- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2003

The State Department is taking steps to clean up its international visitors program after a report last week that a delegation of East Asian academics, government officials and private relief workers made an unscheduled tour of a Carson City, Nev., brothel.

The delegation had been invited to the United States to study strategies on ending global sex trafficking.

“The State Department does not condone the visit to the brothel ranch on May 14, 2003, or in fact any meeting that may have taken place between the visitors and representatives of the ranch,” spokeswoman Brooke Summers said Tuesday.

The Nevada Appeal newspaper reported May 15 that the 10-member delegation from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam visited the Moonlite Bunny Ranch.

“We got a call from somebody that said there was a State Department delegation that would like more information on the Bunny Ranch and legal prostitution in Nevada. As we do with the media, we opened the doors to them,” said Dennis Hof, owner of the brothel.

Mr. Hof said that to his knowledge, none of the delegation had sexual relations with any of the Bunny Ranch girls. “They were more concerned about trying to deal with prostitution in their own country, and in particular underage prostitution and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases,” he said.

Nonetheless, the incident has already evoked criticism from U.S. sex-trafficking activists. “The president has signed a national security directive making it the policy of the administration to oppose the legalization of prostitution,” said Michael Horowitz, a fellow at the Hudson Institute. “The State Department brings a delegation from Asia, where the problems are particularly acute, to a sex ranch as a means of showcasing how benign brothels and prostitution are.”

According to a State Department official, the delegation was told about the ranch in a briefing by a state historian in Reno on the history of legal prostitution in Nevada. Miss Summers said an “uninvited guest,” who was affiliated with the ranch, offered the delegation a tour.

In the delegation, the only State Department officials present were translators contracted for the program but not associated with either the foreign or civil service.

Nonetheless, one State Department official said: “We were very [annoyed]. Things are going to take place to ensure this never happens again.”

The official said a series of steps were being discussed to coordinate the closer monitoring of the international visitors program.

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