Operation Underground Railroad, an organization founded by Tim Ballard to rescue child sex trafficking victims across the world, frequently takes photos and videos during their operations in order to identify the criminals involved in the horrific practice.
On Monday, Glenn Beck asked Mark Mabry, an independent journalist who has accompanied Operation Underground Railroad on two missions to take photos, how he is able to take so many without being caught.
“The second I met the bad guys and we met them at the dock, I was like, ‘Hey man! Selfie!'” Mabry recalled. “They just figure I’m a freak who wants to take pictures of the kids … I take a picture of the bad guy, he waves and smiles. I say ‘cheese,’ show him it on the back. The whole time I’m taking pictures.”
Ballard said cameras are a common appearance in child sex trafficking rings, and sometimes the traffickers even ask if you want them to supply you one so you can go home with child pornography.
You can read Mabry’s complete account of his experience here.
Ballard, a former CIA agent and former U.S. Homeland Security investigator specializing in child sex trafficking cases, teamed up with the U.S. government and the Colombian government less than two weeks ago in one of the largest sting operations to date to break up a child sex trafficking ring.
“There’s two million children being exploited commercially for sex,” Ballard said. “There are so many people that want this. It’s something, I know, that’s hard to understand. But it’s anybody, it’s everybody. It’s teachers, doctors, lawyers, people that walk amongst us. They have this sex addiction.”
Ballard said the pedophiles begin by watching pornography, and it becomes an addiction that grows out of control.
“We sit across from these traffickers, and they talk about children being abused in this way like they’re talking about the weather, like they’re selling you a car,” he remarked. “And they’re very specific. ‘This ten-year-old girl will do X, Y, and Z. … I have virgins for you that we’ve been preparing … and we’re going to deliver them to you at your party for $1,000.'”
Ballard said that on the most recent operation, which was his last time undercover, he almost started crying when the traffickers brought out the children. He goes undercover as someone soliciting the children’s services, and when the money exchanges hands, the authorities swoop in and arrest the criminals.
“This is before they’re liberated, and these kids were — they were crying,” Ballard said, his voice shaking. “And that’s something that — I think I told you — I don’t know if I’ve been in this too long. It was the first time that I felt like I was breaking character, I felt tears forming.”
Beck asked Ballard how he and his crew — many of whom are former Navy SEALs or law enforcement — don’t just get angry and “kill them all.”
“I have those feelings, and I think, ‘if I mess up now, these guys might not end up for the rest of their lives in jail.’ And that’s the thing that keeps me going,” Ballard said.
He added that faith and God are a crucial part of every operation, and praying before they go into the field helps them from being blinded by anger or disgust.
Before the program ended, Ballard almost started crying when he thanked Beck’s audience for their support of Operation Underground Railroad.
“It’s your audience, Glenn, that allowed us to do this,” he said. “And you said earlier you have the best audience, and you do. It’s your audience that sent us out. We would be nothing without you guys. So I can’t express the gratitude I have, and on behalf of the kids who can’t speak to them, thank you so much.”
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