Franken Amendment for Jamie Leigh Jones
Al Franken's Amendment 2588, to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, passed 68 to 30. The amendment was written in tribute to Jamie Leigh Jones. She was drugged and raped by several men at Camp Hope, Baghdad, Iraq. The Defense Department would be forbidden from having contracts with companies that settled sexual assault and harassment cases in arbitration.
To prohibit the use of funds for any Federal contract with Halliburton Company, KBR, Inc., any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, or any other contracting party if such contractor or a subcontractor at any tier under such contract requires that employees or independent contractors sign mandatory arbitration clauses regarding certain claims.
Technically, Jones's former companies KBR and Halliburton were contracted under the State Department. At the time, CPA Order 17 gave contractors immunity from crimes committed in Iraq. The men that raped Jones had a free get out of jail ticket. Scott Horton explained how messed up the legal process was during his House Judiciary committee testimony.
(1) The Justice Department is effectively not present on the scene, does not have personnel deployed charged with conducting investigations, collecting evidence and making preliminary decisions as to whether incidents are suitable for prosecution. This would require a team of FBI agents with appropriate training, including access to forensic labs and personnel.
(2) The case when first alleged seems to have been treated as an issue related to administration of a contract, rather than a criminal justice matter, triggering only a State Department investigation. But the State Department does not have authority to conduct criminal inquiries or to bring charges.
(3) The Department of Defense was called upon to provide medical expertise, which was a reasonable step. But no guidelines appear to have been available as to how this was done. The alleged surrender of the rape kit by military medical personnel to Kellogg Brown & Root was grossly improper, producing a serious lapse in the chain of custody—and in this case, loss of evidence which cannot be reproduced. It reflects an attitude which I hear constantly when interviewing State Department and Defense Department personnel—namely, that the problem is the contractor’s. Of course, the contractor has an interest in performing its contract and maintaining a good relationship with the contracting agency. The contractor does not have any interest per se in law enforcement. It might well decide to terminate employees it believes are involved in a crime, but beyond that the contractor will, very appropriately, believe that the responsibility for law enforcement lies with law enforcement agencies.
Jones still has not had her day in court. The Franken amendment was a major moral victory for her.
Jones said the amendment's passage "means the world to me."
"It means that every tear shed to go public and repeat my story over and over again to make a difference for other women was worth it," she said. Jones testified about the alleged assault before Congress and other women employed by contractors have made similar allegations.
Rep. Jeff Sessions proved the GOP's true base is the business community. Sessions gave his reasoning for voting against the Franken amendment.
"The Congress should not be involved in writing or rewriting contracts," Sessions said.
The Franken amendment doesn't rewrite abitration contracts. It simply says the federal government will not do business with corporations that use arbitration to restrict employees from taking sexual assault cases to court. Sessions is placing the interests corporate profits above civil rights. Would he hold a female member member to the same standard as Jones. I don't buy it for a second. Does Sessions believe he his staking out a morally courageous stand for Halliburton's honor?
Nay votes for Franken's amendment.