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Committee acts to stop contractors from enabling human trafficking

Joe Davidson – (Washington Post) – June 27, 2012 – A Senate committee wants to make sure Uncle Sam doesn’t act as an inadvertent enabler for international human traffickers and pimps.

With a voice vote Wednesday, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee preliminarily approved legislation designed, as its title says, to “End Trafficking in Government Contracting.”

When contractors submit proposals for government work overseas, they don’t include provisions for trading in humans or indentured servitude. But that apparently has been the case with some private firms operating on U.S. military bases in foreign countries.

“Modern-day slavery by government contractors — unknowingly funded by American taxpayers — is unconscionable and intolerable,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), prime sponsor of the bill. “Current law prohibiting human trafficking is insufficient and ineffective, failing to prevent or punish abuses.”

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Secret Service Director Testifies on Recent Scandal

Says matter “not a systemic issue”

(C-Span) – Washington, DC - May 23, 2012 – The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held an oversight hearing on the recent misconduct by Secret Service agents, entitled  ”Secret Service on the Line: Restoring Trust and Confidence.”

The hearing examined whether there were warning signals before nine Secret Service employees were fired and three others disciplined for involvement with prostitutes in Colombia and what the Service can do to regain public trust.

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Colombia Secret Service Prostitution Scandal Spreads to the DEA

Interview with Cartagena “Escort” involved in Secret Service scandal (May 2012)

Pierre Thomas and Jason Ryan – (ABC News) – May 22, 2012 – A month after the Secret Service was rocked by allegations that agents brought prostitutes to a Colombia hotel where they were preparing for a visit by President Obama, the Drug Enforcement Administration today announced that at least three of its agents are also under investigation for allegedly hiring prostitutes in Cartagena.

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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 »

David Isenberg: A Morally Reprehensible Problem

These people thought they had a job that provided a good wage, food and housing. They found out they had none of that. (2008 LOGCAP Scandal)

David Isenberg – (Huffington Post) – May 3, 2012 – I confess: I have an interest in an unseemly topic. Last year I coauthored a report on the subject and testified before Congress about it. The subject is labor trafficking.

So let’s give credit where it is due. On May 1, the International Stability Operations Association, a leading private military and security contracting trade association and the American Bar Association hosted a Combating Labor Trafficking: Legal and Compliance Mechanisms in the Fight Against Forced Labor conference. The coordinating partners for the event were such major companies as DynCorp International, Triple Canopy, FSI Worldwide, and Principal Risk Solutions.

This is not, of course, a problem exclusive to the PMSCO sector but neither is it something that has happened only now and then either. Suffice it to say that it enough of a problem that this is the second conference ISOA organized on the issue, the first being seven years ago. The conference program guide minced no words in stating why a conference is necessary:

Labor trafficking is a disgraceful practice that plagues many country as well as international peacekeeping and stability operations. Poverty creates pools of desperate labor at high risk of human trafficking of all kinds, including forced labor. The problem is morally reprehensible but of such enormous complexity it cannot be solved by a single sector and must be addressed by stakeholders working in partnership from all sides — private, governmental, nongovernmental and humanitarians sectors; clients and employers

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