"The Labor Department worked for more than a year to maintain secrecy for studies that were critical of working conditions in Central America," reports the Associated Press. The department hired a contractor to study the likely effect of the Central America Free Trade Agreement, now before Congress. But the contractor, the International Labor Rights Fund, concluded that "labor laws on the books in Central America are not sufficient to deter employers from violations." The Labor Department ordered the report removed from the contractor's website, sequestered paper copies and forbade discussions of it with outsiders. The department also launched "a pre-emptive campaign to undercut the study's conclusions," disseminating talking points that called the report "unsubstantiated" and filled with "biased attacks, not the facts." The department and "an independent evaluator" concluded that the contractor "failed to meet the academic rigor expected."
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