Meet A Guy Who Has Devoted His Life To Freeing Slaves
This post was originally produced for Forbes.
Tim Ballard’s career with the CIA and Homeland Security may not be what you’d expect. With years of leading rescue efforts to free victims of human trafficking, especially those used as prostitutes, he founded Operation Underground Railroad to liberate captive slaves.
Ballard explains the need for his work. “The scope of the problem is vast; there are an estimated 27 million enslaved human beings in the world: more slaves than ever existed during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Many are sex slaves, as sex trafficking represents the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. Many reputable organizations exist to disseminate information about this problem, and others function as aftercare organizations for victims. Very few, if any, dedicate themselves to the pro-active rescue and direct extraction of the victims, and to the capture and prosecution of their captors. Operation Underground Railroad fills this void.”
Operation Underground Railroad’s work is already logging success. “In just our first two years, O.U.R. has already rescued over 350 victims of human trafficking,” Ballard reports. “Because of the undercover skills of our operatives, foreign governments often seek out O.U.R. to assist in sting operations against child sex traffickers. We keep the respective U.S. Embassies informed of our activities, and have been fortunate to count on their support and participation in a number of our rescues. Our motto is, ‘We enter through the front door, or we do not go in at all,’ and that formula has worked in countries as diverse as Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti, and the United States.”
To gain access to trafficking victims, O.U.R. uses a simple rouse of a group of men traveling for sex. Ballard notes, “In a sad commentary on our society, the reason that our cover story has worked so well and has been easily bought by perpetrators is due to the fact that this type of sex party and sex tourism happens for real every day and in almost every part of our globe!”
Although O.U.R. is quickly developing a reputation for dramatic rescues (you can see some on YouTube), much of the work the organization does involves technology. Ballard says:
Our organization has in the past partnered with computer software companies that have helped us root out and pursue child pornographers, child rapists, and child traffickers. These initiatives led to some of the successful operations we conducted to date. Based on feedback we’ve received from countries and embassies around the world and because of the constraints we’ve found in delivering the software, O.U.R. is currently developing its own online tool that will be at the cutting edge of anti-trafficking operations. Because of the international impact this software will have, it is being designed with a federal focus in mind. This solution will empower law enforcement agencies around the world to track not just sex offenders but people who are making or viewing child pornography who are traveling across borders to likely act out against children.
Ballard maintains a clear perspective on the problem he’s set out to solve. “Despite our organization’s successes, we realize that nearly two million children are still out there being abused and trafficked in the worst form of slavery imaginable. It is our hope and prayer that they all will be freed someday, and it is our commitment and promise to dedicate all we have to rescuing them. This vast problem will never be stopped unless good people everywhere rise up and seek a solution, and that is the mission of the Operation Underground Railroad.”
On Thursday, December 17, 2015 at 3:00 Eastern, Ballard will join me here for a live discussion about O.U.R.’s efforts to rescue trafficking victims. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
More about Operation Underground Railroad:
Since being founded in December 2013, O.U.R. has gathered the world’s experts in extraction operations and in anti-trafficking efforts to bring an end to child slavery. O.U.R.’s Jump Team consists of former CIA, Navy SEALs and Special Ops operatives that lead coordinated identifications and extraction efforts. Once victims are rescued, a comprehensive process involving justice for the perpetrators and recovery begins. While the U.S. government is leading the world in such operations, bureaucracy and jurisdictional limitations can largely hinder it. Most of these suffering children fall outside U.S. jurisdiction and often find themselves kidnapped and abused in regions where the resources to save them are scarce.
Timothy Ballard is the Founder and CEO of Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.). He also serves as O.U.R.’s Jump Team Commander for rescue operations. Ballard began his career at the Central Intelligence Agency where he worked cases dealing with terrorism and Latin America. He has spent over a decade working as a Special Agent for the Department of Homeland Security where he was assigned to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and deployed as an undercover operative for the U.S. Child Sex Tourism Jump Team. He has worked every type of case imaginable in the fight to dismantle child trafficking rings. Ballard has worked undercover in the United States and in multiple foreign countries to infiltrate child trafficking organizations. In this effort he has successfully dismantled dozens of these organizations and rescued countless children from sex slavery. He is an expert at managing Internet investigations, particularly those dealing with file-share networks where pedophiles and traffickers go to trade in child pornography. He has trained hundreds of law enforcement officers at home and abroad in best practices to liberate children from sex slavery.
Ballard has been featured on many national news outlets to discuss his efforts to combat child trafficking. He has appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, The Meredith Vieira Show, CBS Nightly News, ABC Nightline, and CNN Headline News, MSNBC, The Glenn Beck Program, as well as many local news shows. Ballard is the best-selling author of The Covenant: One Nation Under God and is the author of the sequel to that work, The Covenant, Lincoln, and The War. He has taught American and International Politics courses at Imperial Valley College, San Diego State University and American Heritage School. He has been featured regularly on both local and national TV and radio programs to discuss American history and politics and the role America has played in defending liberty at home and abroad. He has often commented on how his academic work in American history has provided him the inspiration and motivation to rescue children–to carry on the American tradition of liberating the captive. He recently received the distinguished George Washington Honor Medal from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge.
After serving a church mission to Chile, Ballard graduated Cum Laude with a BA in Spanish and Political Science from Brigham Young University. He went on to graduate Summa Cum Laude with an MA in International Politics from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.
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