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Marshall students fight human trafficking

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Students in Marshall University’s Open Source Intelligence Exchange Program, OSIX for short, have assisted Operation Underground Railroad in the liberation of almost 40 child trafficking victims and the arrest of 10 suspected traffickers in Latin America since fall semester.

According to Operation Underground Railroad, O.U.R. operatives are using the intelligence provided by Marshall students to work undercover investigations in Latin America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. OSIX uses selected and vetted students to help provide this intel. Junior criminal justice major and team leader Emily Hudson said she is beyond grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the team.

“I was a sophomore at Marshall, still trying to get involved and figure out what path to take my future career in,” Hudson said. “At this point in school, I was joining any criminal justice related club just to meet new people that shared my same interests in the justice system.”

After receiving an email from the criminal justice department about OSIX, Emily said she applied on a whim not knowing exactly what the program was fully about.

“A couple weeks later, I received an email on my acceptance into the program, and I have been passionate about putting my time and effort into this program ever since,” Hudson said.

Hudson and Cole Linder, senior digital forensics and information assurance major, are the leaders of a team of 10 student analysts alongside professors John Sammons and Bill Gardner.

One of the challenges the team has had to overcome while working with foreign countries is the language barrier.

“Working on foreign country open source intelligence gathering is a challenge for not only me, but the majority of our analysts, because, fluently, we only speak English,” Hudson said. “Google translate can only get you so far when you are reading through paragraphs and skimming through certain content in order to find what you are looking for.”

The team recently had an analyst fluent in Spanish join.

“She has made a huge impact on our team’s performance for certain operations,” Hudson said.

Sammons reached out fromOSIX after hearing about O.U.R.’s mission.

“It’s a horrible situation out there with all the sex trafficking and victimization of children,” Sammons said to O.U.R. “You just can’t let that stand.”

There are an estimated 20.9 million victims of human trafficking globally, according to the International Labour Organization. Of that 20.9 million, 26 percent are children.

According to Equality Now, 2 million children are exploited globally every year in the sex trade industry. Equality Now also reports 54% of trafficking victims are trafficked for sexual purposes.

“The best motivation and most inspiring aspect of this program is getting feedback from O.U.R. on our impact,” Hudson said. “Hearing the number of lives you have helped save or the number of ‘bad guys’ you have helped put away makes all of the late-night report writing worth it.”

Ginny Blake can be contacted at [email protected]

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