MR. TONER: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. Well, as dramatic events unfold half a world away in Egypt – and we understand that many of you are focused on those events – but we had a pretty important event that just took place upstairs, which was the President’s Annual Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons meeting. And here to talk with us a little bit about that meeting and about the agenda is Ambassador-at-Large for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Ambassador Luis CdeBaca.
QUESTION: Mark, just one more thing: Are you or P.J. going to brief us in a regular briefing after the Ambassador’s briefing?
MR. TONER: Probably not.
QUESTION: There’s no way we can get any – I mean, we would love to talk to you.
MR. TONER: We will try. All right. Go ahead, Ambassador.
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: Hello, everyone. We just got done with the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. I want to apologize for the late changes to the schedule, but with that many Cabinet members in one place, it became obvious to us that we weren’t going to be able to have some of them step down as we had hoped.
Today, the Secretary convened this annual meeting. This is an important opportunity to discuss efforts across the Federal Government to fight the problem of modern slavery, and it’s mandated by the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in October of this last year.
Through the Clinton Administration, the Bush Administration, and now the Obama Administration, you have often heard talk about the four P’s of prevention, prosecution, protection, and partnerships as the framework for our nation’s policy to combat the scourge of human trafficking. And today’s meeting was an unprecedented example of that kind of partnership across the Administration working to meet this challenge. We were joined by the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, the Secretaries of Interior, Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Labor, Homeland Security, as well as several other Cabinet-level officials, all of whom committed to new initiatives in the coming year that’ll build upon their agencies’ efforts to combat modern slavery.
Secretary Clinton announced at the start of the meeting the Interagency Task Force throughout the next year will conduct a government-wide review of victims service programs and devise an overarching strategy to improve upon what we’re doing here in the United States to protect victims of human trafficking. This is an area where we’ve made excellent progress, but we recognize that we need to do even more to break down the barriers that prevent trafficking victims, whether citizens or non-citizens alike, from accessing the support and resources they need here in the United States. We will seek to ensure that those who work in our juvenile justice, child welfare, and immigration systems have the knowledge and training necessary to identify and help victims, and become a true model for the rest of the world, as far as victim care is concerned. We’ll find ways to safeguard the victims of trafficking by working across the network of government agencies, civil society actors, and the corporate sector.
This is going to take wholesale changes in perception, policies, and procedures; training, sharing information with cross-agency and cross-network partnerships here and around the world. We hope that we can restore victims to their rightful roles in society and break the chain of exploitation that the human traffickers prey upon.
Additionally, the innovations offered at today’s meeting show that leaders across the Obama Administration are making anti-trafficking efforts an important priority. For instance, Department of Defense is going to be including information on modern slavery as part of training for all DOD employees. Department of Education will be working to increase awareness of this issue in schools, both at K-12 and in higher education. The newest member of our task force, the Interior Department, will ensure that our domestic anti-trafficking efforts here in the United States include our insular areas – Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
Here at the Department of State, Secretary Clinton announced several initiatives. First and foremost, the annual Trafficking in Persons Report will be published again this year, notably with some of our key strategic allies at risk of automatic downgrades from Tier 2 Watch List to Tier 3 due to potential failure to address trafficking in persons adequately. This year is the first year that the automatic downgrade provision, which is a feature of the 2008 Trafficking Victim Protections Act, is in place. Countries that have been on Tier 2 Watch List, which is the next-to-last step of the report, for two consecutive years will have to either improve on the merits or be downgraded to Tier 3.
As the Secretary suggested in the meeting, ranking another country is never an easy task, but turning away from an action in the face of modern slavery is intolerable. We’ll continue to produce a fair and accurate assessment of the situation on the ground. And as uncomfortable as it may sometimes be, telling the truth about the global response to human trafficking is a priority for the State Department.
Looking to our own activities on this, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security will take a more focused approach to human trafficking. The Secretary announced today that she was establishing an anti-trafficking unit at Diplomatic Security headquarters to support the field offices which already participate in 39 anti-trafficking task forces nationwide that are funded by the Department of Justice. Diplomatic Security plays an integral part with our interagency partners in investigating and prosecuting human trafficking crimes. And the new initiative, we hope, will augment Diplomatic Security efforts at both levels – increasing participation in task forces, centralizing case referrals and command at headquarters, and offering training to agents, particularly on how to work with victims.
We also will begin the process this year of establishing an annual briefing for domestic workers of foreign diplomats who hold A-3 visas here in the United States together with their diplomat employers as part of an ongoing effort to increase the protections of domestic workers here in the D.C. suburbs, New York, wherever they are. A diplomat who brings a servant into the United States needs to be held to the highest accountability, and we will make sure that the victims have a voice.
With these and other new initiatives, today’s task force meeting reaffirmed the Administration’s commitment in the fight against modern slavery both here and around the world. I’m happy to take questions if there are any.
QUESTION: I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but National Review Magazine online today released or at least linked to a video, and I’m not sure how authentic it is – it appears to be very authentic – of a sting operation, an undercover sting operation at Planned Parenthood in New Jersey – Perth Amboy, New Jersey – in which a guy who is posing as a pimp accompanied by an alleged 14-year-old girl solicits advice on sexually transmitted disease testing and getting an abortion for an underage 14-year-old. The person at Planned Parenthood seems to be very cooperative and says – encourages them to lie about it. It’s an example, at least on its face, of how complex and nuanced this situation is. Were you aware of that video and --
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: I am aware of that video, and in fact, it first came to the government’s attention – perhaps not that particular video, but the fact of these videos came to the government’s attention when Planned Parenthood employees contacted the FBI to tell them that there had been that type of activity. And I think that as we understand it, from the traffic on that, that this was an attempt by some folks to go in – much as you saw a couple years ago with ACORN – to try to capture someone not focusing on the problems of human trafficking.
Like I said, the first that we heard about this was that Planned Parenthood employees had actually contacted the FBI. And so whether there is a second video or not is not something that I am aware of.
MR. TONER: Any more questions? (No response.)
AMBASSADOR CDEBACA: If no further questions, thank you very much.
QUESTION: Thank you.