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America’s Shame: The U.S. Government’s Human Trafficking Dilemma

Joe Newman – (POGO) – May 7, 2012 – For Vinnie Tuivaga, the offer was the answer to a prayer: A job in a luxury hotel in Dubai–the so-called Las Vegas of the Persian Gulf–making five times what she was earning as a hair stylist in her native Fiji.

She jumped at the chance, even if it meant paying an upfront commission to the recruiter.

You probably know how this story is going to end. There was no high-paying job, luxury location or easy work.

Tuivaga and other Fijians ended up in Iraq where they lived in shipping containers and existed in what amounted to indentured servitude.

Journalist Sarah Stillman told Tuivaga’s story and that of tens of thousands of other foreign workers in acute detail almost a year ago in her New Yorker piece, “The Invisible Army.”

In some cases, Stillman found more severe abuses and more squalid living conditions than what Tuivaga and her fellow Fijians experienced.

But like Tuivaga, thousands of foreign nationals in the U.S. government’s invisible army ended up in Iraq and Afghanistan war zones because they fell victim to human traffickers.

Let that sink in.

This human trafficking pipeline wasn’t benefitting some shadowy war lord or oppressive regime. No, these are workers who were feeding, cleaning up after, and providing logistical support for U.S. troops—the standard-bearers of the free and democratic world. Read the remainder of this entry »

KBR’s Mike Land reprimanded for taking a stand against human trafficking

Mike Land and his crew

The Dancing Cowboy Whistleblower
Posted by Sarah Stillman
The New Yorker

In the June 6th issue of the magazine, my “Invisible Army” piece told the story of foreign workers on U.S. bases in Afghanistan and Iraq. The allegations on which I reported—tales of deceptive recruitment, unpaid wages, sexual assault, and conditions resembling indentured servitude faced by some foreign subcontract workers of the Pentagon—were cited in federal hearings of the Commission on Wartime Contracting.

One of the commission’s members, Dov Zakheim, called the situation described in the article “a major scandal for the United States,” and asked the State Department’s Ambassador Patrick F. Kennedy what was being done about these sorts of “shocking” abuses. What he was trying to get a handle on, from a policy standpoint, is what several readers have now asked me from a human one: Are there any signs of meaningful reform, or any efforts to which we can lend our support?

At the highest levels of governance, I’m not so sure. But in the worker camps on U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’ve met dozens of whistleblowers whose stories merit telling. Some are U.S. soldiers; others are foreign and American contractors. They have spoken out on behalf of the wars’ vast support forces from places like Fiji, Sierra Leone, and Nepal, occasionally at great risk to themselves and their jobs.

One man in particular stands out: a former employee at KBR, a global engineering and construction company, named Mike Land. Land calls himself a Texas cowboy. For nearly four years, he worked as a labor foreman in Baghdad. In my article, I alluded to his efforts to confront Prime Projects International, a Dubai-based subcontractor of KBR, about the dismal living conditions of the Indian and Filipino men he supervised. (Sadly, he didn’t make much headway; after Land left Iraq, I uncovered a massive food riot that took place on the same base complex last summer, involving more than twelve hundred angry South Asian men rioting for food.) Read the remainder of this entry »

Commission on Wartime Contracting Hearing June 7, 2011

U.S. Plans Private Guard Force for Iraq

State Department Prepares to Hire 5,100-Strong Security Detail and Take Over Military Hardware for After Army Leaves
NATHAN HODGE – (WSJ) – WASHINGTON – June 7, 2011 – The State Department is preparing to spend close to $3 billion to hire a security force to protect diplomats in Iraq after the U.S. pulls its last troops out of the country by year’s end.

In testimony Monday before the Commission on Wartime Contracting, Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary of state for management, said the department plans to hire a 5,100-strong force to protect diplomatic personnel, guard embassy buildings and operate a fleet of aircraft and armored vehicles.

Underscoring the security risks in Iraq, five American troops were killed Monday in an attack in Baghdad, the largest single loss of life for the U.S. military there since April 2009.

Fewer than 50,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq. Under a 2008 U.S.-Iraqi security agreement, all U.S. troops are supposed to leave the country by the end of the year, leaving behind only a small military office to oversee arms sales.

While U.S. officials have expressed a willingness to station a small residual force in the country, it is unclear if the Iraqi government will make the request, which faces strong opposition in Iraq.

A large U.S. diplomatic presence will remain, however, and the departments of state and defense are wrestling with how to provide security for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad—which is a target of rocket attacks—and diplomatic outposts in the provinces.

As the military withdraws, Mr. Kennedy said, the State Department will rely on contractors to carry out a range of military-style missions that he said were “not inherently governmental,” including providing emergency medical evacuation, operating systems to detect and warn against incoming rocket or artillery fire, or rescue diplomatic personnel under attack. (Click HERE for article)

DynCorp Has Refunded Money to U.S. for War Work Billings

Tony Capaccio – (Bloomberg) – June 6, 2011 DynCorp International Inc., the largest contractor in Afghanistan, has refunded a portion of $40.8 million to the U.S. State Department for work in Iraq and Afghanistan, department spokeswoman Susan Pittman said today.

The department also is asking DynCorp, of Falls Church, Virginia, to refund some portion of an additional $37.9 million in billings, she said.

Read the remainder of this entry »

Dyncorp paying liquidated damages for failures in Afghanistan

Severe soil settling has caused this guardhouse to lean and its surrounding walls to crack. SIGAR has recently identified significant soil stability issues at the construction site of the Kunduz ANA garrison. (SIGAR photo)

DynCorp Is Two Years Late Finishing Afghan Barracks Construction

By Tony Capaccio – Mar 8, 2011 1:36 PM PT

DynCorp International Inc., the largest contractor in Afghanistan, is running two years late in completing construction of a barracks for use by Afghan security forces, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The $72.8 million, two-phase project for Kunduz was originally scheduled to be completed in June 2009. The date was extended to August 2010. The latest completion target is May 31, Corps spokesman Eugene Pawlik said in an e-mail yesterday.

Construction delays at the Kunduz barracks, in northern Afghanistan, and at other facilities throughout the country complicates the U.S. process of turning over security functions to Afghan forces, said Charles Tiefer, a member of the Commission on Wartime Contracting.

“It’s a setback in our hoped-for rapid build-up of the Afghan army’s infrastructure, which needs top priority if we’re to meet the deadline of turning responsibility for the country’s security to these Afghan forces in 2014,” Tiefer, a University of Baltimore professor, said in an e-mail today. The eight- member commission was established by Congress to monitor contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ashley Burke, a spokeswoman for Falls Church, Virginia- based DynCorp, said in an e-mail that “unanticipated soil abnormalities were a major issue impeding the construction progress.” DynCorp was acquired last year by New York-based Cerberus Capital Management LP. Read the remainder of this entry »

DynCorp and Stallion endanger base with lax security in Afghanistan

We were notified in April of 2010 of this standard operating practice at Kandahar. Is it just me or does it seem that a putting out a report a year later is too little to late? ~Ms Sparky

Smuggled workers on Afghan bases cause alarm

Sara A. Carter – National security correspondent – January 24, 2011 – Foreign workers without proper clearances or identification are being smuggled onto U.S. and NATO bases in Afghanistan, a breach in security that presents a serious threat to troops and civilian employees, according to documents and interviews with U.S. officials.International Security Assistance Force police documents obtained by The Washington Examiner charged employees for two contracting companies, Stallion Construction and Engineering and DynCorp International with skirting security procedures at Kandahar Airfield, and escorting undocumented foreign laborers onto the base without appropriate clearances or jobs.

Lured by recruiters in their home countries with promises of decent jobs, foreign workers from the Philippines flew on commercial flights into Kandahar Airfield where they were met by unscrupulous subcontractors who helped them bypass security measures to enter the base, according to the documents. Read the remainder of this entry »