Every year the State Department issues a report on human trafficking abroad, and this year it faces an awkward challenge in deciding how to deal with two huge countries with poor trafficking records -- China and Russia.
In last year's Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report, both China and Russia were on what's known as the Tier 2 Watch List, which is the second-worst rating a country can receive. The rating is reserved for those countries that fail to meet the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and also have a high number of trafficking victims and fail to show evidence that that they are working to improve their actions on human trafficking.
Countries cannot stay on the Tier 2 Watch List forever, and this year the State Department must either promote Russia and China to Tier 2 status or demote those countries to Tier 3, the lowest classification, which is shared by the likes of Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. Tier 3 status opens those countries to sanctions from the U.S. government.
"I am particularly concerned about the government of China's record," Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) said a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Thursday. "The government of China has been on the Tier 2 Watch List for eight consecutive years in large part because its plan to fight human trafficking is inadequate, unevenly implemented, and the government of China has not been making significant efforts to comply with the minimum standards."
An "automatic downgrade" from the Tier 2 Watch List was added by Congress to the law in 2008. A country can remain on the Tier 2 Watch List for two years, after which the president can waive a downgrade to Tier 3 for two more years. Both China and Russia have now reached that limit.
"China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Republic of Congo, Iraq, and Azerbaijan have now had at least four full years of warning that they would face downgrade to Tier 3 if they did not make significant efforts to prosecute traffickers, protect victims, and prevent trafficking. Now their time on the Tier 2 Watch List is up," said Smith.
Smith has been a longstanding opponent of China's one child policy, which has resulted in gender imbalances throughout China that create a magnet for the trafficking of women from all over Asia. China also forcibly repatriates North Korean trafficking victims who face severe punishment or death when they are returned to the DPRK.
"The government of China is failing not only to address its own trafficking problems, but is creating an incentive for human trafficking problems in the whole region," he said.
Russia doesn't have procedures in place to identify and deal with trafficking victims not does it have an overall plan to deal with trafficking, Smith added.
"Russia is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking," the State Department's 2011 report stated. "The Government of the Russian Federation does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these efforts, however, the government failed to demonstrate evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous reporting period."
China has been on the Tier 2 Watch List for a total of 7 consecutive years; Russia has been on the watch list for 8 years.
Mark Lagon, the State Department's former ambassador-at-large for trafficking in persons, testified that China is the country to watch most out of the 6 countries currently on the Tier 2 Watch List. He said that a huge number of Chinese suffer in the laogai, or "reeducation through labor" prison camps, in China.
"Some local authorities compel children to perform manual labor in farms or factories in so-called ‘work-study' programs-again notably applied to Uighurs," he said. "Onerous child labor in brick kilns is often left unfound or undisturbed by authorities. Absent addressing a number of these problems, China deserves to finally be placed on Tier 3 after eight years on a so-called ‘Watch List.'"
Logon also said that of all the countries being discussed as possible candidates for downgrade to Tier 3, "Russia is the one which clearly is moving backward, not forward, on addressing human trafficking, despite active U.S. efforts."
The TIP report is set to come out in June. The State Department's Office of Monitoring and Combating Trafficking in Persons is run ably by Amb. Luis CdeBaca, but the position of undersecretary of state for civil society, democracy and human rights, which sits above that office, is vacant. That means the final tier evaluations might be adjudicated by Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, Lagon said
"Burns was particularly kind and frank when I came to Russia in 2008 as ambassador-at-large and he was ambassador to that nation. He confirmed Russian authorities did not look at human trafficking as a human rights matter, instead seeing it as only a security and immigration enforcement matter," he said. "Russia is backsliding, and he should note that."
U.S. aid to Israel will be cut next year if the sequester goes into effect again, Secretary of State John Kerry testified Wednesday.
"Israel got a plus-up in the budget, I think to $3.1 billion total. But that is subject to sequester, as is everything, and we're not able to undo that," Kerry testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "So there will be a plus-up, but then there will be a reduction from the plus-up. It's still a net plus-up, but there is a sequester that will apply to everything, including Jordan, Egypt, Israel."
Kerry's math didn't match the State Department's fiscal 2014 budget request, released last week, which stated that the $3.1 billion requested for aid to Israel in fiscal 2014 is only $25 million more than was appropriated for the same account in fiscal 2012, before the sequester existed. A Congressional Research Service report from March 2012 states that the fiscal 2014 request is exactly the same as the fiscal 2013 request. How much aid to Israel would be cut due to the sequester is unclear.
The State Department's fiscal 2014 budget request doesn't account for the sequester because President Barack Obama included his own deficit reduction plan in the budget request, which is meant to avoid the need for the sequester. But if Congress doesn't go along with the president's plan, the sequester will kick in again next year and force cuts across the board at State.
"Sequester, folks, was not supposed to happen. That was the theory," said Kerry, who was on the supercommittee in 2011 that failed to achieve a bipartisan compromise on deficit reduction to avoid the sequester. "And we're living with it, and so we have cuts that we don't want. And that's the absence of making the policy choice itself. So, yes, there will be cuts under sequester."
The State Department's new budget request also includes $370 million for the West Bank and Gaza, which the State Department said "will help advance a negotiated, two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by working with the Palestinian Authority (PA) to build the institutions of a future Palestinian state and deliver services to the Palestinian people."
Kerry, who has traveled to the Middle East three times in his first two months as secretary, defended the aid the PA and asked Congress to give him a chance to "find out what is possible" with regards to restarting the Middle East peace process. He warned this might be the last chance for the Israelis and the Palestinians to reach a negotiated peace agreement.
"I'm not going to come here today and lay out to you a schedule or define the process, because we're in the process of working that out with the critical parties. But in my meetings on both sides, I have found a seriousness of purpose, a commitment to explore how we actually get to a negotiation, and we all have some homework to do. We're doing that homework," he said. "But I can guarantee you that I am committed to this because I believe the window for a two-state solution is shutting. I think we have some period of time, in a year to year-and-a-half to two years, or it's over."
Kerry also lamented the ongoing confusion atop the PA, which included the resignation last week of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Fayyad will stay on as a "caretaker" for a period and will remain involved in Palestinian affairs, Kerry said, but his departure creates confusion for everyone working on the peace process revival.
"Somebody here has got to tell me who's going to take the place of either Salam Fayyad -- and now that's up for grabs -- or Abu Mazen," Kerry said, referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose future is also unclear.
Neither Abbas nor Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is currently convinced that the other side is going to make the concessions necessary for peace, but a recent breakthrough on economic development in the West Bank is a positive sign, Kerry said. He was clear to say that the economic cooperation was progressing on a parallel track to the political cooperation, rather than being all part of one process.
"So everybody needs to kind of not react the normal sort of tit- for-tat, stereotypical way, give peace a chance by providing some opening here for the politics and the diplomacy to work," said Kerry. "That's what both sides need to do. That's what I believe both sides are prepared to do. And the proof will be in the pudding."
The White House vetting process is to blame for all the senior-level vacancies around the State Department, but nominations for some of those positions should be coming soon, Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday.
At a Wednesday hearing, Kerry's first since taking up his new post, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) pressed the secretary to explain why the State Department hasn't had a full-time inspector general (IG) for more than five years. Kerry said that the logjam wasn't on his end of the equation but rather at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where his selections for multiple positions have not be able to get through the bureaucracy.
"We're trying to fill a number of positions right now, the IG among them. The greatest difficulty I'm finding -- now that I'm on the other side of the fence -- is, frankly, the vetting process," Kerry testified. "And I've got some folks that I selected way back in February, when I first came in, and we're now April, and I'm still waiting for the vetting to move."
Kerry didn't mention any of the other major open positions at the State Department, which include deputy secretary for management, special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, special envoy for Sudan, assistant secretary for Africa, assistant secretary for Europe, assistant secretary for Asia, assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor, assistant secretary for legislative affairs, assistant secretary for diplomatic security, and as of next week, assistant secretary for political military affairs.
Kerry indicated that nominations could be forthcoming soon from the president.
"I've talked to the White House. They're totally on board. They're trying to get it moved. So I hope that within a very short span of time, you're going to see these slots filled," Kerry said. "They need to be, and that's just the bottom line. It's important, and I commit to you we will."
Royce was skeptical and asked Kerry to talk to the president about the vacancies.
"I don't need to talk to the president. We're going to get this done. We know it, and we're trying to get the right people," Kerry said. "Matching person to task and also clearing all the other hurdles is, I'm finding, not as easy as one always thinks, but we'll get it done."
In the past week, criticism of the vacancies in Foggy Bottom, as well as Kerry's absence from the State Department during his multiple and extended trips abroad, has come from both the right and the left.
"Selecting, nominating, and confirming his own people should be a top priority for Secretary Kerry -- more important than some of the trips he is taking," former NSC and State Department official Elliott Abrams wrote on the Council on Foreign Relations' website. "The task of managing the department cannot be left to anyone else and is not a minor aspect of his role. It's time to adjust priorities and get a nominee announced for every one of these policy-level vacancies."
"The mordant joke I've heard from within the State Department during the past couple of months has been ‘John Kerry phone home,'" wrote FP CEO David Rothkopf. "What it means is that there's no place for one-man diplomacy in this increasingly complex world. Just as the president must empower his cabinet more in this second term to achieve legacy goals, so too must Kerry put in place senior leaders who can work the issues he has started to explore."
The Boston Marathon bombings are the first major test for President Barack Obama's new top advisor on homeland security and counterterrorism, Lisa Monaco, rumored to be in the running to be the next head of the FBI.
Monaco, who replaced John Brennan as the top White House counterterrorism official when Brennan was confirmed as CIA director last month, led the first briefing Obama received on the bombings that struck downtown Boston Monday afternoon. Monaco was one of two officials in the Oval Office, along with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, when Obama made his first calls about the bombing to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and FBI Director Robert Mueller, and she briefed Obama again Monday night.
On Tuesday morning, Monaco led the president's briefing on the bombings (pictured above), which included the participation of Mueller, Napolitano, McDonough, Attorney General Eric Holder, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken, White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy National Security Advisor For Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, and National Security Advisor to the Vice President Jake Sullivan.
The spotlight is new for Monaco, who has worked in close proximity to both Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden for several years and is a fast-rising star in the Obama administration. But it may just be the beginning. Several reports state she is a top contender to lead the FBI when Mueller steps down in September.
As Mueller's former counselor and chief of staff, Monaco is one of the key officials involved in the FBI's post-9/11 reforms and is intimately familiar with how the FBI is shifting its focus to counterterrorism.
"I worked with Director Mueller to help advance the FBI's transformation from a law enforcement organization focused on investigating crime after the fact to a national security organization focused on preventing the next attack," she testified at her own confirmation hearing to become assistant attorney general in 2011. "These changes reflect an intelligence-led approach to combating national security threats."
She also has extensive experience studying terrorist threat information and analysis, which could be particularly useful as the government attempts to get to the bottom of Monday's attacks.
"Every morning for the last several years, I have sat alongside talented analysts, agents and national security professionals and reviewed intelligence and assessed how the country is responding to the latest threat streams," she testified. "This experience has taught me that our nation faces complex and evolving threats. To combat them, we must be aggressive and agile in our approach, and we must do so consistent with the rule of law."
Monaco led the Justice Department's national security division from 2011 until last month. From 2009 to 2011 she service as principal associate deputy attorney general. She worked for Mueller at the FBI from 2007 until 2009, and before that, spent six years in the office of the U.S. attorney for the District of Colombia, where she stood out as the co-leader of the Justice Department's Enron Task Force.
But Monaco's ties to both Obama and Biden personally go back much further. According to her senate questionnaire in 2011, as first noticed by Jeff Stein's SpyTalk blog, Monaco attended University of Chicago Law School from 1994 to 1997, when Obama himself was a senior lecturer there.
Even before that, Monaco worked as a researcher at the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was chaired at the time by Biden. Monaco also worked in Delaware when she clerked for Court of Appeals Judge Jane Roth after law school. She interned during law school in the Clinton White House Counsel's office.
If Monaco is selected to succeed Mueller as FBI director, she can be expected to defend the expanded investigative and surveillance powers that have been granted to the federal government since the original 9/11 attacks. In answers to questions submitted by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IO) in 2011, Monaco said she supported the continued authorization for law enforcement use of pen register and trap and trace technologies, which collect information on phone lines, national security letters, and delayed notice search warrants.
In her testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2011, she said she personally supported the extension of three key provisions of the Patriot Act that were set to expire: roving wiretaps to monitor foreign targets, the lone-wolf provision, which is used to monitor a foreigner who may not be connected to a terrorist group, and the business record provision that gives the government access to commercial data on targets.
"If these provisions were to expire, we would be, I think, quite diminished in our ability to keep up with both rapidly evolving threats like those who use sophisticated means to try and thwart our surveillance effort and it would diminish our ability to keep up with threat streams as they come in," she testified.
Monaco is also a strong supporter of the Obama administration's drive to stamp out leaks to the media, which has included a record number of prosecutions against government employees for interacting with reporters.
"These are very, very important prosecutions," she said. "This Committee has, I think appropriately, pressed the Department and the intelligence community to bring these matters, to focus on these matters, to ensure that unauthorized disclosures are prosecuted and pursued, either by criminal means or the use of administrative sanctions. Leaks do tremendous damage. "
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
There was no intelligence information warning about the Boston Marathon bombings before they occurred and there were no other bombs found in Boston aside from the two that actually exploded, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said Tuesday.
Feinstein and her Republican counterpart Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) emerged from a two-hour closed hearing with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and several other intelligence committee officials to tell reporters that officials say there was no advance information collected by the intelligence community suggesting that the twin bombings were being planned.
"To the best of my knowledge there was none," she said. Asked if the lack of advance intelligence about the deadly attack was a concern for her, Feinstein said, "not necessarily."
"What's been done for 12 years is to protect this nation when there have been hundreds of efforts and every one has been thwarted by the FBI. I have full confidence in them. It is possible not to have any intelligence [in advance]," she said. "I have no reason to believe they won't have a successful investigation that will end in an arrest. But I think it will take time and we need to be patient."
Former Attorney General John Ashcroft told The Cable in a Tuesday interview that the lack of advance warning did not necessarily indicate an intelligence failure.
"It may be that it's a circumstance that it's simply unknowable. Individuals who act on their own and with a certain secrecy are going to be difficult to anticipate," he said. "I don't think we're able to generalize from that and say it's a particular failure or a success."
Feinstein said there were only two bombs in total -- the ones that exploded -- despite reports Monday that there were other devices found and perhaps detonated by law enforcement just after the attack. She said she has no information that there is an ongoing increased threat in Boston, Washington, D.C., or anywhere else.
Feinstein said the government hasn't told lawmakers anything about a pressure cooker and she attributed that information to media reports that were not based on hard evidence.
"We know nothing about a pressure cooker being used. That's speculation; we haven't heard definitively that," she said. "Anybody who looks at some of the publications around sees the pressure cooker as a possibility, but that's all I know."
Chambliss concurred with Feinstein that the investigation is not far along enough to make any judgments on the origin of the device or the perpetrator.
"What's unusual is that nobody has taken credit for this in the terrorist world, but don't assume anything from that," he said. "We really don't know who the terrorist was or where the terrorist was from."
The Saudi national injured during the bomb attacks at the Boston Marathon Monday has been cleared and is no longer even a person of interest, intelligence officials told lawmakers Tuesday.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper briefed members of the Senate Intelligence Committee behind closed doors in a pre-scheduled hearing that was supposed to focus on the budget, but Clapper began with an update of the bombings. Ranking Republican Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) emerged from the briefing and said he was told the 22-year old Saudi student who was injured during the bombings and remains in the care of a local hospital was no longer a focus of investigators.
"He was never categorized as a suspect; he was a person of interest. My understanding is that he totally cooperated and that he is no longer a person of interest," Chambliss said.
Asked if there were any other persons of interest at this time, Chambliss said, "Not that I know of."
Details about the bombings are still scarce and the investigation hasn't yielded any firm conclusions about the perpetrator or the origin of the explosive devices yet, according to Chambliss.
"It's a very fluid investigation, the FBI is in the lead, and I personally know the special agent in charge. He is one of the best, and they are doing a very good job of moving the investigation forward," he said. "We don't know at this point whether it was a home grown terrorist, whether it was an isolated incident or part of an overall scheme, whether it was a domestic terrorist or a foreign terrorist."
Chambliss did say that security around the country would have to change for large public events, including greater involvement by the federal government.
"This was a soft target. It was not a target that was able to be totally protected," he said. "This particular incident is going to cause the administration and Congress to evaluate our overall security programs around the country, particularly for major events. We can't leave it just to the communities that host these events to provide the security."
UPDATE: Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said Tuesday afternoon that there had been no advance intelligence information before the attacks. Read about that here.
The Saudi national injured in the Boston Marathon bombings Monday is "not a suspect," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) told The Cable Tuesday.
"As far as I know, he is not a suspect," Feinstein said Tuesday afternoon. She declined to specify how she knew but said she had been briefed Monday night by Sean Joyce, the No. 2 official at the FBI. Feinstein said her information about the Saudi national was not dispositive because the investigation was still ongoing.
"This is the problem with answering these questions, because we don't really know. We only really know one thing: this qualifies as far as I'm concerned as a terrorist attack," she said.
Feinstein said she didn't know yet if the attack was from a foreign or domestic source.
"It's hard to tell," she said. "I think the device will determine a lot of that."
Investigators have already searched the home of the 22-year old Saudi student, who was injured during the bombings and remains in the care of a local hospital. Officials at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C. have also not been informed that the student is either a suspect or a person of interest.
Feinstein will chair a closed hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday afternoon featuring Director of National Intelligence James Clapper that was supposed to be focused on the budget. The Boston attacks are sure to be discussed. There is also a closed intelligence briefing late Tuesday afternoon for committee members that will focus more squarely on the attacks.
Asked for an update on the investigation, Feinstein said that nothing much has changed since Monday evening.
"It's sort of a forensic slog right now of doing everything that need to be done to secure what is a huge crime scene, take down hundreds of security cameras, go through the film minute by minute, hour after hour, and try to follow forensic evidence. A big task is even collecting the forensic evidence," she said. "You've got a crime scene that could be anywhere along 25 miles. Where did the individual come from, how did he get there, where did he go?"
Nevertheless, Feinstein expressed confidence that the attackers will be brought to justice.
"I have great faith that an arrest is going to be made. I don't think tis going to be the day after tomorrow, but that's OK, it's going to happen," she said. "You cannot do this in the United States."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal at the State Department Tuesday morning. State Department Spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the Saudi national did not come up. A photo op with the two leaders was cancelled.
"I wouldn't read too much into it one way or another other than scheduling," said Ventrell. "But they had a good and productive meeting, and the foreign minister did express his condolences killed and injured in the Boston Marathon bombings to Secretary Kerry this morning."
Secretary of State John Kerry has a long history with the Boston Marathon and has been on the scene several times in the past few years, but this year he was returning from his 10-day trip to the Middle East and Asia.
On Monday afternoon, Kerry was informed of the two explosions that caused at least 2 deaths and dozens of injuries near the marathon's finish line by a senior aide as his plane approached O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, a senior State Department official told The Cable. Kerry stopped in Chicago to visit the family of Anne Smedinghoff, the 25-year old Foreign Service Officer killed April 6 in a bombing in Afghanistan.
"While in Chicago the secretary contacted his youngest daughter, Vanessa, a doctor in Boston who has run the marathon in previous years, to confirm that family and friends were safe," the official said. "The secretary has a long history with the marathon, and in fact this morning noted it was one of the few years he wasn't on hand to fire the wheelchair race's starting gun."
Kerry and his staff have reached out to state and federal officials to receive briefings as the information on the attacks develops, the official added. Kerry is scheduled to return to Washington tonight and meet with Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Saud al-Faisal, at the State Department Tuesday morning.
Kerry, a former senator from Massachusetts, fired the starter's pistol in the 2002 Boston Marathon.
"I love the marathon," Kerry said that day. "I admire everyone. To run, it takes a lot of spirit and a lot of guts."
Kerry has also said that he ran the Boston Marathon in the past. "I did. I ran a marathon back in '80, something like that. Did the Boston Marathon," he told ESPN.
A White House official told reporters Monday that President Barack Obama was has received briefings from FBI Director Robert Mueller and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. A photo of the president calling Mueller showed that White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, were in the Oval Office during the calls.
The Secret Service has extended the security perimeter in front of the White House as a precautionary measure, but the State Department has not yet announced any security adjustments at U.S. diplomatic facilities either inside the United States or abroad.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.