Huffington Post, 11 July 2012
A bit over a year ago a report I co-wrote, documenting human trafficking and abuse of workers by Najlaa International Catering Services, a KBR subcontractor, was published by the Project on Government Oversight.
The internal company documents I uncovered revealed, among other things, that U.S. authorities were aware of the deplorable living conditions Najlaa workers endured back in 2008. To their credit both the U.S. government and KBR both worked to pressure Najlaa to fix things once they were alerted to the problem.
But, thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union, newly released documents reveal that the U.S. government and KBR were even more aware of the problem than previously known.
In July 2011 the ACLU filed a lawsuit demanding that the government release documents relating to the trafficking and the abusive treatment of foreign workers on U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) case sought documents from the Departments of State and Defense that detail audits and complaints about military contractors working in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bear in mind this is hardly an isolated problem. As the New York Times reported:
On every military base in Iraq and Afghanistan exists an economy sustained by immigrant workers. For transportation, construction, food services, security and more, the United States government relies on 174,000 laborers, 70,000 of them recruited from developing countries like Nepal, India, the Philippines and Uganda. But not all of these workers voluntarily leave home to serve alongside the United States military. According to a report released in June by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Lowenstein Clinic at Yale Law School, many of these workers are tricked into working for American contractors and subcontractors who abuse them with “impunity” and subject them to grueling hours, meager wages, confinement and deadly working conditions.
The ACLU report notes that while the U.S. government has ample criminal jurisdiction to investigate and refer prosecutions to the appropriate body of contractors at any level it often sidesteps its legal obligations on technicalities.
Phi Beta Iota: The US Government has no wish to collect, process, analyze, or share “truth.” The $80 billion a year U.S. Intelligence Community is a massive corporate vapor-ware fraud and a disgrace to the public whose taxes (or debt in the public name) pay for what General Tony Zinni, USMC (Ret), says, provides “at best” 4% of what any major commander needs (and nothing for everyone else). Here are two quotes that represent what the craft of intelligence should be about, in full partnership with policy, but only when both have integrity, which is not the case on either side today.
Bob Seelert, Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide (New York): When things are not going well, until you get the truth out on the table, no matter how ugly, you are not in a position to deal with it.
Robert Steele: The truth at any cost reduces all other costs.