United States attorney general Alberto Gonzales called upon residents to protect their children from an "epidemic" of child pornography and the proliferation of pedophiles prowling the Internet.
"It is not an exaggeration to say that we are in the midst of an epidemic in the production and trafficking of movies and images depicting the sexual abuse of children," Gonzales said during a speech at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Awarness of pedophila has changed little since the 1980s when victims came out in force to "out" their predators. Even in 2006, the media clings to stranger-danger headlines (whereas a child is kidnapped,) despite such cases remaining extremely rare.
Gonzales described streaming video of sadomasochism fetishes between adult men and infants, and "another was of a mere infant being savagely penetrated," he said. Additionally, as pedophile communities grow and flourish online, to become a member of the community one must provide his own photographs or video of molesting a child to join the website.
During Operation Hamlet, a case principally investigated by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Gonzales dismantled an international ring of people who were molesting their own children and each other's children for streaming video communities.
"They captured it all on camera, and shared the images. They even did it on web cams sometimes, so that other molesters could watch it live," he said.
Gonzales admitted that the government itself did not have definitive terms to log what they witnessed online, presumably traditional rape or sodomy, which is defined by each state. (Some states, Texas for one, do not consider male-to-boy sexual intercourse as rape.) "We need to get the public -- as well as government officials-to start thinking about it in the right terms. It is brutal, it is heinous, and it is criminal.
"And so today my message to the American people focuses on two categories of cases: sexual enticement of minors and child pornography," he said. Enticement means a predator contacts a minor via a chat room to arrange a physical place for sexual contact.
"We've watched as investigative journalists have posed as teens in chat rooms. With great ease, they have lured priests, teachers, doctors, and lawyers, all of whom thought they were going to have sexual contact with children," he said.
Pre-Internet pedophiles networked through NAMBLA [North American Man/Boy Love Association] and by word-of-mouth, but in modern times pedophiles use the Internet to network, share stories and pictures, and support for their activities. Gonzales called the threat to children as "frighteningly real," and said pornography must be stopped.
In the first statistics revealed by the Department of Justice, Gonzales said one in five children online is solicited by pedophiles, and no portal is safe from pedophiles including AOL (America Online.) And Gonzales said 50,000 sexual predators are online at any given moment actively seeking children.
To parents, he said, "I think many people still don't appreciate the scope, the nature and the import of this criminal activity, and the threat it poses to our kids."
Gonzales described pictures that he has seen of sexual intercourse between adults and children, which are freely available on the Internet.
"Viewing this was shocking and it makes my stomach turn, but while these descriptions may make some uncomfortable, we will not defeat this threat unless we all really understand the nature of the child pornography now prevalent on the Internet," he said.
He specifically mentioned that sexually abused boys "will always wear the scars of that tragic moment...And, because of the Internet and the trends it has caused, he will continue to be victimized in other ways."
"Pedophiles will often use the images of children as a tool to silence them or to blackmail them into more molestation or pornography-or worse yet, into the horrific trades of child trafficking and prostitution. And the boy will always know that the pictures of his very personal abuse are out there on the Internet, which leads to feelings of embarrassment and helplessness that cause an ongoing and cruel victimization," Gonzales said.
The attorney general also mentioned online 'molestation on demand,' whereas a pedophile will molest a child while pedophile community members watch through streaming video of the act. "We saw that in the case I mentioned before, Operation Hamlet," he said.
For those parents who think child pornography is simply a photograph of naked boy, Gonzales said "let's be clear: it is not a victimless crime. Most images today of child pornography depict actual sexual abuse of real children. Each image literally documents a crime scene."
"There are images of graphic sexual and physical abuse of innocent children, even babies," he said. "It is brutal; it is heinous, and it is criminal."
He said he is sending to Congress a legislative package that includes greater penalties and improved cooperation from Internet service providers.
"This legislation will help ensure that Internet service providers report the presence of child pornography on their systems by strengthening criminal penalties for failing to report it," the attorney general said.
In February 2006, Gonzales launched Project Safe Childhood, an initiative aimed at combating the online exploitation and victimization of children. "Through Project Safe Childhood, we will build on our efforts in this area by making law enforcement at all levels more coordinated, better trained, and more involved. And we will use our federal resources at the Justice Department to make sure we find these criminals and keep them away from our kids," he said.
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