Child Porn Epidemic Should Not Surprise Feds, Expert Says

Rusty Pugh & Jenni Parker | Agape Press | Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Child Porn Epidemic Should Not Surprise Feds, Expert Says

March 31, 2004

Federal authorities claim the Internet child porn problem is much worse than they had imagined. However, one pro-family activist says the government officials have had numerous warnings and simply failed to take aggressive action to tackle the problem.

ABC News reports that federal agents have discovered what they called "a vast underground market" of customers for child pornography on the Internet. Federal authorities claim they did not previously realize the extent of the problem that their investigations have revealed.

Recent operations by federal authorities have resulted in the arrests of several people for trading in child porn, including teachers, doctors, ministers, scouting volunteers, and camp counselors. A New York priest who apparently stored pornographic and exploitive images of children on a computer in the church rectory; a Chicago pediatrician with more than 3,000 child porn images on his computer; a seventh-grade teacher in Fresno, California; a camp counselor in Las Vegas -- the list of perpetrators caught in the investigators' wide net is long, tragic, and frightening.

According to ABC News, the government probe actually began last year in Minsk, Belarus, when U.S. investigators started looking into Regpay, a company they suspected of selling child porn over the Internet. The electronic trail of Regpay's transactions, more than 100,000 of them, led around the world, and many of those financial exchanges were traced by a U.S. task force back to American credit-card users.

Mike Garcia, assistant secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, told ABC that he has been shocked, not only by the kinds of people being arrested, but also by the sheer numbers of suspects found, "the thousands of leads, the number of open cases we have." U.S. immigration and customs agents also said the underground market for images of sexually exploited children was far larger than they expected.

Family Advocate: Feds Were Warned but Failed to Act

However, Pat Trueman, senior advisor for the Family Research Council, says government officials' claims of prior ignorance are not really true. He says the federal authorities have known for years that major Internet companies have provided a forum for child porn customers.

Trueman says pro-family groups have been telling the Justice Department for some time that companies like Yahoo! are heavily involved in facilitating the traffic of child pornography. But while a relative few customers of child porn have been arrested, numerous Internet companies continue to provide access to the illegal material.

"This lax enforcement, this permissive attitude, has led to just an explosion of child pornography on the Internet, and federal authorities can hardly be said to be caught off guard," Trueman notes. "And yet," he says, "the Justice Department all along has refused to prosecute Yahoo! and similar Internet companies, even though they clearly violate federal law."

Meanwhile, the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, and other pro-family forces have repeatedly warned federal law enforcement officials of the out-of-control growth of child porn online and the ways some Internet companies' practices fuel it. So Trueman says government officials can hardly pretend surprise at the extent of the problem when "they've refused  to listen to AFA and other groups over the years who have been saying 'You've got a real problem with child pornography on the Internet; go get it.'"

According to the pro-family advocate, some Internet service companies offer their customers features that make it possible to distribute hardcore pornography and even child pornography discretely over the Internet. And although Attorney General John Ashcroft has publicly stated his department's commitment to fighting child porn, the FRC advisor and other child safety advocates feel that statement has not been backed by sufficient action, particularly against offending Internet companies.

Trueman contends that Yahoo!, through its online clubs, even enables the exchange of pornographic pictures of children among pedophiles -- and worse goings on than that. He says some club sites list postings where users exchange messages, and where pedophiles often discuss children they are molesting -- sometimes even going so far as offering to trade a child with others who are interested.

Nevertheless, Trueman says Ashcroft has consistently refused to go after Yahoo! and Internet companies like it on obscenity charges, even while the Attorney General claims fighting porn is a top priority of the Justice Department.

The U.S. government's ongoing investigation has so far led the authorities not only to hundreds of child porn traffickers in the U.S., but also to several suspected child predators as well. The search is ongoing, with more than 200 cases still open, and investigators are prioritizing leads according to the suspects' access to children.

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Family Research Council (http://www.frc.org)
American Family Association (http://www.afa.net)


© 2004 Agape Press.


 

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