Remarks of Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.
I am very pleased to have the opportunity to announce a significant step forward in our efforts to protect children the most vulnerable members of our society against online exploitation and abuse.
It is particularly appropriate to be making this announcement at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. For more than a decade, the Center has been a powerful force in the effort to protect children.
Few issues are as heart wrenching as the one we're discussing today. Although the Internet and other new technologies bring wonderful benefits in the areas of commerce, health care, and education, they also pose new threats to our nation's young people. All too often, sex offenders and other criminals are turning to the Internet to seek out their victims. Sexual predators no longer lurk only in malls and playgrounds. Instead, they roam freely in cyberspace looking for vulnerable children. They use new innovations - such as instant messaging - to befriend unsuspecting children, often with the goal of luring them to meet for sexual purposes.
The extent of this problem is staggering. The FBI, alone, has opened more than 4,000 child sexual exploitation and pornography cases since Operation Innocent Images was established in 1995. Last year, the FBI opened almost new 1,500 cases. And Justice Department prosecutions of these types of cases have increased 10 percent each year since 1995.
We can - indeed, we must - respond aggressively to this problem. And that's why we are here today. I am pleased to announce the award of approximately $3,000,000 in federal funds to establish new Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces in 10 jurisdictions around the country. In addition, we will be providing $1.8 million in continuation grants to the 10 original ICAC sites. As a result, we will have 20 ICAC Task Forces operating around the country.
The following jurisdictions will receive grants of approximately $300,000 to establish new Task Forces:
This week, an official from each of these jurisdiction is here at the National Center to receive training on how to establish an ICAC Task Force. We have learned many valuable lessons in the establishment of the first 10 Task Forces, and we hope to share these insights with the leaders of the new Task Forces.
These new Task Forces are an integral part of our overall strategy to combat online child sexual exploitation. The Department, in conjunction with our local, state, and international law enforcement partners, with the National Center, and others, are mounting an aggressive effort to combat online child sexual exploitation.
First, we are forging alliances with state and local law enforcement agencies to address the problems and challenges of online child sexual exploitation. This collaborative approach is a central element of our strategy. Last year, the Department provided funding for 10 Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces. Today, we are announcing grants that will add 10 new Task Forces - doubling the size of this program. I want to commend Shay Bilchik (BILL-CHECK) for the leadership of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in developing this program. OJJDP has been instrumental in the creation of a national network for these Task Forces, including the development of investigating standards and policies that are a national model for cooperative investigative efforts.
Second, we are bolstering our enforcement efforts at the federal level. We have expanded the FBI's Innocent Images Project, which was begun in the FBI's Baltimore Field Office and is now being replicated in numerous FBI field offices around the country. Last year alone, the work done in Innocent Images resulted in more than 100 convictions.
Third, we have expanded our international efforts, because we know that cybercriminals, including online predators, do not respect state, national or international boundaries. The Department played a leading role in Operation Cathedral, in which U.S., British and other foreign law enforcement agencies broke up an international pedophile ring that operated in at least 21 countries. Twenty-two (22) members of this ring were prosecuted in the United States. And this past September, I led the U.S. delegation to the International Conference on Child Pornography on the Internet, where we successfully forged an agreement to strengthen cooperative efforts with our international law enforcement partners and with industry.
Finally, we have pushed to strengthen federal laws to provide additional protections to children online. This past year, we added a new statute that prohibits the use of a facility of interstate commerce - such as a computer connected to the Internet - to transmit information about a minor for criminal sexual purposes. We recently obtained new investigative tools to track down criminals who exploit children. And last year, we required Internet Service Providers to report potential violations of federal child exploitation laws to law enforcement.
In a moment, we will be hearing from someone who is on the front lines of the effort to protect our nation's children and who is a recipient of first-year funds under this program. Max Cauthen is a Deputy Assistant Attorney General in South Carolina. In addition, he chairs the ICAC Task Force Board. He knows first hand how to forge an effective crime-fighting partnership among federal, state and local agencies, and business and community organizations. His presence today is a powerful statement about how important these collaborative efforts are in our overall strategy to fight online child sexual exploitation.