Roundup: Employees of US Contractor in Afghanistan Accused of Sex Trafficking

Jodi Jacobson

News analysts continue to debate fallout from health reform speech outburst by Joe Wilson; gender identity of South African athlete publicly discussed; US private security contractor in Afghanistan accused of sex trafficking.

U.S. Private Security Contract Firm in Afghanistan Accused of Turning a Blind Eye to Trafficking in Women by Employees

It appears that during a time when the Bush Administration was making
headlines by proclaiming its concerns for trafficking in women
worldwide, the State Department failed to investigate claims that paid
contractors in Afghanistan were "purchasing" and selling women for sex.

Both National Public Radio (NPR) and CNN
have both reported that a former manager for ArmorGroup, North America,
the private contractor that provides guards for the U.S. Embassy in
Afghanistan is suing the contractor for wrongful termination after he
said he tried to
blow the whistle more than a year ago about inadequate staffing and
improper behavior by guards, including going to brothels and sex

ArmorGroup is owned by Wackenhut
Services Inc., a U.S.-based firm.  The same company continues to guard
the U.S. Embassy, a contract worth more than $180 million a year.

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The former manager, James Gordon, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court Thursday claiming
he was forced from his job illegally in February 2008 after he asked the company and the U.S. State
Department to investigate activities in Kabul by the company’s guards,
but there was no follow-up investigation.

Gordon’s suit seeks back pay and unspecified punitive damages, and follows separate
reports last week by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) that the contractor allowed
mistreatment, sexual activity and intimidation within the ranks of
private guards hired to protect the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan.

Last week, POGO released photographs showing raucous partying and sexual hazing by
private embassy guards. POGO sent a letter to Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton and briefed reporters on its findings, which it said
were based on e-mails and interviews with more than a dozen guards who
have worked at the U.S. compound in Kabul.  The State Department called the behavior shown in the photos
"disgusting" and launched several investigations and said it had
removed some of the private guards from the country.

According to CNN, State Department Spokesman P.J Crowley said in his daily briefing in
Washington that the department had "aggressively overseen" the contract
for embassy guards and had issued nine so-called "cure notices" to
correct specific deficiencies since the contract began in 2007.

Crowley said State Department officials had
interviewed more than 150 guards since pictures were released last week
by the watchdog group, and that a total of 16 people had been kicked
out of the country.

But Crowley would not comment on the new
claims that private guards had patronized brothels and allegedly been
involved in sex trafficking, with Crowley saying he would not discuss
any matters that might be under litigation.

In his lawsuit Gordon said one employee "had to be forcibly removed from a brothel in Kabul during working hours."

Gordon said he tried to have that person dismissed but found other
ArmorGroup personnel, including "the AGNA medic and the program manager
himself had frequented the brothels with him."

"On the heels of
this incident I learned that there had been an outbreak of sexually
transmitted disease among AGNA guards in 2007 that had never been
reported as required to the State Department, and that the guard force
routinely frequented brothels," Gordon said Thursday.

said the company resisted "with outright hostility" his efforts as a
manager to impose a no-brothel policy. And Gordon said he asked both
the company and the State Department to investigate whether guards were
personally involved in sex trafficking, and that to his knowledge
nothing was done.

"United States law, known as the Trafficking
in Victims Protection Act, prohibits contractors from procuring
commercial sex while working on the contract," Gordon said in a
statement. "Many of the prostitutes in Kabul are young Chinese girls
who were taken against their will to Kabul for sexual exploitation."

Gordon said a trainee had boasted that he could purchase a girl for $20,000 and turn a profit after a month.

"I immediately notified both the State Department and AGNA’s president,
and urged the company to thoroughly investigate whether sex trafficking
was occurring among the guard force … To my knowledge neither AGNA
nor the State Department conducted a follow-up investigation," Gordon

At the same time that it reacted to the charges of sex trafficking,
the State Department has claimed that "at no time was the embassy in
danger," an assertion Gordon called "ludicrous."

"If you hire a guard force that is placing you at risk because of their
behavior, and is also inadequate with regard to the fact of language
difficulty between elements of the guard force, I don’t see how anyone
can say the government is getting what they are paying for and it
doesn’t compromise the integrity of the embassy itself," Gordon said,
referring to reports that some of the private guards hired by the
contractor were non-English-speaking Gurkhas from Nepal.

"If the
guards can’t communicate with each other, how are they going to
communicate in a disaster? How are you going be able to properly
respond to a scenario if you have to use pantomime to properly convey a
message to a member of the security force? It is ludicrous for anyone
to say that is a safe environment and an effective security force,"
Gordon said.

To date, Wackenhut has denied the charges.

According to CNN:

A spokeswoman for Wackenhut at its Florida headquarters released a
statement saying Gordon had resigned voluntarily and that his departure
was not tied to whistleblowing nor was there retaliation by the company.

"We found that Mr. Gordon’s factual allegations and legal claims were
overstated, ill-founded, not based on any personal knowledge, or
otherwise lacking in legal merit. We chose not to accede to the demands
of Mr. Gordon and his lawyers and instead to let them present their
case in court if they chose to do so," the Wackenhut statement said.

Gordon spoke to a Washington news conference by telephone Thursday,
saying he is working for another security firm in Kabul but declining
to give any further details.  Explaining his lawsuit, Gordon said, "I set out two years ago to see to it that the U.S. Embassy in Kabul was protected. I am hoping that the public airing of this lawsuit will bring us closer to that goal."

Another former manager of guards in Afghanistan
joined Gordon during the news conference. The second manager, John
Gorman, is not involved in Gordon’s lawsuit but said he wanted to
highlight what he called fraud, deception and incompetence, as well as
what he called "sexually deviant behavior" exhibited by people hired as
guards in 2007.

Gorman, who said he is a former U.S. Marine,
also said he was forced out after he tried to spread the alarm about
embassy security.

"Knowing full well that our jobs were on
the line, we went to the embassy out of a sense of duty and
patriotism," Gorman said. He said he went to the embassy to report
problems after first complaining to ArmorGroup North America about what he called the company’s "inability to provide for the security and safety of the U.S. personnel."

"In any interaction I have had with corporate officials from AGNA, no
one — no one — ever mentioned or indicated a concern for the actual
safety of the embassy. The greatest and only concerns were the profit

Biological sex of South African athlete’s continues to be questioned

The biological sex of South African athlete Caster Semenya remains the subject of public discussion as Australia’s Sydney Herald reported that she has both female and male organs. Semenya underwent a series of tests to verify her gender at the world championships in Berlin, Germany, last month, where she won gold in the women’s 800m race.

According to the Mail and Guardian Online:

"Extensive physical examinations of Semenya (18) had shown the athlete ‘is echnically a hermaphrodite’. According to medical reports she has no ovaries, but rather internal male testes producing "large amounts of

"This is a medical issue and not a doping issue where she was deliberately heating," International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) pokesperson Nick Davies was quoted as saying.

"These tests do not suggest any suspicion of deliberate misconduct but seek to assess the possibility of a potential medical condition which would give Semenya an unfair advantage over her competitors. There is no automatic disqualification of results in a case like this."

Criticism of the public discussion around Semenya’s gender identity is growing.  The Mail and Guardian quotes Athletics South Africa (ASA) president Leonard Chuene as saying:  "These are insulting words that the media are using, but we are n the dark. We just don’t know what effect this information will have on her deep down.  This process is not correct."  The runner’s former coach, Wilfred Daniels, said he was appalled by the reports and added that she should have been briefed and the matter dealt with in private.

Sports association leaders have said that even given evidence of Semenya’s intersex characteristics she would not be disqualified because she is not at fault and "has not cheated."

African National Congress member of Parliament Winnie Madikizela-Mandela (former wife of Nelson Mandela) urged South Africans to come out in support of Semenya.

"I am listening to the news. I’m just extremely hurt by what I am hearing.  The poor innocent child is a victim of all this, and it is not of her making," Madikizela-Mandela told the Star in a report on Friday.
"I think it is the responsibility of South Africa to rally behind this child and tell the rest of the world that she remains the hero she is, and no one will take that away from her.  I do not understand how any sane person can blame this child for a iological problem which is not of her making."

"Mothers throughout the county, every mother and grandmother, should stand up and support the mother of this child and this child. She needs our moral support. We should tell her how proud we are of her. It doesn’t matter what she looks like."

Continued fallout from health reform speech outburst:

Commentators continue to discuss the fallout from the behavior of
far-right Republicans during the President’s speech Wednesday night. 
Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson states:

House Republicans were particularly ostentatious in showing their
disrespect not just for Obama but for the office he holds. The outburst
by Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina — who shouted "You lie!" when
Obama said his plan would not cover illegal immigrants — was only the
most egregious display of contempt. Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the
House minority whip, fiddled with his BlackBerry while the commander in
chief was speaking. Other Republicans made a show of waving copies of
their own alleged reform plan, which isn’t really a plan at all. 

Also in the Washington Post, Kathleen Parker talks about the general loss of civility in Washington…

…not to excuse Wilson’s behavior, which caused him to become an
overnight Twitter sensation. His offense sets a new low bar. But as a
nation, we have entered a political era of uninhibited belligerence.
The civility we insist that we prefer has been in short supply at town
hall meetings, several of which Wilson conducted. 

…but then goes on to dismiss Wilson’s behavior as the uncontrolled
outburst of an otherwise "polite, humble and deferential" individual,
at least according to the nephew who works in Wilson’s office.


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