Senate Passes BIDEN Bill to Protect Children from Internet Predators
Late last night the United States Senate passed former Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Joseph R. Biden, Jr.'s (D-DE) Protect our Children Act (S.1738). This bipartisan 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 behind bars. On September 15, Oprah Winfrey, a long-time advocate for protecting children, called on her viewers to urge their Senators to support this bill to protect children from sexual predators. Sen. Biden's bill passed with 60 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle.
"At the same time when the Internet has given children access to the world - it has also given a dangerous world access to our kids," said Sen. Biden, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs. "Protecting them requires constant vigilance - in our neighborhoods, in our homes and on-line. Finally we have a bill that will give law enforcement the funds and the tools to pull the plug on Internet predators. I urge the President to quickly sign the Protect Our Children Act into law."
At Senate and House hearings to explore the magnitude of online child exploitation in this country, the Department of Justice and the FBI testified that child exploitation is growing rapidly. New investigative techniques have allowed law enforcement to identify over 500,000 unique computers trafficking child pornography over the Internet. Due to the lack of resources at the Federal, state and local level, however, law enforcement can only investigate less than 2 percent of these cases.
Sen. Biden's bill requires the Department of Justice to develop and implement a National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, thus ensuring that we are taking a comprehensive, forward-looking approach to address this growing problem. In addition, the bill increases the number of federal agents focused on child exploitation and 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.
"We cannot sit back and allow these predators to lurk around the Internet, especially when we have the tools to track them down and rescue our children," added Sen. Biden.
As amended, the Protect Our Children Act of 2008 will authorize $320.5 million over the next five years for:
* A National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction -In order to help develop a cohesive national effort to fight child exploitation on the Internet, Sen. Biden's legislation will require the Department of Justice to develop and implement a national strategy to help garner our nation's collective resources to combat this growing problem.
* An ICAC Grant Program - The Attorney General will be required to establish a formula grant program for the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program, funded at $60 million per year for the next five years. This will ensure that local agencies have the additional resources necessary to create robust cyber units with highly trained investigators.
* Increased Forensic Capacity - $2 million per year to establish increased forensic capacity for child exploitation cases at the Regional Computer Forensic Labs (RCFL).
"This legislation is the truest form of child abuse prevention. We will be able to count the children rescued and the predators stopped," said Grier Weeks, Executive Director of the National Association to Protect Children. "When it comes to sexual predators, we have a massive surplus of rhetoric and a huge deficit of resources to do anything about them. Sen. Biden just changed all that."
The Protect Our Children Act has strong support from a wide cross-section of children's advocacy, law enforcement and community organizations. The International Union of Police Associations, National Association of Police Organizations, National Sheriffs' Association, the Surviving Parents Coalition, PROTECT, AFL-CIO and GoDaddy.com, among others, have been instrumental partners in advocating for this legislation.