By TIM KOSNOFF
Those wishing an international alliance to help stop the scourge of child sexual abuse, may find hope in a Dec. 4 document released by the U.S. Department of Justice. Yet, while the prospect of the United States attorney general partnering with leaders in 48 other countries would seem to be encouraging, the “fine print” of the DOJ’s own official statement indicates just how futile such a broad effort may be.
The D.O.J. official statement notes that Attorney General Eric Holder and European Union (EU) Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom launched the Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online at a Dec. 5 conference in Brussels. The initiative is intended “to unite decision-makers all around the world to better identify and assist victims and to prosecute the perpetrators. Participants at the launch included ministers and high-level officials from 27 EU member states, who are also joined by 22 countries outside the EU.”
Officials say with great optimism that the international initiative would “strengthen our mutual resources to bring more perpetrators to justice, identify more victims of child sexual abuse and ensure that they receive our help and support.”
Holder said: “Through this global alliance we can build on the success of previous cross-border police operations that have dismantled international pedophile networks and safeguard more of the world’s children.”
Malmstrom added: “Behind every child abuse image is an abused child, an exploited and helpless victim. When these images are circulated online, they can live on forever. Our responsibility is to protect children wherever they live and to bring criminals to justice wherever they operate. The only way to achieve this is to team up for more intensive and better coordinated action worldwide.”
Officials promised that members would try to thwart the “manufacturing and sharing of child pornography, online enticement of minors and online child prostitution.” The new effort would mean that “the fight against child sexual abuse online will therefore be more effective.”
One wonders: More effective than what?
Officials at the gathering observe (perhaps very conservatively) that, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, 50,000 new child-abuse images are added online each year and that “the criminal networks . . . know no boundaries and exploit the lack of information exchange and the legal loopholes that [have existed] within and between countries. This is why international cooperation is crucial to effectively investigate cases of child sexual abuse online and to better identify and prosecute offenders.”
Key goals of the alliance are:
Enhancing efforts to identify victims and ensuring that they receive the necessary assistance, support and protection.
Enhancing efforts to investigate cases of child sexual abuse online and to identify and prosecute offenders.
Increasing children’s awareness of online risks, including the self-production of images and “grooming” methods used by pedophiles.
Reducing the availability of child abuse material online and the re-victimization of children.
As evidence of what can be accomplished by an international alliance, justice-department officials cite Operation Delego, said to have achieved the largest U.S. prosecution of an international criminal network organized to sexually exploit children. The operation, according to officials, marshaled resources from the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service, Postal Inspection Service and other government agencies, in collaboration with non-governmental organizations, industry and international partners.
Delego “spanned years,” according to officials, and targeted participants in “Dreamboard,” identified as “a private, members-only, online bulletin board that was created and operated to promote pedophilia and encourage the sexual abuse of very young children, in an environment designed to avoid law-enforcement detection.”
The results of Delego? Just 72 defendants were charged in the U.S. and about 500 more have been identified for investigation by foreign authorities.
The D.O.J. statement prior to the Brussels conference concludes: “Despite vigorously fighting all aspects of child exploitation, the Justice Department recognizes that more work remains to be done and that work is vital to our collective success in combating this global problem.”
Some estimate that pedophiles may constitute 5 percent of the population. That would mean, given a world of 7 billion souls, perhaps 350 million active or potential child-molesters. Such would indicate that identifying 574 defendants, while admirable, is a relatively infinitesimal victory toward mitigating the sexual abuse of children.
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