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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The feds seem oblivious to protecting U.S. working women in Iraq

Posted By on Wed, Apr 9, 2008 at 12:44 PM

This week’s Scene cover article, “No Oasis,” tells the story of Mary Beth Kineston, a truck driver from Olmsted Falls who says she was sexually assaulted and harassed by co-workers while working for a private contractor, KBR, in Iraq. While none of the men she accused of attacking her have been prosecuted — including one who allegedly raped her -- Kineston was fired after months of complaining about the incidents… She later learned that she was not alone. Several women across the country have come forward, in lawsuits and public testimony, claiming they were sexually assaulted while working for KBR in Iraq and Kuwait. But somehow, the feds have not prosecuted the crimes. To make matters worse, the women can’t even get justice through civil lawsuits, because KBR requires them to sign contracts saying any complaints against the company will be handled through private arbitration. This morning, Kineston and another alleged victim — who says she was drugged, then gang-raped by a KBR co-worker and a soldier -- testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations about the problem. Listening to their stories, Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, stated the obvious: “We’re got a problem that justice is breaking down here,” he said. Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) added that “these brave and patriotic women deserve justice.” But when he tried to extract a promise from a deputy assistant attorney general, Sigal Mandelker, that Kineston’s case would be investigated, Mandelker wouldn’t give a straight answer, saying only that “we will work with our colleagues at the Department of Defense.” In other words, it looks like justice is still a long way off. —Lisa Rab

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