TMCNet:  Chairman Smith Stmt at Markup of H.R. 1981, the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act

[July 28, 2011]

Chairman Smith Stmt at Markup of H.R. 1981, the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act

Jul 28, 2011 (Congressional Documents and Publications/ContentWorks via COMTEX) -- July 27, 2011 Contact: Kim Smith Hicks, 202-225-3951 Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith Full Committee Markup of H.R. 1981, the "Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011" Chairman Smith: According to the Justice Department, trafficking of child pornography images was almost completely eradicated in America by the mid-1980s. Purchasing or trading child pornography images was risky and almost impossible to undertake anonymously.

The advent of the Internet reversed this accomplishment. Today, child pornography may be the fastest growing crime in America, increasing at an average of 150% per year for each of the last ten years. These disturbing images litter the Internet and pedophiles can purchase, view, or exchange this material with virtual anonymity.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) created the CyberTipline 13 years ago. To date, more than 51 million child pornography images and videos have been reviewed by the analysts in NCMEC's Child Victim Identification Program. As NCMEC's president and CEO, Ernie Allen, explained at a hearing two weeks ago, "these images are crime scene photos." NCMEC's CyberTipline receives reports of images of sexual assault of even toddlers and infants. And, there is a clear link between the possession of child pornography and the actual violation of children.

NCMEC estimates that 40 percent or more of people who possess child pornography also sexually assault children.

H.R. 1981, the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act, equips federal, state and local law enforcement agencies with the modern-day tools needed to combat the escalation in child pornography and child exploitation crimes.

Often, the only way to identify a pedophile who operates a website or exchanges child pornography images with other pedophiles is by an Internet Protocol (IP) address. Law enforcement officials must obtain a subpoena and then request from the Internet Service Provider (ISP) the name and address of the user of the IP address.

Unfortunately, ISPs routinely purge these records, sometimes just days after they are created, making it difficult, if not impossible, for investigators to apprehend child pornographers on the Internet. Purging these records too soon is like clearing a crime scene before taking fingerprints or photos for evidence.

H.R. 1981 directs Internet Service Providers to retain Internet Protocol addresses to assist state and federal law enforcement officials with child pornography and other Internet investigations.

Some Internet Service Providers currently retain these addresses for business purposes. But the period of retention varies widely among providers, from a few days to a few months. The lack of uniform data retention impedes the investigation of Internet crimes.

If investigators cannot identify the perpetrator, the investigation is over before it even begins, leaving the pedophile free to continue to sexually abuse a child and swap images with other pedophiles.

Critics contend that data retention is unnecessary because current law already requires ISPs to preserve records at the request of law enforcement agents for 90 days. But ISPs can only preserve the information they still have. By the time investigators discover the Internet child pornography and request the data, the provider has often already purged the IP address records.

Critics also contend that law enforcement agents are not hampered by the lack of data in child exploitation cases, but instead by the lack of resources. But all the resources in the world won't help an investigator identify a pedophile if the data needed to do so is not available.

Both Democratic and Republican administrations have called for data retention for over a decade. In January, the Justice Department testified that short or even non-existent retention by providers frustrate criminal investigations.

Attorney General Holder and FBI Director Mueller testified last spring that data retention is invaluable to investigating child pornography and other Internet-based crimes.

H.R. 1981 also creates a new federal offense to allow federal prosecution of any person who conducts a financial transaction knowing that it will facilitate access to child pornography.

This bill strengthens protections for child witnesses and victims, who are often subjected to harassment and intimidation throughout the trial period. The bill allows a federal court to issue a protective order if it determines that a child victim or witness is being harassed or intimidated and imposes criminal penalties for violation of a protective order.

Finally, H.R. 1981 increases the maximum penalties for child pornography offenders in cases that involve children less than 12 years old, and provides limited administrative subpoena authority to the U.S. Marshals Service, the federal agency primarily tasked with enforcing the Adam Walsh Act.

Today I will offer a Manager's Amendment to H.R. 1981 to (1) modify the financial facilitation offense to exempt financial institutions assisting law enforcement investigations; (2) create a more effective and targeted data retention provision; and (3) make other technical and conforming changes to the bill.

I'd like to thank our colleague, Ms. Wasserman Shultz, for being the co-sponsor of this much-needed legislation. She has been indefatigable in her support of it. Thanks to her, H.R. 1981 has broad bipartisan support among both committee and non-committee members.

The bill is supported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the National Center for Victims of Crime, the National Sheriffs' Association, the Major County Sheriffs' Association, the International Union of Police Associations and the Fraternal Order of Police.

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