High Priority Crackdown On Child Porn: Is It Excessive?

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In the early 1990s, experts believed federal law enforcement efforts were ending child pornography, says the Washington Post. “We thought this was one of those rare forms of social deviance, of criminal behavior, that had been eradicated,” said Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. An increase of Internet-fueled child pornography has triggered a new crackdown. Cybercrime, the majority of which involves child pornography, is now the FBI’s third-highest priority, behind counterterrorism and counterintelligence. “The problem is as bad as it appears,” said Arnold Bell, chief of the FBI’s Innocent Images National Initiative. “There are not enough badges out there to cover all the people to be had in terms of offenders.”

The crackdown on child pornography has touched off a debate over how often this type of crime leads to molestation of children and whether viewing photographs warrants years in prison. Some defense lawyers and treatment professionals say that the campaign has become excessive. Many caught in the dragnet, they say, viewed images for their private gratification but never intended to hurt a child. “Sending people to prison for five or 10 or 15 years for looking at pictures is killing an ant with a sledgehammer,” said Peter Greenspun, who defended a former civil-liberties union head sentenced to seven years in prison for downloading hundreds of images. “These people are being put on sex-offender registries, they are being ostracized from the community, for looking at pictures.” Federal prosecutor Bonnie Greenberg responds: “You can’t wrap your brain around what we’re talking about here. We’re not talking about a 16-year-old who looks like she could be 19. We’re seeing prepubescent children who are being raped, babies, toddlers being tied up.”

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/14/AR2007121402257.html

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