corporate cover-ups present at the intersection of the United Nations, the U.S. Government and military contractors who exploit tax-payers' money by complying with human rights crimes in the name of peace. It is also the compelling story of a woman who refused to remain silent about these abuses in the face of significant personal danger. It's a lesson for everyone involved in allocation of national budgets and procurement about the controls necessary to administer contractors and the way they fulfill their responsibilities. It's also a drama, a love-story, an action-packed thriller and a fascinating read. For anyone involved in corporate responsibility, it's a case study about ethics, human rights and the need to protect those who speak out about corrupt practices in business. Finally, it's a wake-up call to shake all those in positions of authority out of complacency and complicity and urge them to clean up the system.

Kathy Bolkovac's story begins when she applies for a role in the International Police Task Force (ITPF) in Bosnia in 1998. The organization providing these "rent-a-cop" services is DynCorp International, "a global government services provider in support of U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives, delivering support solutions for defense, diplomacy, and international development." In this case, the contract was in the framework of the UN mandated IPTF in Bosnia and Herzegovina (formerly Yugoslavia) following the Serbian attack on Sarajevo and the ensuing war for which Slobodan Milosevic was later charged with genocide. The ITPF is composed of UN member countries' national police force representatives. The U.S., not having a national police force, would play its role through providing the services of private contractors. Enter Dyncorp and their recruitment drive, which propelled Kathy Bolkovac to a role as a Human Rights Investigator.

It doesn't take the smart, conscientious and rather outspoken Kathy Bolkovac long to realized that all is not kosher in Sarajevo. She quickly starts to fight for the protection of female victims of domestic violence, winning a breakthrough court ruling which would serve as a base to advance programs addressing violence against women in the region, while unraveling the grim details of the involvement of DynCorp personnel in the trafficking of young girls across East European borders, detention of women for prostitution, visits to brothels and holding women captive for all of the above. After facing many setbacks (disappearing files, delaying tactics, intimidation, etc.) in trying to bring these issues to light, in 2000, Kathy sent a desperate email to 50 personnel involved in the Bosnia mission, entitled "don't read this if you have a weak stomach or a guilty conscience." The email detailed the difference between prostitutes and trafficking victims and the stages of how women end up as prostitutes and sexual slaves, imploring all involved in the mission to ensure they serve and protect people rather than playing a role in facilitating and engaging in human abuses and crime. Her boss immediately informed her that her email was "not a good idea" and Kathy was subsequently dismissed, ostensibly for falsification of work records, a claim which was entirely fabricated.

Bravely battling against all the corporate muscle DynCorp could muster, Kathy had her day in court (taking home a settlement of a mere $175,000) winning her case for unfair dismissal while exposing the illegal, unethical and irresponsible practices of DynCorp International and their poorly trained, inadequately managed and ineffectively deployed personnel. Kathy ends her account of her own story by making some recommendations on policies for police officers recruited for international missions. Kathy writes: "I have spent many sleepless nights… wondering why these blatantly illegal behaviors were simply allowed to be swept under the rug. And yet reports of immoral and illegal behavior among DynCorp's civilian peacekeepers …continue to make front page news with alarming regularity." You can get a sense of this from Corpwatch's Dyncorp page.

Beyond the personal story of heroine Kathy Bolkovac and the horrors of how she was treated for simply doing her job, as well as anger about the plight of defenseless women caught up in immoral exploitation, this book is an eye-opener about the inner workings of a highly profitable industry which should be head and shoulders above the rest in terms of protecting human rights, revealing it to be a hotbed of the worst kind of intrigue, politics and abuse. Questions about the responsibility of the U.S. government in monitoring the activities of its contracted service providers as well as the integrity of this multi-billion dollar corporation remain in your mind. Despite DynCorp's Code of Ethics, complete with Q and A's, The Whistleblower leaves you with a sense of despair that so much is yet to be done while few people are prepared to speak out and be accountable. The Whistleblower is a sobering, important read with all the romance, tension and intrigue of a bestseller title in the crime fiction category. Regrettably, this one is actually true. Oh, and I can't wait to see the movie.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices Contact me via  on Twitter or via my website

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