Biden Warns Public of Growing Dangers of Internet Child Exploitation
U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, held a hearing today to highlight the magnitude of child exploitation on the Internet, and to explore federal, state and local efforts to combat this growing problem.
The Department of Justice and the FBI have testified before Congress that child exploitation is growing rapidly. A USA Today story today examines new investigative techniques that have allowed law enforcement to identify over 600,000 unique computers trafficking child pornography over the Internet. However, due to the lack of resources at the Federal, state and local level, we are investigating less than 2% of these cases. Research shows that if we were to investigate these cases we could rescue a victim of child exploitation at least 30% of the time.
"At the same time when the Internet has given children access to the world - it has also given the world access to our kids," said Sen. Biden. "Protecting them requires continuing and constant vigilance - in our neighborhoods, in our homes and on-line. We need to give law enforcement the funds and the tools to pull the plug on Internet predators."
Sen. Biden also called on his colleagues today to pass into law the Combating Child Exploitation Act of 2007, legislation that will help provide the federal leadership and resources to establish a national network of highly trained federal, state and local investigators to focus exclusively on child exploitation. The House of Representatives passed companion legislation in October.
"Over the last few years, we made some real progress identifying child predators and stopping them in their tracks. But the bottom line is that, we are not making a dent in combating child exploitation on the Internet," added Sen. Biden, author of the Adam Walsh Act.
"I've worked with Joe for over twenty-five years, and he's been a champion of protecting our nation's kids for over two decades," said John Walsh, founder of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "Our children are tomorrow's generation, our future leaders. We cannot continue to sit back and allow these predators to lurk around the Internet - we have the tools to track them down. I applaud Joe Biden's efforts and I hope that Congress acts quickly on this legislation."
Sen. Biden's legislation takes a bold step forward in addressing the growing problem of child exploitation by creating a strong nationwide network of highly trained law enforcement experts to track down these offenders and put them away. Specifically, the bill creates a Special Counsel for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction at the Justice Department. Modeled after the highly successful Office of Violence Against Women, which has helped reduce domestic violence by 50% and rape by 60%, this new office will develop and oversee a coordinated national strategy to address this problem. In addition, the bill builds upon the critical Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program to ensure that we have at least one cyber unit in each state dedicated to these cases.
"Sen. Biden's legislation is most effective ways of helping the one in five girls and one in ten boys who are sexually assaulted before the age of fourteen. This should be a priority - providing law enforcement with the man power, state of the art tools and training to interdict these heinous crimes," said Erin Runnion and Ed Smart of the Surviving Parents Coalition, a coalition of parents of children who have been abused. "No program can compare to the ICAC Task Forces and dollars spent for lives rescued and children spared."
The Combating Child Exploitation Act of 2007 will authorize $1.05 billion over the next eight years to:
* Enhance the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Grant Program - The Attorney General will be required to establish a formula grant program for the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program, funded at $60 million for FY 2008, increasing to $100 million in FY 2015. This will ensure that local agencies have the additional resources necessary to create robust cyber units with highly trained investigators;
* Increase Federal Agents - The bill will authorize over $40 million per year over the next eight years for 250 new federal agents at the FBI, the Immigrations and Custom Enforcement Agency, and the U.S. Postal Service. These new agents will be dedicated to child exploitation cases and;
* Increase Forensic Capacity - $7 million per year to establish increased forensic capacity for child exploitation cases at the Regional Computer Forensic Labs (RCFL).