Prostitutes in Bahrain are trying to collect sensitive intelligence from US Navy sailors stationed in the country, and trying to sell it later, according to a Navy Times report released on Friday, which cited a Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agent.
The report noted that the claims of intelligence gathering by Bahrain prostitutes came from a a human trafficking training recording for US Navy service members arriving in the country on a tour with the US 5th Fleet, which is based Bahrain's capital of Manama.
The recording was also posted to the public page of the Pentagon last month that is used for sharing military photos and videos.
“They’re collecting intel on you. They want to know about what your job is, what you do, what access you have, ship movements, the type of ship that comes in,” said Special Agent Joe Minucci, a former member of the NCIS trafficking task force, in the recording.
“Although they don’t really have a need for that information, they sell that information, and that’s how they make more money in order to get themselves out of the situation they’re in,” he added.
NCIS spokesman Jeff Houston, writing to the Navy Times in a email, said that “The broader intelligence community is aware that foreign adversaries often use prostitution as a conduit to solicit sensitive information from service members.”
Minucci can also be heard in the recording saying that 90 percent of the women in Bahrain were trafficked into the country from abroad, but according to the Navy, this may not be accurate.
“To clarify, when the instructor referred to these women, he was referring only to the foreign national women engaging in prostitution/escort services, as opposed to all foreign women, which is inaccurate,” Lt. Tim Pietrack, a US Navy spokesman, wrote in an email to the Navy Times.
The rational of the prostitutes, according to Minucci, is that “they know you get a steady paycheck on the 1st and 15th of the month.”
He added that “They also know you’re going to rotate out every 12 to 24 months, Because of that, there’s going to be a new face, or somebody new to take your place, so business will always be there.”
Minnuci said that the problem occurs among largely Thai women working as prostitutes in Bahrain, but women trafficked from Russia, Ukraine and Colombia area also present in the country.
“Some come over here willingly, the majority of them do not,” he said. “Sometimes they know what the job is they’re coming here for, sometimes they do not.”
Many of the these women are victims of “debt bondage,” whereby they must pay a certain amount to their trafficker, and are later set free.
Bahrain’s embassy in Washington, DC, and the country’s public prosecution office, did not respond to Navy Times emails seeking comment this week.
These women know that service members face consequences if such illicit relationships come to light, Minucci said.
Bahrain is a close ally of the United States and other Gulf countries, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, while also acting as a strategic choke point against Iranian interests in the Gulf.