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DoD, DoJ & DoS on Human Trafficking TIPs & tricks

Two recent press releases indicate that once again the DoD and the DoJ are standing on their collective soapboxes and taking a stand against human trafficking.

Excuse me while I yawn at their anemic attempts to truly combat this problem.

How many headlines have to hit the news? How many lawsuits have to be filed?  How many people have to come forward before they actually do something more than simply push paper and provide lip service on this issue?

Don’t even get me started on the DoS, whose annual reports admonishing foreign governments for their failures in mitigating the problem and yet they never touch on the fact that as the international “watchdog”  they keep hiring notorious contractors who create international incidents and embarrassments on a regular basis.    Not to mention the nefarious individuals who not only participate, promote or otherwise condone trafficking in persons of foreign national workers on government installations overseas and when they get a some time off from work they hop on a plane to head to the nearest brothel for a little sex tourism.

KBR's H- Site Managers John Reddy (Left); Gordon Wohlfeil (Center); Bruce Chirinko (Right) slamming shots in Thailand, more than likely at Reddy's Hotel/Bar the Towne Lodge

Speaking of the State Department I have unconfirmed reports from my readers that Bruce Chirinko, pictured left, is currently in Baghdad working on the LOGCAP IV project supporting the State Department.

When a contractor employee does take a stand for his foreign national workers, they are threatened by their managers such as KBR’s Mike Land.  For his efforts, Land received a letter of reprimand (pdf) from KBR, telling him that if he didn’t “refrain from further involvement regarding the working and living conditions of the sub-contract workers,” he could be fired.

Chirinko’s name has come up numerous times.  His signature is on the letter of reprimand (Project Manager), referenced above.  He has also been named in at least one lawsuit.

When I contacted the Towne Lodge, Chirinko’s name was given to me as a reference, along with several other high level KBR managers working on LOGCAP, including Michael Peck, who according to LinkedIn was “Corporate Legal Counsel-Baghdad and Middle East at KBR Middle East/Central Asia CSC”.

Here is an excerpt from a post I did in 2009:

Read the remainder of this entry »

Hearing: Are Government Contractors Exploiting Workers Overseas? or Does the end justify the means? (updated 11-2-2011)

Stack of "Get Away Guest House of Pattaya" business cards with former KBR manager Donald Vannoy's name on them

Witnesses
Panel I
Ms. Liana Wyler, Senior Analyst Congressional Research Service
Mr. David Isenberg, Independent Analyst and Writer
Mr. Nick Schwellenbach, Director of Investigations, Project on Government Oversight
Mr. Sam W. McCahon, Founder McCahon Law

Panel II
The Honorable Kenneth P. Moorefield, Deputy Inspector General for Special Plans & Operations U.S. Department of Defense
Mr. Michael P. Howard, Chief Operation Officer Army and Air Force Exchange Service
Ms. Evelyn R. Klemstine, Assistant Inspector General for Audits U.S. Department of State
Ms. Linda Dixon, Combating Trafficking in Persons Program Manager, U.S. Department of Defense

On Wednesday November 2, 2011 at 10:00 AM EDT, the Subcommittee on Technology, Intergovernment Relations and Procurement Reform will hold a hearing on US Government contractors who exploit foreign national workers at US facilities overseas.  I hope Congress doesn’t think human trafficking is a new issue. I’ve been blogging about the exploitation of foreign national workers in Iraq and Afghanistan since I started this blog nearly four years ago.

The Trafficking in Persons (TIPs) of workers is a clear violation of the FAR and DFARS and therefore a violation of US law and many international laws as well . Yet, this most egregious crime against humanity goes mostly unchecked by many Defense Department, State Department and USAID contractors and their subcontractors. Why is that? Does the US Government feel the end justifies the means?

The US Government, in all their infinite wisdom (sarcasm), have adopted the philosophy it is more cost effective to award contracts to those who hire labor brokers to fill most labor positions in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan. These labor brokers in turn go to destitute third world countries such as India, Nepal, Uganda and The Philippines to hire tens of thousands of both male and female workers. The recruits are promised the moon and charged a hefty recruiting fee for this “once in a lifetime” opportunity. Many recruits are blatantly lied to and have no idea they are heading to a war zone. Many know they are going to a war zone but end up in over crowded, unsanitary living conditions with far less pay than what they were promised. Some of these conditions are experienced on US Military installations, some in staging facilities outside the “wire” with little protection from the insurgency. 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 »