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Not-so-hot off the press: Human trafficking report

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The State Department’s internal watchdog has released a report stamped “sensitive but unclassified” that assesses a unit in charge of fighting human trafficking — five years after the report was written.

The audit of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons comes as part of a final batch of unreleased Bush-era reports that the State Department inspector general has been redacting and making available to the public. The effort ramped up in 2008 after then-acting Inspector General Harold Geisel ordered more reports made public, says Doug Welty, a spokesman for the watchdog. Almost 400 reports have been released since then.

Any tidbits of information published by the State Department about human trafficking are closely watched by human rights groups, who worry that U.S. officials have not been tough enough in probing allegations of wrongdoing. A Center for Public Integrity investigation in July found no contractors have been prosecuted for alleged sex trafficking in war zones despite allegations of contractor employees procuring commercial sex acts.

The newly released report, which has some portions redacted, sheds little light on human trafficking investigations. Instead, the 2005 report congratulates the office on its “forceful and successful” efforts to combat trafficking. It also congratulates the 24-employee unit on transforming an annual report to Congress from a humble document with “pedestrian production values, lack of photos, and bland presentation of material” into an important public diplomacy tool of 256 pages “on glossy paper with photos and highlights in box inserts.”

FAST FACT: The 2005 watchdog report made five recommendations to the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, mostly involving administrative issues. Among the recommendations: employees should be “mining research for best practices” to use in anti-trafficking programs and creating written procedures to document the foreign grants for trafficking prevention that the office administers.

Other new reports released by agencies including the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and various federal Offices of Inspector General (OIG):

FINANCE

  • HUD should pursue civil fraud against Alethes LLC for incorrectly certifying its due diligence in underwriting 19 loans that resulted in losses to HUD of $1 million (OIG)

ENERGY

  • DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration disposed of $1.2 million of contaminated precious metals that could have been decontaminated and recycled (OIG)

HEALTH

  • Social Security Administration should update criteria to determine when HIV-infected people are disabled and eligible for benefits, now that HIV has evolved from fatal disease to chronic condition (Institute of Medicine).
  • An HHS brochure explaining Medicare changes under the 2010 health care reform law does not contain “partisan, self-aggrandizing, or covert” information that would violate U.S. law (GAO).
  • A dozen states have set standards or issued guidelines for perchlorate to protect public health while EPA has yet to decide whether to regulate the rocket fuel chemical in drinking water (GAO)

NATIONAL SECURITY

  • Congress should take into account Iraq’s surplus funds of about $11.8 billion when considering the White House budget request for an extra $2 billion to spend on Iraqi police and military in fiscal 2011 (GAO)
  • Pentagon should analyze alternatives to its Quadrennial Defense Review plan to maintain large numbers of Army combat teams in Europe (GAO)