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

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

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

USACE awards KBR, Louis Berger and IAP $490M electrical contracts in Afghanistan…..Really?

Cross Posted from MsSparky’s  November 8, 2011

On September 30, 2011 , along with and Worldwide Services, Inc. were awarded contracts by the The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide electrical services for contingency operations in . This $490 million dollar contract is to perform electrical services for prime power operations in support of any location within the Afghan Theater of Operations. This contract supports any and all U.S. facilities in , as required, up to the maximum capacity of $500 million.

The contract includes generator set Operations and Maintenance (O&M), preparation, transport, installation, preventive maintenance, scheduled maintenance, emergency maintenance, service, fueling, relocating and recovering generator sets, associated fuel systems (if required), and all transmission/distribution system maintenance including the underground or overhead system at the U.S. Facilities from the generators to the transformer and associated switchgear.

USACE, who has had their own employee issues lately, acts as if there are no other contractors out there who can do this work! Not to mention, I suspect these three contractors will load up on cheap third world or Afghan labor to perform this work instead of licensed electricians, further propagating US sponsored human trafficking.

Let’s take a look at these contractors one by one at MsSparky’s

November 8, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracting, Contractor Corruption, Contractor Oversight, Contracts Awarded, KBR, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Contractor Accountability and Human Trafficking at Center of Upcoming Film, The Whistleblower

By NICK SCHWELLENBACH at POGO  August 2, 2011For those looking for more of the backstory on Dyncorp whistleblowers Ben Johnston and Kathyrn Bolkovac, whose tale is the subject of the movie The Whistleblower, (opening in theaters this Friday, see trailer above), I have unearthed material from an interview I conducted with Bolkovac and some related research last year.

The material was chopped from a story I was working on for The Washington Post because of space considerations. Here’s the draft section that was cut:

Roughly a decade ago, two Dyncorp employees reported that some of their fellow employees were involved in the buying and selling of women and young girls in Bosnia. Dyncorp is a U.S. defense and security contractor that held U.S. logistics and security contracts for work in the former Yugoslavia.

Both were fired, retaliation for their whistle-blowing they said.

“The only reason they fired me was because I told on them, and I broke up their little boys’ club,” former Dyncorp employee Ben Johnston said at a congressional hearing in 2002.

A helicopter mechanic working for Dyncorp on an Air Force contract, Johnston had observed Dyncorp employees with young girls believed to have been purchased and employees bragging about buying and selling them in 1999 and 2000.

His allegations were investigated by the Army but after some initial work that did turn up significant evidence of trafficking, including a confession by one employee that women were sold “permanently,” they turned the investigation over to the local police. But the local police erroneously did not believe they could prosecute American contractors, according to a Human Rights Watch report. Nor did the Army investigators interview a Moldovan woman who was purchased, explore allegations that Johnston’s supervisors had raped a woman or that she or other women had been trafficked.

“There is my supervisor, the biggest guy there [in Bosnia] with DynCorp, videotaping having sex with these girls, girls saying no,” Johnston said at the hearing, referring to a video turned over to Army investigators, “but that guy now, to my knowledge, he is in America doing fine. There was no repercussion for raping the girl.”

In addition to the Army’s investigation, a Department of Defense Office of Inspector General assessment found evidence that contractor employees were involved in trafficking, the latter finding that it “continues to be an issue” in Bosnia as late as December 2003. However, no prosecutions for trafficking came as a result.

Johnston reached a settlement for an undisclosed amount with the company hours a British panel ruled against Dyncorp in another similar case and days before his case was to go to trial in Texas in August 2002.

The other company insider was Kathryn Bolkovac, a Nebraskan deployed by Dyncorp on a State Department contract as part of the U.S. contingent of the International Police Task Force there.

An October 9, 2000, e-mail she wrote, entitled, “Do Not Read This if You Have a Weak Stomach or Guilty Conscience,” was sent to more than 50 U.N. personnel in Bosnia detailing the involvement in trafficking of various aspects of the international force of which she was part. It started a chain reaction that led to her firing the following April, she said.

She won before a British employment tribunal in August 2002 that ordered Dyncorp to pay her nearly $180,000.

But she saw little government action to investigate her specific allegations, said Bolkovac, a former policewoman. In her estimation of what was done: “pretty much zero.”

On the issues she raised in Bosnia, “there’s nobody willing to go the extra mile and do the investigation,” she said.

But other roadblocks also existed. “Get rid of the victim and get ride of the perpetrator and you don’t have a case,” Bolkovac told me, referring to the pattern of sending offenders and victims back to their home countries.

These cases and the media attention they garnered played out around the same time President George W. Bush issued his government-wide “zero tolerance” trafficking policy in 2002 and spoke before the U.N. General Assembly in 2003.

Since Bosnia, DynCorp has continued to win large and important contracts with the U.S. government, including contracts to train police in both Iraq and Afghanistan. But accusations of continued involvement of its employees in prostitution followed it beyond the Balkans – at least according to one former DynCorp subcontractor who testified before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee in 2008.

Dyncorp employees ran a “prostitution ring” that imported prostitutes from Kuwait into Baghdad in armored vehicles and operated out of hotels along the Tigris River, according to Barry Halley, a former Dyncorp subcontractor. The women appeared to be adults from Eastern Europe, he said.

Halley observed this in early 2004 before switching jobs

August 2, 2011 Posted by | Balkans, Contractor Oversight, Government Contractor, Iraq, Rape, Sexual Assault, Whistleblower | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pentagon Contractor Employee Investigated for Human Trafficking, Fired… But No Prosecutions or Contract Terminations

By NICK SCHWELLENBACH at POGO

Yesterday, the State Department released its latest annual report on combating human trafficking. The report said that although one Department of Defense contractor employee was investigated and dismissed in the last year, there have been no prosecutions and no contract terminations:

Allegations against federal contractors engaged in commercial sex and labor exploitation continued to surface in the media. During the reporting period, allegations were investigated and one employee was dismissed by a DoD contractor. The Inspectors General at the Departments of State and Defense and USAID continued their audits of federal contracts to monitor vulnerability to human trafficking and issued public reports of their findings and reparations. USAID also created an entity dedicated to proactively tracking contractor compliance with the authority to suspend contracts and debar contracting firms, a positive step toward increasing enforcement in this area. No prosecutions occurred and no contracts were terminated.

Earlier this month, POGO published an investigation into a case of alleged labor trafficking by a DoD subcontractor in Iraq. In that instance, there were no prosecutions or contract terminations. Last year, I and Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig wrote that there have been zero prosecutions or contract terminations ever since a tough-sounding “zero tolerance” policy that emphasized prosecutions went into place nearly a decade ago. Experts inside and outside the government told us there is little appetite and investigative resources to go after these crimes. “Zero prosecutions,” we quoted attorney Martina Vandenberg, a former Human Rights Watch investigator, “suggests zero effort to enforce the law.”

Nick Schwellenbach is POGO’s Director of Investigations.  Please see the original here

June 29, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Department of Defense, State Department, USAID | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Documents Reveal Details of Alleged Labor Trafficking by KBR Subcontractor

The Najlaa Episode Revisited

By DAVID ISENBERG and NICK SCHWELLENBACH at POGO

In December 2008, South Asian workers, two thousand miles or more from their homes, staged a protest on the outskirts of Baghdad. The reason: Up to 1,000 of them had been confined in a windowless warehouse and other dismal living quarters without money or work for as long as three months.

In a typical comment made by the laborers to news organizations at the time, Davidson Peters, a 42-year-old Sri Lankan man, told a McClatchy Newspapers reporter that “They promised us the moon and stars…While we are here, wives have left their husbands and children have been shut out of their schools” because money for their families back home had dried up.

The men came to Iraq lured by the promise of employment by Najlaa International Catering Services, a subcontractor performing work for Houston-based KBR, Inc. under the Army’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP) III contract.

Now, a cache of internal corporate and government documents obtained by POGO offer insight into this episode of alleged war zone human trafficking by companies working for the U.S.—and suggest that hardly anyone has been held accountable for what may be violations of U.S. law.

The subcontractor, Najlaa, appears to have suffered no repercussions for its role in luring hundreds of South Asian workers to Iraq with promises of lucrative jobs only to turn around and warehouse at least 1,000 of them in dismal living conditions without work—and pay—for several months. In fact, Najlaa continues to win government contracts.

Despite strongly worded “zero tolerance” policies against human trafficking, the U.S. has directly awarded contracts to Najlaa after the December 2008 protests, including one contract that lasts through 2012.

The Najlaa Incident: An Accountability Case Study

The freshly unearthed documents show that for several months, KBR employees expressed exasperation at Najlaa’s apparent abuse of the laborers and said the subcontractor was embarrassing KBR in front of its main client in Iraq: the U.S. military. But despite its own employees’ strongly worded communications to Najlaa, to this day, KBR continues to award subcontracts to the company.

The documents also suggest that Najlaa rehired former KBR employees who were terminated for what appear to be trafficking-in-persons violations. It is not clear what, if any, repercussions these employees faced besides their termination.

Additionally, the documents raise questions about government officials’ response in the wake of the 2008 protests by Najlaa employees. Although, at the time, the press reported that the U.S. government was investigating alleged trafficking by Najlaa, it has not led to any prosecution or termination of the subcontract. A Sri Lankan company that supplied laborers to Najlaa told POGO it complained about Najlaa’s abusive practices to both KBR and the U.S. government, but said that U.S. law enforcement agencies never followed up.

Please read this entire report here

June 14, 2011 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, KBR, Legal Jurisdictions | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smuggled Contract Laborers in Afghanistan: The Tip of the Iceberg

See Also at MsSparky

by Neil Gordon Project on Government Oversight

The Washington Examiner obtained an investigative report that uncovered instances of foreign workers without proper security clearances or identification being smuggled onto U.S. and NATO bases in Afghanistan. According to an April 2010 report by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan, two federal contractors, Stallion Construction and Engineering and DynCorp International, violated security procedures at Kandahar Airfield by escorting undocumented foreign laborers onto the base.

Illegal labor practices ranging from contract worker smuggling to human trafficking persist in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands of nationals from impoverished countries are lured by the promise of good jobs, but sometimes end up victims of scams that leave them virtual slaves with no way to return home or seek legal recourse. Or, as ISAF documented, they may gain unauthorized access to sensitive war zone locations. In Afghanistan, according to the Examiner’s description of the ISAF report, prospective workers fly into the country, where they are met by “unscrupulous subcontractors” who help them bypass security measures to enter U.S. and NATO bases and work for companies like Stallion and DynCorp. According to the Examiner, the report identified only a small number of what could be hundreds of undocumented employees at Kandahar Airfield, where more than 20,000 U.S. and NATO personnel are stationed.

“This report is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg,” an unnamed U.S. official told the Examiner. “The military police report is only one example of what has been going on for some time at the major bases across the country. This is a serious security issue and human rights issue as well.”

POGO hasn’t seen the ISAF report, but we obtained this DynCorp security incident report [Note: POGO redacted all personally identifiable information] from March 2010 describing an incident that sounds very similar to the activity ISAF investigated. DynCorp discovered that four Filipino citizens gained access to Kandahar Airfield through questionable circumstances with the help of a bus driver “escort” who worked for the company.

According to the Examiner, the ISAF report recommended that Stallion be suspended from contracting but said nothing about sanctioning DynCorp. DynCorp, one of the three primary LOGCAP IV contractors in Afghanistan (along with Fluor and KBR), is no stranger to human trafficking issues. Ten years ago, DynCorp was embroiled in international controversy over allegations that its employees in the Balkans participated in a massive human trafficking and prostitution operation. A movie based on those allegations debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival last year.

On Tuesday, the State Department held a briefing on human trafficking. Ambassador-at-Large Luis CdeBaca spoke about the government’s new interagency initiatives to combat trafficking in persons. Neither the ISAF report nor anything about contract worker smuggling or human trafficking in Iraq and Afghanistan was mentioned.

Last month, the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General released a report urging DoD contracting officials to do more to combat human trafficking, such as ensuring that contracts contain the required anti-trafficking provisions. This report, the second DoD IG report on trafficking required by law, examined a sample of DoD construction and service contracts valued at $5 million or more awarded in fiscal years 2009 and 2010 for work in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Qatar, and Bahrain. The report found that only about half of the contracts contained the required Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Combating Trafficking in Persons (CTIP) clause. The report warns that such widespread noncompliance with this requirement means many contractors may be unaware of the government’s “zero tolerance” policy with regard to human trafficking, and contracting officers are unable to apply remedies in the case of violations.  Please read the original here

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Afghanistan, Civilian Contractors, Contractor Oversight, DynCorp, Iraq, NATO, Safety and Security Issues | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Asian migrants forced to work for military contractors in Iraq

Kumar Ramjali was a Nepalese farmer in search of a better life in the US. He ended up in Iraq and his is not an isolated case. Hundreds, if not thousands, of migrants from South Asia have been trafficked there recently.

“For people like me, who don’t have a proper education, our only hope is to go abroad and work. In my village there are many people who have done that. They were able to earn a lot of money and now they have a comfortable life,” Kumar explains.

He is calm as he tells his story. He looks down and recounts how he decided to take his chances in 2004 and go abroad.

He paid an agency in Katmandu a commission of 1300 US dollars to get him a job in the United States. The sum was gigantic – the equivalent of a year’s wages. He borrowed and paid the money, but instead of being sent to the US, he ended up in New Delhi.

“I had no choice but to go to Iraq”

In India, another agency also wanted money – the same amount – to get him to New York. This agency took his passport off him and sent him to Jordan. It’s only when he got to Amman that Kumar found out he wasn’t going to the States at all – he was on his way to Iraq.

Read the full story here

June 11, 2010 Posted by | Civilian Contractors, Contingency Contracing, DynCorp | , , , | Leave a comment