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New Legislation Includes POGO’s Recommendations for Ending Human Trafficking in U.S. War Zones

Dana Liebelson – (POGO) – March 28, 2012 – U.S. taxpayers unknowingly fund human trafficking in Iraq and Afghanistan because of poor contractor oversight–but bipartisan Members of Congress are cracking down on this deplorable crime. A new bill introduced on Monday in the House and the Senate incorporates many of POGO’s recommendations for stopping U.S. contractors and subcontractors from getting away with modern-day slavery. Some contractors may complain, but both versions of the bill deserve resounding support from the public.

The End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act (S. 2234 and H.R. 4259) is sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. James Lankford (R-OK) respectively, along with many notable cosponsors. The legislation is the long-awaited response to a variety of reports from war zones over the course of several years—including the Commission on Wartime Contracting’s final report, which found “tragic evidence of the recurrent problem of trafficking in persons by labor brokers or subcontractors of contingency contractors.”

POGO Director of Investigations Nick Schwellenbach testified before a House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on this issue in November.

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GOP, Dems come together to fight human trafficking by contractors in Iraq, Afghanistan

Pete Kasperowicz – (The Hill) – March 27, 2012 – A bipartisan group of members from the House and Senate proposed legislation on Monday that seeks to crack down on human trafficking by contractors that the U.S. military hires for work in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act is a reaction to reports from the Commission on Wartime Contracting and the inspectors general of the Defense and State departments that overseas contractors are known to engage in practices that are illegal under U.S. employee rights standards. These include seizing workers’ passports to trap them at a work site, lying about compensation, engaging in sexual abuse and generally keeping workers in a state of indentured servitude.

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Trafficking in persons – DoD has an App for that but not much else

“Human trafficking by federal overseas contractors is widespread and never punished,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (Va.), the top Democrat on the panel. “Not a single case of human trafficking, sexual assault, wage theft or related crimes has been prosecuted by the Department of Justice, and only a single case has even been referred for prosecution by the Department of Defense. Neither the Army and Air Force Exchange Service nor any other component of DoD or the State Department has suspended or debarred a single federal contractor for human trafficking, even though such abuses are routine.”
~Joe Davidson, Washington Post, November 2, 2011

Agencies blasted for ignoring contractor role in human trafficking

Charles S. Clark – (GovExec) – November 3, 2011 – The State and Defense departments are doing too little to help prosecute criminals working for U.S. subcontractors who trick foreign nationals into indentured servitude and prostitution in and around Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, a House panel was told on Wednesday.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of desperate workers from nations such as Bangladesh, Nepal and the Fiji Islands in recent years have fallen victim to deceitful traffickers who lure them to war zones with the promise of steady work, but then force them to pay commissions and borrow from loan sharks before trapping them in degrading jobs in unsafe and unsanitary conditions. Yet not a single prosecution or contractor termination has been documented, witnesses said, a state of affairs that agency representatives could do little to explain. Read the remainder of this entry »

Poor Contracting Oversight Supports Human Trafficking; Erodes U.S. “Moral Standing”

Dana Liebelson – (POGO) – November 2, 2011 – U.S. taxpayers are inadvertently funding human trafficking and worker abuse because of the federal government’s poor oversight of contractors in war zones, POGO Director of Investigations Nick Schwellenbach told a Congressional panel today.

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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 »