Kathryn Bolkovac

Kathryn Bolkovac

In the late 1990s Kathyrn Bolkovac — a Nebraska police officer and divorced mother of three — answered a job ad to work in Bosnia for a U.S. defense contractor. She looked forward to a good salary, travel and the chance to help rebuild a war-torn country as a human rights investigator. She expected hard work and real challenges. But she never expected her investigations into sex trafficking and prostitution rings would implicate some of her U.N. colleagues and put her life in danger. Whistleblower Kathryn Bolkovac on fighting the sex trade — and why she was fired from her job.


  • Kathryn Bolkovac


  • 11:06:53

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. Her story has been made into a major motion picture coming to theaters this summer. It's about an ex-cop from Nebraska, Kathryn Bolkovac, who went to work as a human rights investigator in Bosnia. There she came upon victims of sex trafficking, many of them teenage girls from former Soviet Bloc countries. Bolkovac found evidence that UN personnel were involved. When she tried to do something about it, she was fired.

  • 11:07:39

    MS. DIANE REHMShe recounts her ordeal in a new book titled, "The Whistleblower." Kathryn Bolkovac joins me in the studio. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this really very, very important subject. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail, you can join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to you, Kathryn, and thanks for being here.

  • 11:08:15

    MS. KATHRYN BOLKOVACThank you for having me, Diane.

  • 11:08:16

    REHMTell me how you first came to work for DynCorp in Bosnia?

  • 11:08:26

    BOLKOVACOkay. I had been a police officer in Lincoln, Neb. for 10 years and I was looking for a change in my life and one day, a flyer, an advertising flyer, appeared on our bulletin board at the police department. I hadn't heard too much about DynCorp. A couple of my fellow colleagues had gone to work for them in previous years, actually, but I'd not heard any bad reports about them and I thought it sounded interesting, intriguing and thought I would try something new.

  • 11:08:56

    BOLKOVACIt was a chance to go to Europe, East Europe, where my grandfather was from. He was Croatian. And I had watched from my sofa in Lincoln during the Bosnian wars and the turmoil those people had gone through and it was just sort of a premonition that I would someday go there, but I had no idea how. So in 1998 and 1999, I started investigating it and went ahead and applied and was accepted to go.

  • 11:09:22

    REHMWhat kinds of testing did they give you?

  • 11:09:24

    BOLKOVACThat was pretty interesting, actually. There wasn't much. They started out by sending basically reference questionnaires to me through faxes and mail packets. They interviewed a couple of my colleagues and supervisors and then nothing actually was done after that until we were told we were hired. I was told I was hired and taken to Forth Worth, Texas for what was sort of an orientation.

  • 11:09:51

    REHMHow long between the application and the actual hiring?

  • 11:09:56

    BOLKOVACThat's pretty funny because I believe the first time I applied was at the end of 1998 and I had just recently divorced and I -- they asked if I could be ready to go within six weeks and I told them, well, that was pretty short timing, I really couldn't be ready to go within six weeks. So then the following spring, in May, I was contacted again in 1999 and they wanted me to deploy in June. And so it took less than eight weeks, really, to get through the process.

  • 11:10:23

    REHMAnd explain to us what DynCorp's role was in carrying out this Dayton Peace Accord?

  • 11:10:32

    BOLKOVACWell, they had a very mixed role. They had basically numerous contracts fulfilling many different facets of the mission. The particular one that I applied for was the peacekeeping mission where I would be training local police officers on how to democratize their country and set up, you know, a better democratic policing system, at least that was how it was advertised.

  • 11:10:57

    REHMAnd how did they train you?

  • 11:11:00

    BOLKOVACThey didn't, that was part of the problem. There really was no training involved in this whatsoever. So if you didn't have the basic knowledge and I guess common sense of how to represent yourself overseas, then you were pretty much out of luck.

  • 11:11:15

    REHMWell, explain to me what happened when you got there? I mean, you're flown to this country, you're set down, you're taken to, I gather, DynCorp's headquarters, then what?

  • 11:11:29

    BOLKOVACWe were taken to DynCorp's headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas for a week of orientation and that really was nothing more than a very basic psychological examination. Mine lasted about five minutes with some man who never cited his own...

  • 11:11:46

    REHMHis own credentials?

  • 11:11:46

    BOLKOVAC...credentials and asked me if I was interested in being a manager with DynCorp. And of course, that struck me as rather funny. And then the rest of the orientation process was a physical agility test which included a downhill run of about 200 meters. There was a stretch, touch your nose, fitted us for uniforms, had us watch a video about the war in Bosnia and then pretty much gave us a public relations campaign about the important work that DynCorp does for our State Department.

  • 11:12:17

    BOLKOVACSo it really just kind of was nothing. It was an orientation and then they sent us off to Bosnia. And once we got to Sarajevo, which was another ordeal, it took about three days to get there because they just used really poor transportation services. Sent us, you know, two or three times to Newark Airport, to Newark and then finally to Croatia and then by bus all the way across Bosnia into Sarajevo. So it was -- it just appeared to be really cheap and inadequate transportation they were providing us with, not very safe. The bus broke down twice on the way to Sarajevo once we left Zagreb.

  • 11:12:50

    REHMAnd housing?

  • 11:12:51

    BOLKOVACThe housing we had to find ourselves. We were given what's called a mission subsistence allowance from the United Nations.

  • 11:12:56

    REHMYou had to find the housing yourself?

  • 11:12:58

    BOLKOVACYes. And I think that's actually part of the problem. I think part of the problem is that there's just not enough control over these contractors when we're sent over there, pretty much allowed free rein.

  • 11:13:10

    REHMDid you speak Croatian?

  • 11:13:11

    BOLKOVACNo. We had to work with local translators. They had hired language assistants through the United Nations who we spent time with during on-duty time. Off-duty time, we were very much on our own and we rented homes from local residents in the area and that was pretty much their income. So I think it was sort of a way to maybe give back to the community, but I mean, it was really not a very good way to control the contractors.

  • 11:13:37

    REHMWhat about the other members of this team, if you will. How many?

  • 11:13:43

    BOLKOVACWell, from the -- in the contingent that I went over with, there were 40. There were probably about 250 U.S. monitors there at the time, DynCorp employees who were running this particular police mission and approximately 1,800 to 2,000 international police from all the different nations in the world who were contributing to this mission.

  • 11:14:10

    REHMNow, you had a first run-in with DynCorp after a raid. Tell us about that.

  • 11:14:19

    BOLKOVACWell, there were -- actually, the first run-in I had with DynCorp had nothing to do with human trafficking, that was with regard to a -- what was considered an inappropriate police raid by local police on a local bar just outside of Sarajevo. One of our functions as trainers for the police in Bosnia was that they were to conduct no work without someone from my PTF being with them, someone from the monitors was to be mentoring them and watching what they were doing to prevent, you know, police corruption or to make sure they weren't one-sided, depending whether they were Serb, Croat or Muslim because this was a combination of police that we were training.

  • 11:15:00

    BOLKOVACSo on a night raid, basically, a group of officers from what they called the muck unit, which was a type of swat unit, decided to raid a local bar and they beat up several hundred patrons that were at that bar and accusations were flying back and forth about the reasoning for that. I mean, and it was never very clear, but of course, it was internal corruption, political problems, the smuggling of cigarettes, a lot of things that were going on in the country at that time.

  • 11:15:27

    BOLKOVACBut long story short, once this case came to the attention of myself and another investigator, human rights investigator who I was working with, it really -- the DynCorp managements who were also monitors at that time in senior positions, didn't want this investigated for some reason. And the only reason that we could surmise was that this particular DynCorp manager was good friends with the senior minister's son who was running that unit. So there was just a lot of inconsistent, inappropriate things that were happening that people just didn't want to take notice of.

  • 11:16:03

    REHMAnd then there was a Muslim woman named Azra (ph) ?

  • 11:16:08


  • 11:16:08

    REHMTell us about her.

  • 11:16:10

    BOLKOVACThat particular incident occurred in Zenica, when I started running the gender affairs special project. It was effectively addressing violence against women in Bosnia and her name is changed in the book, of course. That's not her real name, but this was an instance where a woman -- it was just an example, basically, that I wanted to give where the type of crimes against women were so rampant in Bosnia, yet there was no real way to follow up with these victims and prosecute them because there's no such thing as domestic laws or domestic violence laws in these foreign countries.

  • 11:16:46

    REHMShe had been beaten by her husband?

  • 11:16:48

    BOLKOVACShe had been stabbed and beaten several times, actually, and she had gone to the hospital on numerous occasions, but always had been sent home by the local police. So as part of this process, I was hoping to train the police on how to investigate these crimes. Even though she was a woman, she was not the property of her husband and so we did work this case as a regular assault, you know, as if it were an assault against a person, which those types of laws were on the books.

  • 11:17:16

    BOLKOVACAnd the man was finally found guilty. It wasn't a huge development, I mean, it was kind of a small success in the big world, but that really, I think, helped the local police realize that something could be done and they just didn't have to follow the way things had been for many, many years.

  • 11:17:34

    REHMAnd DynCorp supported you in that effort?

  • 11:17:37

    BOLKOVACYes, yes. There wasn't a whole lot DynCorp really needed to do. I think the mission itself, United Nations Mission, is who really supported me in that effort. I didn't work with any DynCorp officers who were fellow Americans with regard to that case, outside of the Americans who may have been working for the Human Rights Division, so that was kind of a different breed of people.

  • 11:18:00

    REHMWere there a fair number of women in your same category doing the same kind of work?

  • 11:18:08

    BOLKOVACThere were many women human rights investigators, not necessarily American women. The human rights investigators, of course, came from all different countries of the participating countries in the mission. In my particular group who were there as international police monitors, I believe there were four or five women in my group of 42 that went over, so I think an estimate of about 10 percent overall would be fair.

  • 11:18:31

    REHMKathryn Bolkovac, she's a former police investigator in Lincoln, Neb. Today she works for an international auction house in the Netherlands. She is The Whistleblower.

  • 11:20:03

    REHMAnd here in the studio with me is Kathryn Bolkovac, she is the author of her brand-new book about to become a motion picture. The book and the movie are called, "The Whistleblower." Do join us, 800-433-8850. This story really begins when you encountered that first young woman from a nightclub called The Florida. What happened?

  • 11:20:41

    BOLKOVACThis young woman had been held captive there by her trafficker, the bar owner, and had ultimately escaped after a instant happened that involved one of the local Zenitsa police detectives. She came to the Human Rights office where I was working...

  • 11:20:56

    REHMHow old?

  • 11:20:58

    BOLKOVACAs I recall, she was about 17. I don't remember her exact age, but she had escaped after the bar owner basically had left her to run free because he was beating up a local police officer in the basement of his building for extortion, basically, and she came to me. She was...

  • 11:21:18

    REHMHow did she get out?

  • 11:21:20

    BOLKOVACShe ran out the front door because she had been left in the first floor of the building while the bar owner, who had been beating her...

  • 11:21:27

    REHMWas downstairs.

  • 11:21:28

    BOLKOVAC...ran downstairs...

  • 11:21:28

    REHMAll right.

  • 11:21:29

    BOLKOVAC...to beat up this police officer.

  • 11:21:30


  • 11:21:31

    BOLKOVACSo she ultimately escaped and was wandering the side of the road beaten and bruised and was picked up by one of the Zenitsa local police traffic officers on patrol and brought to my station. He left her there with me and I tried to interview her, but she was not from Bosnia. It turned out that she was from Moldova or one of the other East European countries and so I did have a language assistant trying to help that really wasn't of much use because the languages are not the same in all East European countries, so I knew I had to find a translator.

  • 11:22:05

    BOLKOVACAnd when my translator left the room to try and help find someone, which I knew was going to take many, many hours and probably meant transporting her to Sarajevo, she finally broke down and started just repeating one word that I could really make out, which was Florida. And she had a very drawn accent, but I knew right away that by her actions and the way that she was presenting herself, her body language, that probably this is where she had come from. And the only thing that I could really recognize was the fact that there was a bar, a restaurant/bar, kind of a double-duo purpose facility outside the city.

  • 11:22:46

    REHMBut you didn't know it was duo purpose then?

  • 11:22:49

    BOLKOVACAt that time, no.

  • 11:22:51


  • 11:22:51

    BOLKOVACExactly, yeah. I mean, I had never gone in...

  • 11:22:53


  • 11:23:38

    BOLKOVAC...to the bar side of it. So once I got there, I took backup with me, police and local police, and we started investigating. The place was emptied out. It was turned upside down as if a fight had broken out there. Pretty dubious on the inside, a red curtain was in one corner, which could be kind of closed around the barstool. There were several rooms upstairs. There was a silver box which looked like some type of a gun box and I approached it and it was kind of half open. And at that time is when I opened it and found hundreds of dollars in American dollars, U.S. dollars, and several passports of young women from foreign countries rubber-banded together.

  • 11:23:39

    BOLKOVACAnd I guess at that time is when things started to click for me and I recalled the incident that had occurred early on when I was first hired at DynCorp in Fort Worth, Texas when a really boisterous man from the south came bumbling out to the pool one of our last nights, telling us where he could find really nice 12 to 15-year-olds. And so at that time, of course, two and two adds up to four and I knew something more was going on. And I just had a really bad feeling. Call it a gut instinct or what, but I knew there had to be more to the story.

  • 11:24:10

    BOLKOVACI took the local police officer who was with me and we started walking the premises and eventually found the staircase on the side of the building, which went to the second floor on the outside with a locked door at the top. And wound up breaking that door in and finding seven young women there who were huddled together on bare mattresses on the floor. Condoms strung over the garbage can, plastic bags of their street clothes and working clothes, just terrified. Beaten and terrified.

  • 11:24:41

    REHMAged what?

  • 11:24:43

    BOLKOVACI'm sorry?

  • 11:24:43

    REHMHow old would they have been?

  • 11:24:45

    BOLKOVACYeah, they were teenagers. There's no real way of telling their real ages, other than their passports, but they were teenagers, 15 to 20-year-olds. So at that point in time, we transported them out of there. I had additional units come to transport the women and separate them, trying to keep them separate.

  • 11:25:03

    REHMDid any speak...

  • 11:25:05

    BOLKOVACOne, yeah.

  • 11:25:06

    REHM...in ways you could understand?

  • 11:25:08

    BOLKOVACYeah, there was one girl who spoke broken English. And of course, I found a notebook as well under the mattress, which indicated a record of what were tricks, you know, I guess in terms it was the number of times that each of these girls had serviced someone.

  • 11:25:26

    REHMNow, explain to us just how these young women ended up as sex slaves, if you will.

  • 11:25:36

    BOLKOVACWell, it's a major form of organized crime and it's prevalent all over the world. It's in the news every day. These girls are enticed and sometimes sold off by their own families and relatives from these foreign countries, but most of them are enticed by the lure and the thought of somehow making it in one of the western countries, either America or one of the West European countries.

  • 11:26:01

    REHMYou're saying that they're offered...

  • 11:26:04


  • 11:26:05

    REHM...transportation, the promise of...

  • 11:26:08


  • 11:26:09

    REHM...a wonderful life and that sort of thing.

  • 11:26:12

    BOLKOVACI wouldn't even go that far. They're offered a job and some of them actually know they're going to come and work as dancers or barmaids or maybe even prostitutes, but they certainly aren't told, nor do they know, that they're going to have their passports taken away from them, held captive, not fed, beaten and not allowed to leave if they want to. So I think for the most part, you know, that's something where I’m not so radical in my beliefs, if you can say that, that many of the women don't have an inkling of what could happen to them, because I think they do.

  • 11:26:43

    REHMTo what extend did you have a sense that DynCorp personnel themselves had knowledge of what was happening?

  • 11:26:54

    BOLKOVACWell, I just didn't have a sense. I knew that they were involved. I had cases brought to me where individuals themselves told me that they had bought women from local bars, not just for the use as a prostitute, but to actually take home with them and keep in their homes. And that particular incident happened the December before I was fired, after I'd been demoted from my position at main headquarters. This person came to me, he gave me a ride home. He was my coworker at the station where I had been demoted to. He was a co-duty officer.

  • 11:27:27

    BOLKOVACAnd he started just casually talking to me on the way home about how his girlfriend had left him and I really had no clue what he was talking about. I thought maybe he meant his girl back home or he'd been dating a language assistant or something there. And then just like, oh, that's too bad. Did she go back to her family? What's going on? And then he said, well, she's not from here, she's not from Bosnia. She's from one of those foreign countries. I think her passport says the Ukraine or Moldova, Romania or something. At that point in time, I just dug in my fingers to the car door and thought, what is going on here? And the guy started whimpering like a puppy and saying he was going to marry her and take her back home and she'd even run off with his cell phone and he at least wanted his cell phone back.

  • 11:28:11

    BOLKOVACAnd I thought, how incredible to think that we have police officers coming to this mission who are thinking with that kind of mentality. He said that he had bought her from Tanio (sp?), one of the local traffickers, who the United Nation's office of (word?) commission and my office were well aware of that were in trafficking these women into the country. He had gone to that bar just outside of Sarajevo and purchased her for 6,000 Deutschmarks and taken her home.

  • 11:28:35

    REHMSo what did you do in response...

  • 11:28:41

    BOLKOVAC(laugh) Well...

  • 11:28:41

    REHM...to not only the discovery of these young women, but the confession, if you will...

  • 11:28:49


  • 11:28:49

    REHM...of this young man?

  • 11:28:51

    BOLKOVACWell, that was pretty interesting because this happened to be after DynCorp and the UN had come up with what they were calling their Zero Tolerance Policy and claiming that they were changing. And already had given warnings to all the monitors, don't visit these bars and brothels. These people are trafficked. You know, don't visit prostitutes. They'd had everybody sign a document that had gone from Canton to Canton with all the DynCorp employees and everybody signed off on the training. And supposedly, you know, this was their big training with regard to the issue.

  • 11:29:26

    BOLKOVACWell, I knew it was bogus and I really didn't know what to do about it because I knew they already had it in for me and were looking for a way to get rid of me, they'd already demoted me from my position.

  • 11:29:35

    REHMBecause you knew...

  • 11:29:37

    BOLKOVACBecause of my actual outspokenness on this and because I knew that their employees and many others within the international community were not only visiting the brothels, but actually having -- transporting them into the country and helping falsify documents, keeping them at home. This wasn't the first incident.

  • 11:29:55

    REHMTo whom did you go with that information?

  • 11:29:59

    BOLKOVACWell, I went to -- firstly, I went to my Human Rights managers in the mission. I went to the commissioner...

  • 11:30:07

    REHMNow, would they have been UN employees or...

  • 11:30:11


  • 11:30:11

    REHM...DynCorp employees?

  • 11:30:12


  • 11:30:13


  • 11:30:14


  • 11:30:14


  • 11:30:15

    BOLKOVACMy direct reports were both UN employees and DynCorp employees also employed by the United Nations, like myself. So for example, the deputy commissioner of the mission was an American, a DynCorp employee. The head of the mission, Jacque Paul Cline (sp?), the special representative to Kauffienen (sp?) was also an American General. So yes, they were all made fully aware of these allegations and evidence.

  • 11:30:39

    REHMYou went directly to them.

  • 11:30:41

    BOLKOVACI wrote reports, I sent it up through internal affairs. In fact, Jacques Paul Cline sent a copy of one of the reports back to my office with a yellow sticky note on it a month or so before I was demoted from my position, claiming that this incident was dealt with months ago, period. J.P., you know, his initials on there and I took that particular report to my boss and asked whose initials these were. And she said, yeah, those are Jacques Paul Cline's. And at that time she said, Kathy, you really need to start a special file for all these internationals who are reporting that they're involved in these cases.

  • 11:31:16

    REHMDo you believe that Kauffienen knew?

  • 11:31:20

    BOLKOVACWell, I hope he knew. I mean, this wasn't the first time that this kind of stuff was going on in missions. This had been going on for several years before. I never had any direct contact with Kauffienen, however, I did speak with Angela King who was in charge of women's issues the week that I was forced out of Bosnia. And I'm quite sure that she reported back to Kauffienen.

  • 11:31:41

    REHMWhen you were demoted, what was the title you were given? What was the reduction in your salary?

  • 11:31:52

    BOLKOVACThere was never any reduction in my salary. We all made the same money, no matter what we did in the mission. So you could be there eight hours a day dressed in your uniform and drive around in the hills or you could do human rights work and investigate crimes or you could be one of the station commanders and everybody made the $85,000 tax free. The only person who got extra money, to my knowledge, was the person who held the positions of the deputy commissioner and the commissioner. And Americans did hold those positions as well. I'm not sure how much extra they got, a few thousand more, though.

  • 11:32:27

    REHMYou finally send what you called an impassioned e-mail to everyone. What did it say?

  • 11:32:37

    BOLKOVACMy e-mail was entitled, don't read this if you have a weak stomach or a guilty conscience. And it basically was intended and meant to be an educational e-mail to all members of the mission -- of the international mission. I sent it to IPTF members, I sent it to civilian employees, I sent it to all the management of mission. And it basically talked about what I had discovered through my investigations. It talked about several raids and incidents that had taken place where about 37 trafficked victims had been found in Preador (sp?) and brought down. These women had been raped and brutally beaten, really tortured on the stage. One girl had been forced to hold electric light cords above her head while she danced on the bar while a man they referred to as the doctor inserted coins into her vagina.

  • 11:33:29

    BOLKOVACSo there were just horrendous reports that were coming in as well as identifications and reports of Americans being involved in this. We had IDs being given of people who were giving identifying characteristics like tattoos and gold teeth and jewelry and it was just incredible. We had photographs at one point, Polaroid photographs, of a Pakistani.

  • 11:33:56

    REHMKathryn Bolkovac, her new book is titled, "The Whistleblower." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." So what kinds of responses did you get to that e-mail?

  • 11:34:12

    BOLKOVACVery mixed. My direct supervisors were very happy that I had done this and my colleagues, they gave me e-mails back that were, way to go, Kathy. You said the right thing. This really needed to be said. The commissioner, who was a French general at that time, also responded very politely stating something to the effect of, we really need people in the mission like you who can uphold these kind of standards.

  • 11:34:37

    BOLKOVACAnd then my direct supervisor called me in and said that Michael Styers, who was the deputy commissioner, DynCorp employee and American, was not impressed, that he wanted me out. And that the State Department wanted me out and that he really didn't know what was going to happen. At that point in time is when everything kind of started to go downhill. I was demoted from my position eventually and put into a duty officer position at a local station outside Sarajevo.

  • 11:35:09

    REHMSo that meant you weren't doing any more investigating of trafficking or anything of the sort.

  • 11:35:17

    BOLKOVACExactly. That's what they were trying to do, to remove me from being able to investigate.

  • 11:35:22

    REHMAnd then you ultimately were fired.

  • 11:35:28

    BOLKOVACCorrect, yeah.

  • 11:35:29

    REHMHow much time elapsed between the time you were demoted and when you were fired?

  • 11:35:37

    BOLKOVACAbout four months. I was demoted in November of 2000 and fired in April of 2001.

  • 11:35:43

    REHMAnd after DynCorp fired you, some friends warned you that your life might be in danger. Who did they think might indeed harm you?

  • 11:35:55

    BOLKOVACWell, I think probably indeed some very disgruntled and angry employees who worked for the same company I did who were potentially involved in not only participating in these activities in one form or another, whether they were visiting brothels or whether they were trying to cover it up. I was approached by a gentleman, who's described in my book, who was the contingent commander, Jamie Popwell who actually threatened me at the elevators. He waved his fist in my face, told me that I had no right to an appeal. I had to leave the UN. I couldn't drive a car anymore. It was a pretty bad scene and...

  • 11:36:38

    REHMOn what grounds did DynCorp fire you?

  • 11:36:42

    BOLKOVACThey terminated me for cause. They said that I falsified my timesheet.

  • 11:36:49

    REHMFalsified your timesheet.

  • 11:36:51


  • 11:36:51

    REHMWhat did that mean?

  • 11:36:53

    BOLKOVACWell, they didn't really tell me. They threw three or four pieces of paper at me and never gave me any explanation whatsoever. And the paper they threw at me indicated the date that said that I worked, which was in April of 19 -- let me think -- it was a year -- over a year before this incident, before they fired me, in which I had been stuck in Vienna with Jacques Paul Cline himself and I could not get back to Sarajevo due to weather conditions.

  • 11:37:26

    REHMKathryn Bolkovac, her new book is titled "The Whistleblower." When we come back, we'll open the phones, take your calls and read a message from DynCorp.

  • 11:40:03

    REHMAnd before we open the phones, I want Kathryn Bolkovac, author of "The Whistleblower," to complete her story, which, actually, is still ongoing. You sued DynCorp for unfair dismissal for being a whistleblower. Why did you decide to sue?

  • 11:40:29

    BOLKOVACWell, it really was the only way, the only way I had to resume and get my credentials back. I mean, they were accusing me falsely of falsifying timesheets and gross misconduct and they had absolutely no evidence of that. I was never given any kind of due process throughout this entire thing. I was simply called into an office one day and fired and told to get out of the country and to me, that was just incredible. I mean, how could you not? And for me, it was a matter of, you know, my own integrity. (unintelligible).

  • 11:41:04

    REHMYou sued here in the United States.

  • 11:41:06

    BOLKOVACAbsolutely not. DynCorp has a habit of writing their contracts under the laws of foreign countries and course, I didn't know that at the time I was hired. I thought I was working for a U.S. corporation, but it turns out that DynCorp Aerospace Corporations LTD, who hired me, was actually -- their contracts, actually, are written under the laws of the United Kingdom. And so once I found that out, after I was fired, I was given the advice to contact an attorney in the United Kingdom by a United Nations employee, actually.

  • 11:41:39

    BOLKOVACAnd at that time, then, I followed through there, the attorney and the solicitor -- the solicitor and the barrister, actually, who helped me were magnificent. Couldn't done it without them, but it was quite an ordeal and they told me up front that this certainly was a good case, didn't think we'd have much problem winning it based on the evidence I had compiled and the reports I had put together, as well as the tape recordings -- the voice tape recordings I had made with people with DynCorp who fired me.

  • 11:42:11

    REHMWhat kinds of tape recordings? What did those recordings say?

  • 11:42:16

    BOLKOVACWell, it consisted -- the first thing that -- the only one that was actually played in court was the one where Jamie Popwell confronted me at the elevator and told me that I was terminated, that I didn't have a right to an appeal, I didn't have a right to anything else. The State Department was firing me, the State Department help my contract and the State Department was getting rid of me, so that was pretty much the clincher, I think, once the Tribunal found that and read that and heard that and how aggravated this guy was and angry at me, that it was pretty clear the way I was treated.

  • 11:42:45

    REHMYou won the case and in the end, DynCorp dropped its appeal. How much money were you given?

  • 11:42:56

    BOLKOVACI was given -- I believe the amount was 170,000 British pounds at that time, which was one of the highest awards ever given in the UK for the Employment Tribunal. Of course, in U.S. standards, had this happened here, that's probably a fraction of what probably could have been won, but that really wasn't my point. My point was for swift justice and to make sure this was handled appropriately and quickly.

  • 11:43:20

    REHMDo you think justice has been done in the case of DynCorp, in the case of the UN, in the case of the Department of State?

  • 11:43:33

    BOLKOVACNo, I don't. And I think that DynCorp, the State Department and the UN are still paying major lip service to this dilemma of trafficking and not only human trafficking, but all kinds of unfair employment practices that are going on every day with regard to their employees and they're all covering up for each other and no one really is being accountable or doing things to really change it.

  • 11:43:53

    REHMNow, I want our listeners to know that we did invite DynCorp to participate in today's discussion. They declined, but sent us a statement saying, "DynCorp International takes the issue of human trafficking extremely seriously and we applaud any efforts to educate a broader audience about the gravity of the problem." They go on to say, "Authors produce the most compelling storylines possible and that process requires a mix of fiction and fact. In this case, the company was never approached to obtain even a basic description of any of its past work in Bosnia or its position on the issues discussed in the book." Kathryn, do you want to comment?

  • 11:44:56

    BOLKOVACYes, I would really love to. Firstly, I think it's pretty funny, 'cause this is very typical. It's a template, basically, of what DynCorp produces and puts out every time any kind of misconduct is done by one of their employees in these overseas missions. Secondly, authors produce the most compelling storylines possible and the process requires a mix of fiction/fact is also pretty incredible, considering the entire book that I've written is fact. It's based on the legal findings of the Tribunal and I find it interesting that DynCorp chooses to write its contracts in the laws of foreign countries, yet doesn't accept the responsibility and is not accountable for the illegal findings when they've done wrong.

  • 11:45:45

    REHMNow, the next paragraph goes on to say, "Allegations concerning human trafficking were fully investigated internally and externally at the time of Miss Bolkovac's employment a decade ago and afterwards, the company responded aggressively, thoroughly and appropriately." Now, we have an e-mail posted by an individual who wishes to remain anonymous. She says, "I served in Bosnia in Zenica in 2000, 2001 with the Semic Battalion and I wish I could say things were better by then. They were not. The slavers, as we called them, were still in business and there were still personnel, both civilian and military, who knew about it and were part of it."

  • 11:46:53

    BOLKOVACYeah, I -- that's a pretty interesting statement and I'm sure this anonymous caller knows what she's talking about. Yeah, the allegations concerning human trafficking were fully investigated according to DynCorp, that's just not true. The allegations were never investigated by either them or anyone from the State Department, that I know of. I think if they had been, I would've been contacted. I was the person making these allegations, I was the person who had the majority of the evidence, I had case files, I had case numbers, I had names of victims and no one ever contacted me.

  • 11:47:27

    BOLKOVACAnd then after I won my trial in 2003, I did have a call from a woman named Melissa Wells-Petri, who worked for the Department of Defense, and she was very helpful, said that they really were building a file against DynCorp and wanted to help me in some way, however, after several e-mails back and forth, she unfortunately had to bow out of the investigation because my contract was not written under the Department of Defense, it was written with the Department of State. And the Department of State contracts, their jurisdiction -- the jurisdiction -- the Department of Defense could not go after them.

  • 11:48:04

    BOLKOVACSo this has been a serious problem for the past 10 years. We don't have any laws that regulate the Department of State and the DynCorp employees who work for the Department of State overseas.

  • 11:48:14

    REHMHas anything changed with DynCorp, that you know of, since then?

  • 11:48:21

    BOLKOVACWell, according to all the press, they've continued to do business as usual. They've made no changes in their corporate culture. In fact, in 2002, a senior State Department official, Paul Kelly, assured U.S. representative Henry Hyde that the Department had been working with DynCorp to prevent a repetition of the revelations by Kathryn Bolkovac and that the UN administered police task force that played the same advisory role in Bosnia, now being envisioned for Iraq and this was to prevent the revelations, as they called them, that I made.

  • 11:49:04

    BOLKOVACSo clearly, nothing has changed. I've been contacted numerous times by former and current DynCorp employees who give me information that is more of the same, that whistleblowers are fired when they report wrongdoing, that their so-called hotline to report wrongdoing is not confidential and that complaints that are brought forward are basically given back to the supervisors who the complaints are made against.

  • 11:49:24

    REHMAll right. Let's open the phones. First to Nucia in Jacksonville, Fla. Good morning, you're on the air.

  • 11:49:34

    NUCIAHi. Thank you, Diane, for taking my call...

  • 11:49:37


  • 11:49:37

    NUCIA...and I just want to say to Miss Kathryn, God bless you for your hard work and for your honesty and you are on the right track. I am from Bosnia originally. I was in war in Bosnia at the time. I just have one short question for you, please. Did you ever have a chance to interview any Muslim woman that was captured in concentrate camp (unintelligible) school building and (word?) concentrate camp that was in New Year's Eve 1993 or 1994 bring from those three facility?

  • 11:50:28

    REHMThat would've been before you were even there, wouldn't it have been, Kathryn?

  • 11:50:29

    BOLKOVACRight, yes, yes.

  • 11:50:33


  • 11:50:34

    REHMNo, I'm sorry.

  • 11:50:35

    REHMUnfortunately, no. Thank you for calling. To Adam in Denton, Texas. Good morning to you.

  • 11:50:42

    ADAMGood morning and hi, Kathryn and -- is it Kathryn?

  • 11:50:47


  • 11:50:49

    ADAMI would like to thank you for your work on this subject and you should know you are not alone. There are authors like Cathy O'Brien and Mark Phillips who have published similar works. And in their book, "Trance Formation of America," it's funny you said DynCorp was an aeronautics industry. In their book, they have said how even facilities such as the NASA facility in Houston was used for similar things. And myself, I'm trying to recover from similar circumstances from my childhood as well.

  • 11:51:29

    REHMAll right. Thanks for calling, Adam. Sorry about your experience. Let's go to Isaac in Fairfax, Va. Good morning, you're on the air.

  • 11:51:41

    ISAACGood morning, Diane. Kathy, good job. I want to find out, did you ever -- who was the secretary at the time? Did you try to get in contact with the Secretary of State? And Secondly, does DynCorp still work for the Department of State? Do they still have contracts doing human rights work across the world?

  • 11:52:03

    BOLKOVACYes, yes and yes. At the time, Madeleine Albright was the Secretary of State and she was informed of these allegations and investigations that were going on through actual State Department memos that I actually also have possession of and that were presented in my court files. So the State Department knew full well what was going on. Yes, DynCorp still is actively participating in police missions around the world. However, in the Bosnian Mission, I believe they no longer are participating in the same way that they did when I was working. However, they do do many, many police missions around the world and they still are the only ones who hold that contract, to my knowledge, for these particular missions.

  • 11:52:44

    REHMWe have an e-mail asking whether DynCorp is operating in South America.

  • 11:52:51

    BOLKOVACTo my knowledge, yes. They've been in Columbia. I don't know how involved they are now, but they have worked with the Drug Enforcement Agency down there and in many other countries in South America.

  • 11:53:04

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go now to Rockford, Ill. Good morning, Sage.

  • 11:53:13

    SAGEGood morning. Thank you so much. I'm so appreciative of this. When I was in Europe in 1977 and I was very young, but I looked much younger than I actually was, everyone was warned not to stay in the British hostels. There -- it was well known that girls were disappearing and being sold into the sex trade. And I was walking down the street one day and I probably looked about 15 or 16, although I was older, and a very well dressed man stopped me. And I can't remember if it was France or Britain, but he insisted on talking to me, he pulled out his identification, he said, I work for the UN. He held onto my arm and he kept holding on tighter and tighter and it was in broad daylight.

  • 11:54:08

    SAGEAnd, you know, I was terrified and someone came down the street and I grabbed the arm of this person who came down the street and got away. But, you know, when young girls have been disappearing, you know, as everyone knows, for a long, long time and I'm just so appreciate of your book and so appreciative, Diane, that you have your show. It's just such an important topic.

  • 11:54:37

    REHMThanks, Sage, for your call. She points out that this kind of trafficking can happen in many different ways.

  • 11:54:49

    BOLKOVACThat's right. I mean, human trafficking and obviously child kidnapping and things of this nature is nothing new. My book really is focusing on the internal corruption and those people who are charged with protecting us, who happen to be involved in it.

  • 11:55:04

    REHMKathryn, tell us about the movie, how it came about, what we can expect to see.

  • 11:55:14

    BOLKOVACOkay. First of all, I want to say, the movie is really based on the true story, but it's not factual. It is -- there are -- the directors and writers did take some liberties, some creative liberties, to make this a bit more Hollywood-ized, but the storyline is correct and the kind of events and things that they're depicted in the story are very accurate.

  • 11:55:31

    BOLKOVACThe movie, for me -- I've seen it one time at the Toronto Film Festival and I was very impressed with it. I must say, it did make me cry, very emotional. I took my daughter with me, who is 29 years old. She was quite impressed with it. There are some rather violent scenes in it, obviously, so I'm not sure what the rating's going to be when it comes out, but I just think that it will be a very much educational and eye opening opportunity, if people go see it, to really see how these missions are being run and why it continues to be the way it does.

  • 11:56:10

    REHMWho is the actress who plays you?

  • 11:56:13

    BOLKOVACRachel Weisz. She's a British actress, but she's played in many American movies as well, the Money series, she's the Academy Award Winner for "The Constant Gardener" several years ago. Beautiful, intelligent actress and so I'm very pleased with the way she portrayed me. She -- I was able to go to the filming in Bucharest, Romania for a week a year ago in November. And she was great. We met, we had dinner, we talked a lot. She would stop the filming if she thought things weren't going right and come to me on the side and ask me, is this how you would have done it? So it was a nice opportunity.

  • 11:56:50

    REHMKathryn Bolkovac, her new book, "The Whistleblower," and the film by that name expected in theaters around the country sometime this summer. Congratulations to you. Be well.

  • 11:57:09

    BOLKOVACThank you.

  • 11:57:10

    REHMThanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.

  • 11:57:12

    ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture and Monique Nazareth. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information.

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