Overseas Civilian Contractors

News and issues relating to Civilian Contractors working Overseas

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

Project on Government Oversight  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.

In its final report to Congress last year, the Commission on Wartime Contracting said it had uncovered evidence of human trafficking in Iraq and Afghanistan by labor brokers and subcontractors. Commissioner Dov Zakheim later told a Senate panel that the Commission had only scratched the surface of the problem. He called it the “tip of the iceberg.”

In essence, despite a 2002 presidential directive that set a “zero tolerance” on human trafficking, modern-day slavers have been operating with impunity under the aegis of the U.S. government.

Nick Schwellenbach, who until last month was the director of investigations at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), and author David Isenberg also wrote about the conditions some of these foreign workers endured in Iraq.

Nick and David uncovered documents that showed how one U.S. contractor—in this case KBR—was well aware that one of its subcontractors, Najlaa International Catering Services, was involved in trafficking abuses.

Please see the original and read more here

May 7, 2012 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Follow the Money, Halliburton, Human Trafficking, Iraq, KBR, Politics | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Africans in Afghanistan: When War Zones Become Lands of Opportunity

Thousands of skilled workers from Africa are willingly facing danger in remote areas of Afghanistan for high-paying jobs supporting coalition troops.

Think Africa Press  April 26, 2012

Beyond the primal beauty of the Southern Afghanistan desert lies the unknown for newcomers, military and civilians alike. Sand and rocks spread further across that vast sea of sparsely inhabited nothingness than the eye can see. For the troops stationed in the Helmand province, the unknown coupled with the deserted surroundings speak danger.

This infamous province – a Taliban stronghold and site of frequent fighting between insurgents and NATO troops during the now 10-year-old Afghan War – has been welcoming a new breed of visitors: former soldiers turned personnel security providers, carpenters, electricians, plumbers, engineers, cashiers, information technology experts, mine specialists, or finance and administration officers. Many are Africans, who constitute the bulk of migrant workers in the area, along with civilian personnel from Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Croatia, Bosnia), and Asia (India, Philippines).

Outsourced wars, outsourced workers

The increased military presence of the US, EU and other countries involved in the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force after 2009 resulted in a major shift in roles. As the overextended military focused on taming a local insurgency, tasks that were once the exclusive domain of trained military personnel started to be offered to civilian skilled workers. Civilians contractors came to provide the workforces necessary to maintain and run dining facilities, Morale Welfare and Recreation centres, military berthing, and equipment repair and replenishment shops.

Ethiopian Henok Tessema, 33, now lodging in the civilian section of a Helmand Province military installation, made his way to Afghanistan following a routine online job search. Tessema had been juggling four part-time positions working as a financial administrator and accountant in Harar, and saw the vacancy at the Central Asia Development Group as an opportunity to consolidate four part-time positions into a single one.

Please read the entire article here

April 26, 2012 Posted by | Afghanistan, Africa, Civilian Contractors, Human Trafficking, ISAF, Private Military Contractors, Private Security Contractor | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

The Hill

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.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), the lead Senate sponsor of the bill, said the legislation would help improve the treatment of third-country workers who are lured to work in Iraq and Afghanistan only to be defrauded or enslaved.

“Modern-day slavery by government contractors — unknowingly funded by American taxpayers — is unconscionable and intolerable,” Blumenthal said. “Current law prohibiting human trafficking is insufficient and ineffective, failing to prevent or punish abuses

Blumenthal’s bill, S. 2234, is also co-sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

The House companion bill, H.R. 4259, was sponsored by Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.), and is co-sponsored by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Chris Smith (R-N.J.).

Issa’s committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the bill Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., with Blumenthal and Portman expected to testify on the bill at that time

Please see the original and read more here

March 28, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Government Contractor, Human Trafficking, Wartime Contracting | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Appeal Won’t Interrupt Nepali ‘Slavery’ Case

Courthouse News  March 7, 2012

HOUSTON (CN) – A contractor accused of trafficking Nepali laborers into Iraq to staff Al Asad Air Base cannot seek an interim appeal, a federal judge ruled.
In a 2008 federal RICO complaint, Nepali families claimed that U.S. military contractors duped 13 men into indentured servitude in Iraq.

With promises of a $500 monthly salary, many of the men believed they would be working at a luxury hotel in Jordan. But they later learned that they were actually on their way to Al Asad Air Base in Iraq, according to the complaint. At that point, the large brokerage fees they owed allegedly kept the men from turning back for home.
Insurgents from the Ansar al-Sunna Army captured 12 of the men in August 2004 as they traveled in the front of an unsecured 17-car caravan along the Amman-to-Baghdad highway in Iraq’s Anbar province, the families say. The 13th man, Buddi Prasad Gurung, was in a separate car and evaded capture, according to the complaint.
When the insurgents executed the captives, international news stations aired the footage of their deaths, reaching the men’s families in Nepal, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit against the military contractors, Daoud & Partners and Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), was removed from the Central District of California to the Southern District of Texas.
On Dec. 12, 2011, U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison dismissed some of the claims against Daoud from the families, as well as some of the cross-claims that the company faced from KBR.
The 48-page order upheld personal jurisdiction over Daoud, but dismissed negligence and false-imprisonment claims by Gurung, the lone survivor

Please see the original and read more here

March 7, 2012 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractors Held, Human Trafficking, KBR, Lawsuits, Legal Jurisdictions | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The DynCorp “See No Evil” Monkey

by David Isenberg at Huffington Post and The PMSC Observer

On January 30 I wrote a post regarding sexual violence by private contractors. Though the most flagrant instances have occurred in the past, it is still a problem.

Although I was not singling out any company in particular I did mention DynCorp because it served as the inspiration for the movie The Whistleblower that came out last year. This relates to the infamous cases of sex trafficking and slavery in Bosnia back in the Balkan wars of the nineties.

Okay, stuff happens. Although other things have happened with DynCorp, more specifically the DynCorp International division, over the years, it is a big company and employs lots of people. One should not tar every company with the sins of a past employee.

As big corporations go DynCorp, in my limited experience, is very decent. Full disclosure: years ago, I worked three years for one of its arms control units, not DynCorp International, and found the people there highly professional and very ethical.

Still, my past post evidently did not go down well at DynCorp HQ. I was emailed a response by one of their vice presidents taking me to task for my presumed sins. At the request of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre in London, which had listed my post in their weekly update, they emailed a similar response to them.

I fully understand that DynCorp wants to put the best possible face on this issue but I feel its response is a little too self-serving so let me just do some parsing of some of its statement.

With regard to the movie it writes,

‘The Whistleblower’ centers on allegations of human trafficking, a serious crime and global problem. Although the Company was never contacted by the filmmakers to obtain even a basic description of past work in Bosnia, to fact-check allegations or to obtain our position on these issues, when the Company reached out to the representatives for the filmmakers to gain more information about the movie, we were informed that the film, in the distributor’s words, ‘is a fictionalized, dramatic presentation.

I realize that in times long past it was popular to kill the messenger but that is supposedly out of fashion nowadays. DynCorp seems to think the filmmaker, who is Larysa Kondracki, had an obligation to contact them to get their spin. She did not…..

Please continue to Huff Post to read the entire post

February 10, 2012 Posted by | Balkans, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, DynCorp, Human Trafficking, NATO, Safety and Security Issues, Sexual Assault, Vetting Employees | , , , , | Leave a comment

PMC Sexual Violence: It’s Still a Problem

David Isenberg at Huffington Post   January 30, 2012

Also see at David’s blog The PMSC Observer

In one of those rare, “perfect storm” of coincidences, three events converge to provide the topic for this column. First, the latest issue of the in-house magazine, the arriviste named “Journal of International Peace Operations,” published by ISOA, a PMSC trade group, is devoted to the topic of “Women & International Security.”

Since ISOA, like any good trade group, generally tries to dismiss any criticism of its member companies, as being the ravings of liberal hacks in pursuit of a “spicy merc” story, it is interesting to note that the very first article in the issue states:

Companies need to adopt institutional measures to prevent and address cases of misconduct. Appropriate gender training for PMSC personnel, alongside training in international humanitarian law and human rights law – as recommended by the Montreux Document on PMSCs -will help to create a more gender-aware institution, thus preventing human rights abuses and reputation loss. Having clear rules of behaviour and mechanisms to punish individuals responsible for human rights violations will benefit the host populations, individual companies and the industry as a whole.

Second, the recent release in the UK of last year’s movie, The Whistleblower, a fictionalized version of the involvement of DynCorp contractors in sex trafficking and slavery in Bosnia back in the nineties, serves to remind us that despite DynCorp’s rhetoric over the subsequent years not nearly enough has changed.

For those whose memories have faded, employees of DynCorp were accused of buying and keeping women and girls as young as 12 years old in sexual slavery in Bosnia. Perhaps even more shocking is that none of those involved have ever been held accountable within a court of law. The United States subsequently awarded DynCorp a new contract worth nearly $250 million to provide training to the developing Iraqi police force, even though the company’s immediate reaction to reports of the crimes was to fire the whistle-blowers.

As an article in the Jan. 29, Sunday Telegraph noted:

Most disappointing of all was what happened next: several men were sent home, but none was punished further. No future employer will know what these men were guilty of. I asked DynCorp if its guidelines had become more stringent since 2001 and was sent its code of ethics. It states that ‘engaging in or supporting any trafficking in persons […] is prohibited. Any person who violates this standard or fails to report violations of this standard shall be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.’ So nothing has changed.

By the way, from a strictly observational viewpoint, given other problems DynCorp has had over the years since that took place, from dancing boys in Afghanistan to the recent settling of an EEOC suit regarding sexual harassment of one of its workers in Iraq, DynCorp is the Energizer Bunny of sexual harassment; it just keeps giving and giving and giving; doubtlessly reporters around the world are grateful.

Please read the entire post here

January 30, 2012 Posted by | Afghanistan, Balkans, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense, DynCorp, Human Trafficking, Iraq, Legal Jurisdictions, Politics, Private Military Contractors, Safety and Security Issues, Sexual Assault, Whistleblower | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

More DoD Investigations of Allegations of U.S. Contractor-Fueled Human Trafficking

By NICK SCHWELLENBACH at POGO  January 26, 2012

It appears that Fiscal Year 2011 saw more Defense Department criminal investigations of alleged human trafficking by its contractor supply chain than in any one of the last five years, according to a Pentagon inspector general report publicly released today (it is dated January 17).

All three investigations involved or allegedly involved U.S. government contractors or subcontractors in Southwest Asia: Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.

“While not criminal prosecutions, there have been some civil and administrative actions recently. Earlier this year, the Justice Department joined a whistleblower qui tam lawsuit that alleged that ArmorGroup North America had not reported trafficking-in-persons violations by its personnel as required by its contract. ArmorGroup North America, which had a contract to defend the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, settled the lawsuit for $7.5 million. ArmorGroup North America’s parent company said in a statement that the settlement was made “to avoid costly and disruptive litigation—and that there has been no finding or admission of liability.”

Please read the entire post here

January 26, 2012 Posted by | Afghanistan, Africa, ArmorGroup, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense, Human Trafficking, Legal Jurisdictions, State Department | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Evaluation of DOD Contracts Regarding Combating Trafficking in Persons: (Report No. DODlG-20l2-041)

January 17, 2012

Evaluation of DOD Contracts Regarding Combating Trafficking in Persons:
              U.S.  European Command and U.S. Africa Command
              (Report No.  DODlG-20l2-041)

January 26, 2012 Posted by | Afghanistan, Africa, ArmorGroup, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense, Human Trafficking | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Has the UN learned lessons of Bosnian sex slavery revealed in Rachel Weisz film?

The Whistleblower is a shocking film that reveals how Balkan peacekeepers turned a blind eye to kidnapping, torture and rape. But these abuses still go on

“Those girls are whores of war. It happens.”

The Guardian  January 14, 2012

We do not see the torture inflicted on one girl for trying to flee her captors, but we see the tears of her fellow slaves forced to watch. We see the iron bar tossed on to the cellar floor when the punishment is over, and we know what has happened.

The Whistleblower spares you little. It is a film about that most depraved of crimes: trafficking women for enslaved sex, rape and even murder.

As a dramatised portrayal of reality, however, The Whistleblower is “a day at the beach compared to what happened in real life”, says its director, Larysa Kondracki. “We show what is just about permissible to show. We couldn’t possibly include the three-week desensitisation period, when they burn the girls in particular places. We couldn’t really capture the hopelessness of life these women are subjected to.”

Starring Rachel Weisz, The Whistleblower, released tomorrow on DVD, is the most searing drama-documentary of recent years and has won many prizes. But more important than the accolades is that everything in the film is true. The film deals with enslavement and rape in Bosnia, not during wartime 20 years ago but during the peace. Worse, not only were the enslaved women’s “clients” soldiers and police officers – so too were the traffickers, protected at the top of the United Nations operation in Bosnia

Please read the entire story here

January 15, 2012 Posted by | Balkans, Civilian Contractors, DynCorp, Human Trafficking, Rape, United Nations | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lankford sounds alarm about human trafficking

The Edmond Sun  November 17, 2011

EDMOND — The Department of Defense is allowing human trafficking to occur on military establishments by the tens of thousands, Congressman James Lankford said. Lankford said that he and others in Congress are trying to stop the abuse.

“We are holding people in debt bondage by the way we are doing our contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Lankford, R-Edmond.

Lankford is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Information Policy, Intergovernmental Relations and Procurement Reform.

A human trafficking hearing led by Lankford in the House this month, questioned the Commission Overseas and Contingencies report. The report reveals human trafficking.

“I said this is a big issue,” Lankford said. “While they didn’t talk about it much, they basically said, ‘Yes we are — the Department of Defense — allowing human trafficking to occur on our military establishments.’”

Please read the entire story here

November 17, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Department of Defense, Human Trafficking | , , , , , , | Leave a comment