March 15th, 2012
04:43 PM ET

Human trafficking 'a national security issue,' Obama task force told

By Hyun Soo Suh, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and heads of various U.S. government departments made clear Thursday that preventing human trafficking is a priority of the Obama administration.

The 27 million men, women and children victims of human trafficking are an "affront to our most fundamental values," Clinton said at the annual meeting at the White House of the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

Clinton chaired the meeting of the task force, which is a Cabinet-level unit that coordinates federal efforts.

Those in attendance - including Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper - highlighted recent successes and the new collaborative efforts to combat human trafficking around the world and on the domestic front.

"For us at the national security staff, this is a national security issue," said Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough. "... Human trafficking is at the nexus of organized crime, is a source for funding for international terrorist groups, (and) is a source for funding for transnational terrorist groups. It fundamentally endangers international security."

To reflect the high priority assigned by the administration to reducing human trafficking, the Office of Management and Budget's Jeffrey Zients assured attendees that the relevant departments will receive necessary funding to support their programs.

"We will make sure that adequate resources are allocated" to combat human trafficking, Zients said.

Noting the difficult budget environment, he said it is the budget office's job to make certain that "every dollar is well spent (and the) most important priorities of the president are well-funded. Preventing human trafficking is clearly a priority," he said.

Holder said the programs are showing results. "Our work has sent a clear and critical message: that, in this country and under this administration, human trafficking crimes will simply not be tolerated," he said.

"I'm proud to report that, this past year, we charged nearly 120 defendants - a record number - in human trafficking cases. And, over the last three years, we've achieved significant increases in human trafficking prosecutions, including a rise of more than 30 percent in the number of forced labor and adult sex trafficking prosecutions."

Holder emphasized the need for increased international cooperation, and provided an example of successful U.S.-Mexico operations to combat human trafficking across the border.

"Over the last year, by working with Mexican law enforcement partners," he said, "we dismantled sex trafficking networks operating on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border and have brought freedom to the victims and secured landmark convictions and substantial sentences against the traffickers in these high-impact bilateral cases."

McDonough articulated the need for more intelligence regarding cases of human trafficking.

"Let me emphasize, when it comes to trafficking, one thing that we do know is that we ... don't know enough," he said. "... In his statement today, the president spoke of trafficking as form of exploitation that hides both in the dark corners of our world and in plain sight in our own towns and cities. We know in certain areas we don't have great data on the scope of the problem."

Clinton was particularly enthusiastic about a new, free online tool, Slavery Footprint, which allows anyone to see how human trafficking touches their everyday lives.

Slavery Footprint is a "kind of innovation that is helping to create awareness of this crime," reported Under Secretary María Otero, head of the Office of Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights. "... Three million people have logged on this website."

Holder noted that while the recent achievements have been successful, there is more to be done to fight human trafficking.

"I think we can all be encouraged by our recent achievements in the fight against human trafficking, but I think we would all agree that we have still more to do and that far too many people remain in desperate need for the help that we can provide," he said.

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soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Kevin

    If the State Department was serious about fighting Human Trafficking it would not give out tier 2 status to some of the worst countries out there. I am sure Secretary Clinton cares about the issue, but she caves to political pressure repeatedly. As for money, just like everything else, Obama talks a big game. Unless the group contributes to his campaign or votes for him, and slaves aren't exactly going to do either, President Obama plays pretend. He had a 60 seat majority in the Senate and control of the House and he did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to increase funding for fighting trafficking. He has no problem running a trillion dollar deficit (which will long-term take money from fighting trafficking to make interest payments) for ridiculous projects but barely a blip for trafficking. How about we take some of the billions wasted on fighting drug trafficking and using some of that for fighting trafficking. Money for the fight against trafficking has proven to be useful while the money for the fight on drugs has been a total waste. We don't have to stop spending on the fight against drugs, but get realistic and stop wasting tax payer money, even if Obama doesn't seem too concerned about leaving future generations saddled with debt (what is this India).

    March 15, 2012 at 6:42 pm | Reply
  2. Kevin

    Mr Holder, perhaps you can explain the "recent" accomplishments. I don't see any from your Justice Department. And for these silly websites like Slavery Footprint, they help nobody. All they do is make a mockery of the situation and make people feel like they are concerned. This is a serious issue and needs 1 thing. More money for organizations that are on the frontline fighting. Not silly websites that do absolutely NOTHING to help victims.

    March 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Reply
  3. kev

    Everything in the US is a national security issue.

    March 16, 2012 at 2:00 am | Reply
  4. Sarah

    Despite other surrounding issues, I think it is important for the government to get seriously involved in human trafficking. I don't think there is no one solution for human trafficking, but at least such announcements are getting people and officials involved.
    I agree with you kev, it would be great to see more practical steps taken by the government to fight human trafficking, but there seems to be showing some results.

    March 16, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Reply
    • ken

      There is a huge credibility problem arising from the propaganda. The actual arrests and conictions are no where near the hysterical estimates. Trafficknig is already handled as a serious issues. The federal govt sets about $200 Million a year toward it. And this is just the bureacracy which does not include the law enforcement and judicial and prison costs.

      March 18, 2012 at 9:53 am | Reply
  5. Debbie Vena

    Domestic violence, used to be considered acceptable in society because it was okay to be abusive to someone who was considered your property. Today, people now consider pimps cool and their slaves are made into criminals for crimes of moral depravity, when in fact, these victims may have few other options to economic independence in our communities. Until this changes, as a nation we will never begin to address modern day slavery.

    Slavery STILL EXISTS and it exists regardless of skin color or nationality. It is a crime of economic abuse, as an individual is forced into working at whatever task for the profit of another person or group which deems itself superior to another.

    March 16, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Reply
  6. melissa

    This website cited under the Slavery Footprint link makes a complete mockery out of a serious and horrific situation. The funky,happy-go-lucky colors and infantile graphics seem to make light out of this grave problem, and are more appropriate for elementary age kids than aduts reading what should be serious journalism. Worst of all, the article and wesbsite lack any real information about what concerned citizens can do to help.

    March 16, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Reply
  7. Kimberly

    Its sad that in these modern times that human trafficking is a issue yo

    March 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Reply
  8. Kimberly

    It's sad that human trafficking is a issue in these modern times you would think we have evolved further then this people stand in long lines for the newest ipad and technology but we can't seem to get a solutions to crimes against women and children it just ironic how far we supposedly come and how little we moved forward when it comes to dealing with each other.

    March 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Reply
  9. ken

    How is trafficking a national security issue? Citing funding for terrorism is not enough. Where is the proof of it?

    Trafficking follows ethnic boundaries. You dont see Arab or Muslim traffickers, therefore likley the money is not being used for terrorism. Traffickers are just greedy and use people for thier own profit.....sound like your job? This hysterical claim sounds like something Bush would use. Bush got everything he wanted by declaring, and not proving, that terrorism was behind it.

    Drugs? Yes, money from that is probably going to terrorism because opium is grown in terrorist-based countries like Afghanistan. But you dont see trafficking from these countries. Mostly it is from Russia, Asia, and Africa.

    March 18, 2012 at 9:50 am | Reply
  10. Karin

    Anyone interested in making a REAL difference in the fight against human trafficking please look up A21 Campaign. They have set up homes for girls to transition and get back into "normal" life after getting out of, or being rescued from, slavery in several countries around the world where trafficking is big business. They have helped convict traffickers and are making real change!

    March 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Reply
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