Hearing of the House Judiciary Committee - Oversight Hearing on the Federal Bureau of Investigation
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REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): I thank the gentleman and the chairman for his indulgence.
Director Mueller, I just have a couple of things that I wanted to go over with you, a lot of which is what I talked to you about last year at the hearing on online child predators. But I did want to make you aware that overnight there was a fire that is suspected arson in the Chabad synagogues, the Chabad Shul on Miami Beach, and it is being investigated as arson as we speak.
It is the second suspected arson in the synagogue in Miami Beach in six months, and there were -- obviously we are in the middle of Passover, which is a sacred Jewish holiday, so it makes it all the more disconcerting and tragic. And I would hope, and if you would -- at my request, if you would look into whether or not the FBI could investigate this as a potential hate crime, I would very much appreciate it.
MR. MUELLER: We will do that.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Thank you very much. ATF is on the scene as well, but obviously it's starting to be more than troubling.
I do want to acknowledge the presence of Ed Smart, who is with the Surviving Parents Coalition and here today, and who has been the champion for advocating on behalf of children who have been victims of online sexual predators and children who've been victims, period.
And I want to differ with my colleague from Florida, my good friend Mr. Keller, because with all due respect I don't think that the FBI is doing enough to pursue online child predators. I mean, it was clear in October when we had our hearing here that we are -- there are about 500,000 known online child pornographers -- people trading these images. These are depictions of sexual acts that are actually happening, crime scene photographs, and you do acknowledge that even though I know you said in your testimony that you're investigating -- that you've convicted more than 6,800 since 1996, which is 12 years, that's still less than 2 percent of what we know is out there, correct?
MR. MUELLER: I'm not certain of those figures, I would defer to you on that.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Well, the testimony of James Finch, the assistant director of the FBI's Cyber Division, who wrote a letter in response to Senator Biden, he indicated in that letter that the FBI's Innocent Images unit had a total of just one unit chief, 13 special agents, 10 analysts and nine support staff. I mean, there are Internet blog sites that have larger staffs than that.
MR. MUELLER: I will say that we have almost 270 agents working nationwide, but I'm not going to tell you that that is sufficient to address this. As I've indicated to you before, it's tremendously important. It's an issue that is deserving of more resources. We put in a request for and did receive additional resources in 2008; we got an additional $2.4 million and 14 positions. But that is, I will tell you, a drop in the bucket. It is a huge, huge issue.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Do you still have more than 2,000 investigators for white-collar crime as compared to a couple of hundred for child exploitation?
MR. MUELLER: I'm not certain on white-collar crimes, but certainly on violent crimes, for instance, I know we have something like 2,200, and white-collar crimes, it may be that high.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Last year when we had testimony from your staff, they did testify that there were more than 2,300 investigators dedicated to white-collar crime and only about 232 dedicated to investigating child exploitation. Why is there such a disproportion in commitment if you verbally are saying that you are committed to trying to ferret out child exploitation?
MR. MUELLER: Well, because we're facing -- have faced and continue to face substantial white-collar criminal issues. We've got a mortgage -- as I testified before, the subprime mortgage challenge, we have over 1,300 cases that have come to us. In the past we've had Enron, (BellSouth ?), Qwest, any number of large white-collar criminal cases. The white collar criminal program also encompasses civil rights, it encompasses public corruption --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Okay, but you couldn't possibly compare the harming and sexual exploitation of children and the rape of children being more important -- that white-collar crime would be more important than that. I mean, you're certainly demonstrating that it seems to be by the disparate commitment in the commitment of staff.
MR. MUELLER: Congresswoman, we agree, this is a huge problem. It's a question of resources.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: So if you agree --
MR. MUELLER: I put in requests and I have gotten additional resources, but --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: But you know what? The testimony that we had in October was that you were actually diverting resources from the Innocent Images program to other priorities. Can you at least commit that you will stop diverting funding from the Innocent Images program to other priorities in the Department of Justice?
MR. MUELLER: Well, I will --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Michael Mason testified.
MR. MUELLER: -- continue to look -- I will continue to look at our resources and try to adjust the priorities as I think --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: So you won't even commit that you will stop diverting funding from the Innocent Images program?
MR. MUELLER: I will look at -- I will look at our resources over a period of time and do what I can on this priority.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: What specific FBI resources and personnel do you believe are worth diverting from their current use to rescuing children from child exploitation? Is there something you can identify? Can you commit to identifying other things that maybe aren't as high a priority, moving those resources to the hundreds of thousands of children that are being victimized online today? I mean, actions speak louder than words, Mr. Director.
MR. MUELLER: I think if you look at our actions in the cases we have made, we have made substantial cases. I averted (sic) earlier to the case that we made back in the fall where we -- or actually, it was several months ago we took off 60 individuals who had for a period of 15 years been passing child pornography in an encrypted state. We did it with our counterparts in the U.K. --
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Mr. Director, my time's expired, and children need more than words, they need action. These are children that need to be rescued. We have the ability to rescue them if we ask for and pursue and get commitments from our leaders.
MR. MUELLER: I am happy to work together with you to get the resources we need, Congresswoman.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And you said that last year, and it's still the same.
MR. MUELLER: And I'm still -- I'm still saying it.
REP. WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Okay. Well, now if we could back it up with action, that would be great.
I yield back the balance of my time.
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