by Sharon Peyus
Unit Chief, Investigative Support Unit, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations
A 15 year-old, branded with her pimp’s street name tattooed across her chest, was ordered to engage in sex acts for money with dozens of male clients. Each day, the teenager and three other adult women had to meet a quota set by their trafficker. The teenager was required to work more than 12 hours a day with only one daily meal, and if she resisted, she was beaten.
Regrettably, this real-life story is not uncommon scenario U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has witnessed. ICE HSI is a critical investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security that combats criminal organizations and criminal exploitation, including domestic and international cases of human trafficking.
ICE utilizes a victim-centered approach to combating human trafficking, which places equal value on the identification and stabilization of victims, and the investigation and prosecution of traffickers. Victims are key to the successful investigation and prosecution of traffickers. Because victims may be fearful of law enforcement or reprisal from their traffickers, it is paramount to ensure that victims feel safe and secure, and are able to access the social services they require for stability, safety, and recovery.
ICE’s Victim Assistance Program is supported by Victim Assistance Specialists across the country who provide victims with a wide range of local resources from early in the investigative stage through prosecution. Working together with hundreds of collateral duty Victim Assistance Coordinators, the Victim Assistance Program connects victims of human trafficking and other crimes with non-governmental organizations in order to meet the victims’ basic humanitarian needs. Providing a channel for victims to fully disclose their stories in a non-threatening environment is vital to our victim-centered process.
Everyone has a role to play in combating human trafficking. DHS and ICE rely on individuals, families, and communities to learn the indicators of human trafficking and how to report human trafficking once suspected or identified. Knowing the red flags is a key step in identifying more victims, so they can be rescued and have their traffickers brought to justice.
The ICE HSI Task Force, which includes local law enforcement, identified this teenager as a victim of human trafficking. ICE HSI’s Victim Assistance Specialist then assessed her needs, and the needs of the additional victims who were subsequently identified. Victim assistance efforts were provided throughout the criminal investigation – including referring this teenager to a tattoo artist and arranging an appointment to remove her tattoo. The teenager was kept apprised of the judicial process, and provided ongoing care and case management without interruption.
Last month, her trafficker was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison followed by 20 years of supervised release. Upon release, the trafficker is also required to register as a sex offender. This teenager is now reunited with her family and enrolled in school – offering hope that she will not turn back, but become a survivor instead.
If you suspect something, do not at any time attempt to confront a trafficker directly or alert a victim to your suspicions. Instead, contact local law enforcement directly or call 1-866-DHS-2-ICE (1-866-347-2423) to report suspicious criminal activity. This Tip Line is also accessible outside of the United States by calling 802-872-6199. To get help from the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, call 1-888-373-7888 or text HELP or INFO to BeFree (233733).
While we would like to think of slavery as a relic of the past, we know that it is not. Today, millions of women, men, and children around the world are subjected to forced labor, domestic servitude, or the sex trade at the hands of human traffickers. What many do not know is that this crime occurs right here in the United States, in our own cities and towns.
By Presidential proclamation, January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Sunday, January 11 was Human Trafficking Awareness Day. These powerful reminders that slavery endures in the United States compel us to work together to end human trafficking.
We as a Department do so much in the fight against human trafficking. We fight through law enforcement investigations, collaborations, and training; through public outreach and awareness; and through assistance for victims. We coordinate these efforts through the Blue Campaign, the Department’s unified voice to combat human trafficking.
I encourage you to watch this video to learn more about the work of the Blue Campaign, and how you can get involved in the fight against human trafficking.
The Blue Campaign recently launched a new, re-designed website with information and resources for federal, state, and local governments, non-governmental organizations, first responders, and the public.
All of us can increase our awareness of the crime of human trafficking so that each of us can be more vigilant where we live and work. Human trafficking is, after all, a tragedy that occurs not only internationally but also within our own borders and inside our own communities.
Let us renew our commitment to fight human trafficking, and let us do it together.
We live in a world of increased threats and risks. Within the past year alone we have seen the unprecedented impacts of natural disasters, terrorism, and public health emergencies. These threats require us to think differently about the role science and technology plays in saving lives and ensuring safety and security for all. To meet these growing challenges, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate must operate at the pace of innovation and discovery. It is a global imperative that we all play an active role in developing new technology solutions that improve our ability to prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters on every level. To that end, S&T is reinventing the way the federal government conducts research and development.
I am pleased to launch the National Conversation on Homeland Security Technology—a multi-directional series of online and in-person discussions intended to foster exchange between everyone – responders and other users, industry, government, academia, and citizens. Through this exchange, we hope stakeholders will work together to generate innovative homeland security solutions that will help keep our communities, and those who protect them, safe and resilient into the future.
We want to provide the forum for everyone to come together to discuss issues such as equipping the responder of the future, enabling homeland security decision makers, establishing a trusted cyber future, screening at speed, and creating resilient communities. We are looking for your best thinking on how we can optimally design, develop, experiment, test, and transition technologies in support of these areas and encourage you to think out of the box. There are innumerable commercial solutions that are not currently used for homeland security purposes, but with a stretch of the imagination and thoughtful innovation, the possibilities for applying state-of-the-art solutions in new ways are endless.
Starting January 12, go to http://scitech.dhs.gov for more information and to start talking!
Today is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day (L.E.A.D.). On this day we show our support for our nation’s approximately 780,000 police officers who put a badge on each day, knowing they may face extremely dangerous situations while carrying out their duties. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recognizes and thanks these brave men and women, including the Department’s frontline personnel, who protect and serve their communities to keep our Nation safe day after day.
DHS has a state-of-the-art training center, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), located in Glynco, Georgia, where in the men and women in blue learn the skills needed to do their job safely to ensure they make it home to their families each day.
Since 1970, FLETC has trained more than one million law enforcement professionals. FLETC’s mission is to train those who protect our homeland, including officers and agents who work for our more than 90 federal partner organization; state, local, campus and tribal law enforcement, and international law enforcement. All FLETC training strives to well equip every one of these individuals with the skills, tools and knowledge to protect and secure communities across our nation.
Today, DHS and FLETC encourage Americans to show their support of our law enforcement in one or more of the following ways:
- Wear blue clothing in support of law enforcement
- Send a card of support to your local police department or state agency
- Share a positive story about a positive law enforcement experience on social media
- Ask children in your community to write letters in support of law enforcement
- Participate in Project Blue Light. Proudly display your blue light in support of law enforcement
- Most importantly, if you see a police officer, thank a police officer
On Law Enforcement Appreciation Day, and every day, DHS supports and recognizes all those who stand on the front lines and continue to keep our homeland secure.
By Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Strategy and Emergency Communications Bobbie Stempfley
With the holiday season in full swing, many Americans are doing last minute shopping or heading to see family and friends. As the same time, the holiday travel season is a peak period for hackers and thieves to prey on unsuspecting travelers. Vigilance is the key to protecting yourself from identity theft when shopping and traveling.
Identity theft continues to top the Federal Trade Commission’s national ranking of consumer complaints, with American consumers reporting a loss of over $1.6 billion to fraud in 2013. It’s a problem that has been made worse in recent years by the use of unsecured wireless networks at hotels, airports, and other public places, and the infiltration of smartphones through Bluetooth technology.
The Stop.Think.Connect. campaign has some simple tips for you to help protect yourself and your personal information while traveling:
- Password-protect your devices. Everyone tends to be very busy during the holidays and moving a mile a minute. If you put your phone down even for a moment, you give thieves potential access to all of your phone’s sensitive information such as photos, passwords, files, and more. By password-protecting your device, if it falls into the wrong hands, it will be harder for a thief to access your information.
- Downplay your laptop or smartphone. There’s no need to advertise to thieves that you received a new laptop or smartphone as a present. In public, keep your device close to your body and consider non-traditional bags for carrying your laptop.
- Be aware of your surroundings. If you do use your mobile device in a public area, pay attention to the people around you. Take precautions to shield yourself from "shoulder surfers" (i.e., make sure that no one can see you type your passwords or see any sensitive information on your screen).
- Turn Bluetooth off. Cyber criminals have the capability to pair their Bluetooth device with yours to steal personal information. Check your settings to ensure your Bluetooth is turned off when you do not need to use it.
- Be wary of public Wi-Fi networks. Only connect to secure networks, and only use those that ask for a network security key. Checking email or financial accounts or online shopping over an unsecure network provides an easy gateway for hackers to access your information. Also, read the privacy statement to see what that network provider may be collecting from your computer.
- Back up your files. If your portable device is stolen, it’s bad enough that someone else may be able to access your information. In addition, no one wants to lose their holiday vacation pictures or family videos. To avoid losing all of the information on your device, be sure to make a backup of important information and store the backup in a secure location.
Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and each of us has a role to play. For more tips on how to stay safe this holiday season, visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.
-Acting Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs Dr. Kathryn Brinsfield
An important part of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) mission is strengthening national preparedness and resilience, including against potential chemical incidents whether they are accidental or by malicious intent. The effects of chemical incidents, such as the explosion in West, Texas or the chemical spill in West Virginia can be devastating.
That is why the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Health Affairs (OHA) Chemical Defense Program, partnered with Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and a working group comprised of various partners to research and write “Patient Decontamination in a Mass Chemical Exposure Incident: National Planning Guidance for Communities.” Compiled from evidence-based information, the document focuses on providing options for responses to events like chemical release and mass casualties.
This guidance is intended to support state and local civilian first responders and health care receivers, along with emergency managers, public health practitioners, law enforcement officials, and risk communications experts who are the nation’s first line of defense, and must be prepared to respond to potential chemical incidents.
Developed specifically for local communities, the document provides guidance as a tool to be added to the local planner’s toolkit. Providing evidence-based guidance and lessons learned before an incident occurs minimizes catastrophic effects and allows for information sharing between departments in order to enhance preparedness and improve response plans for these types of events.
During the development of this guidance, the Mass Human Chemical Decontamination Working Group (a federal interagency, working group of experts) identified three categories to address:
- risk assessment and decision making
- decontamination process and procedure
- evaluation of results and patient follow-up
The working group developed this national planning guidance with the advice of a larger group of federal and non-federal subject matter experts in emergency response, emergency medicine, toxicology, risk communication, behavioral health and other relevant fields.
The working group was established at the request of the White House National Security Council and co-chaired by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Office of Health Affairs (OHA).
The approach in this guidance is flexible and scalable according to the resource and capability limitations of the community. The recommendations should be adapted as each unique community sees fit according to their own hazard and risk assessment. Examples of how this guidance might be used include:
- Planners: incorporate current evidence-based recommendations during development or revision of an organization’s response plans.
- Community leaders, public health officials: enhance system-wide coordination and develop plans for communicating with patients and the whole community.
- Trainers: develop, improve, or augment training of response personnel for patient decontamination operations, using current evidence-based recommendations.
- Emergency managers: generate policy and plans to address issues related to system-wide coordination, the whole community response, and crisis and risk communications, as well as other overarching issues.
- Hospital emergency managers: incorporate evidence-based recommendations into the hospital response plan and training program addressing the hospital’s unique challenges, and enhance coordination of the hospital response with those of the rest of the community through effective interagency planning and communication.
- Researchers: identify knowledge gaps and conduct research to investigate them.
For more information, visit: http://www.dhs.gov/office-health-affairs.
Yesterday, I joined my colleagues from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) to host our third Industry Day to engage the private sector on the challenges and opportunities associated with radiological and nuclear detection capabilities. This event is part of our continuous efforts to pursue improvements in the deployed, multi-layered capabilities to detect and report attempts to smuggle nuclear and other radioactive materials into the United States. The forum also provided an opportunity for industry to engage in dialogue and network with colleagues and counterparts in the business with whom they can explore mutually beneficial cooperative efforts.
Attendees from the private sector, academia, national laboratories, and government partner organizations were briefed on DNDO’s role in implementing domestic nuclear detection capabilities, and how the private sector can improve operational and technical performance of capabilities. The event featured plenary sessions facilitated by experts on topics such as long-term research and development goals, radiation sensor standards, test efforts, and market characteristics.
Participants also had the unique opportunity to hear from a panel of law enforcement operators who use nuclear detection technology. The panelists, consisting of members of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Security Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, and the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, provided their insight on their diverse operational needs and use of radiation sensors.
Above all, the day served as an opportunity to enhance collaboration through dialogue and the exchange of ideas and information. Through a series of breakout sessions, we had the opportunity to discuss in-depth with participants about technical challenges and emerging developments in detection. We also heard from stakeholders on DNDO’s industry engagement process, which was established as a result of feedback from a previous Industry Day. DNDO has conducted over fifty industry engagement sessions since implementing this process in June 2013.
This week’s event demonstrates DHS’s commitment to connect with the private sector to advance national nuclear security capabilities. I encourage industry to learn more about business opportunities and DNDO’s industry engagement process at http://www.dhs.gov/doing-business-dndo.
On Monday, November 24 TSA Administrator John Pistole and I visited our TSA officers at Reagan National Airport to thank them in advance for the busy Thanksgiving weekend they were about to face. Anyone who traveled by air this past weekend knows the last few days are the busiest and most demanding of the year for TSA personnel, many of whom must work on Thanksgiving Day itself. We owe these men and women a debt of thanks for continuing to safeguard aviation security during the Holiday season.
According to the National Retail Federation, 141 million people spent $57.4 billion dollars during Thanksgiving weekend last year, and consumers spent nearly $600 billion during the 2013 holiday season. The biggest shopping season of the year comes with great deals and benefits to shoppers, but it also comes with certain risks. While 80 percent of annual online sales occur between Black Friday and the weekend before Christmas, those four weeks are also the biggest weeks for online spammers and scammers. With the holiday season quickly approaching, the best gift you can give yourself and your family is the gift of online security.
The following tips can help you protect your personal information when shopping online:
- Use and maintain anti-virus software and a firewall. Protect yourself against viruses and Trojan horses that may steal or modify the data on your computer and leave you vulnerable.
- Evaluate your software's settings. The default settings for most software enable all available functionality, possibly leaving room for an attacker to access your computer remotely. Check the settings for all software, and especially those programs that connect to the Internet (browsers, email clients, mobile applications, etc.). Apply the highest level of security available that still gives you the functionality you need.
- Shop on reliable websites. Take a look at the website’s trademark or logo to make sure it’s valid. Also, pay attention to the website’s URL. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate website, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com vs. .net).
- Beware of deals that sound too good to be true. Use caution when opening email attachments and don’t follow web links included in unsolicited email messages. Watch out for extremely low prices on hard-to-get holiday items. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Look for the lock. When shopping online, check the lower-right corner of your screen for the padlock symbol and make sure the website address begins with “https://” before entering your shipping, billing, or payment information. This symbol means that you’re using a website that is secure and which encrypts the data you send or receive.
- Keep a record of your order. Retain all documentation of your online orders in the event that your purchase does not ship or there are unauthorized charges on your credit or debit card. Also, be sure to review your credit card statement each month for irregularities.
- Get savvy about Wi‐Fi hotspots. Limit the type of business you conduct when using public Wi-Fi networks. Avoid shopping online when using public Wi-Fi as your information can easily be accessed by hackers on a public network.
If you think you have become a victim of identity theft, file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center. You can also report online fraud to the Federal Trade Commission and file a report with the Department of Justice.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Stop.Think.Connect.™ campaign encourages everyone to be vigilant about daily Internet use. The campaign’s objective is to increase the public’s understanding of cyber threats and empower them to be safer and more secure online. For more information, please visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.
The Department of Homeland Security is committed to preserving strong nation-to-nation relationships with the 566 federally recognized tribes in the United States. During the month of November, the Nation recognizes the contributions of Native Alaskans and American Indians. Therefore, there is no better time to share some of the efforts of the Department’s tribal affairs personnel. The work of the Department’s tribal liaisons continues to strengthen these relationships, and are a vital supplement to DHS’s efforts in consulting and collaborating with Indian tribes as sovereign nations.
DHS had a significant presence at the National Congress of American Indians’ (NCAI) 71st Annual Conference that took place October 26th – 31st. During the conference, senior leadership from numerous DHS components met with tribal leaders and staff, where they shared priorities and programs with the tribes and participated in a homeland security discussion with tribal leaders from across the country. The discussion covered border crossing, subsistence food security, transportation security, tribal homeland security grant funding, Operation Stonegarden, and tribal identification.
- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) supported NCAI’s emergency management discussion group and shared an overview of the Stafford Act emergency and major disaster declaration request process. FEMA discussed its newly implemented tribal consultation policy and distributed a new tribal resource titled FEMA and Tribal Nations: A Pocket Guide, which provides tribes with a reference guide to several federal disaster assistance programs and key points-of-contact.
- The Transportation Security Administration addressed tribal leaders of the Human, Religious and Cultural Concerns Subcommittee on security screening of cultural objects, cultural training, and tribal language access.
- Together, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection discussed border security, tribal law enforcement interests, tribal-department agreements, economic security, and treaty rights.
- Tribal leaders engaged in a robust dialogue and shared stories of collaborative anti-human trafficking efforts between Indian Country and the DHS Blue Campaign.
These efforts are a great supplement to DHS’s nation-to-nation collaboration with our tribal government partners and we look forward to continuing these relationships in the future.
To learn more about DHS’s engagement with our tribal partners, I encourage you to visit http://www.dhs.gov/about-office-intergovernmental-affairs-iga