Sanctuary for the Abused
Sunday, May 22, 2005
FBI: Internet pedophiles a growing threat
From Correspondent Terry Frieden
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal law enforcement officials are playing catch-up when it comes to combating clever pedophiles and child pornographers using the Internet, FBI Director Louis Freeh told Congress Tuesday.
At a Senate subcommittee hearing, Freeh said investigations have turned up thousands of suspects whose abuse of children thrives through the anonymity of the Internet. He said pedophiles are increasingly using the Internet to contact children and transmit child pornography.
"There's certainly no greater danger to them in the context of this subject matter than the Internet and the very easy use which pedophiles and criminals can make of that Internet," said Freeh, who said educating parents about the growing threat is crucial.
Freeh and Ernest Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said law enforcement agencies need more money to combat the problem. The Office of Management and Budget turned down a recent FBI request to add $10 million for its child-exploitation task force.
"I think we have the tools there. I just think we need more resources," Freeh said. The subcommittee's chairman, Sen. Judd Gregg, R-New Hampshire, said the panel will consider restoring the FBI's budget request.
Mother of victim: 'I was totally unaware'
At Tuesday's hearing, a mother identified only as Diane Dow said she was stunned to learn that her 11-year-old son had been lured into sexual molestation over the Internet.
"I was totally unaware of any of this type of activity until this happened to my son," she said. "I never even heard of such a thing before."
To demonstrate how predators can approach children in cyberspace, an FBI agent displayed for senators an online transcript of an actual case.
A business executive tried to arrange a meeting with a 14-year-old school girl by promising her, "I would give you a very gentle hug when we met." But the "girl" in question was actually an FBI agent. The man was later convicted for paying for sex with a minor.
Predators only prosecuted after 3 transmissions
Freeh disclosed that a grand jury investigating Internet child predators now has a list of nearly 4,000 suspects.
Only about 450 of the people on that list are actually facing charges, because prosecutors usually want three transmissions of pornographic materials to prove a suspect's "intent" before initiating a prosecution, Freeh said.
That prosecution criteria drew a rebuke from the FBI's leading Senate critic, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
"That's kind of like saying it's all right for a bank robber to rob a bank three times before the FBI's going to investigate the bank robbery," Grassley said.
As of March 5, the work of the FBI's task force had resulted in 83 felony convictions. It has also investigated 19 cases in which pedophiles crossed state lines to meet juveniles, Freeh said.