“A DEMAND FOR AN EXPLANATION”
“Seek to do what is right.” Zephaniah 2:3b NLT
“We of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who participated
in the decisions on Vietnam acted according to what we thought were
the principles and traditions of this nation. We made our decisions
in the light of those values. Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong. We
owe it to future generations to explain why.”
Robert S. McNamara “In Retrospect”
In this day of ‘fiscal cliffs’, ‘sequestration’, trillion dollar deficits, and immature, irresponsible partisan posturing, and dangerous games of ‘political chicken’, the American public is owed a LOT of explanations.
It is rare for those who are elected and paid by the taxpaying public to OFFER those explanations, let alone admit, as Mr. McNamara did, that any explanation is owed.
In spite of that, there is ONE explanation that every decent American should DEMAND of its leaders and lawmakers and it is this: “Why do you refuse to utilize existing technology, and common sense, to provide meaningful and substantial protection to this nation’s children?”
The valiant CAUSE of protecting our most valuable resource is one that is thrust upon us daily. Be that as it may, even though laws that claim ‘protection’ are passed with mind-numbing frequency and in equally mind-numbing numbers, each one of them does little more than lead us further down the one-way-only road of ‘pursuit, prosecution, and punishment’ and do little to provide any real protections to those who most need it. While this is an absolutely necessary road to follow, it should not be the ONLY one.
The very sad truth is that failure to utilize the tools at our disposal effectively has led to the FURTHER exploitation and victimization of countless children who have already suffered the loss of their innocence as a result of child sexual abuse. This failure is a result of decisions made to ignore our capability to take major steps toward blocking the proliferation and prevalence of Internet child pornography from this country’s homes.
In countless speeches given by angry, indignant, and concerned politicians, the phrase “We must STOP child pornography and protect our children!” has been used to great effect in garnering attention and getting votes. It is time for Americans everywhere to demand an explanation from those same people as to why the available technology and know-how to do those very things has not been implemented.
Following is the template for a letter that I hope people will use – and encourage others to do the same – demanding the explanation as to why all of the things that CAN be done are NOT being done. The letter also outlines the technology available and outlines how it could – and SHOULD – be used to prevent further harm from befalling those who have already suffered too much and deserve better than they have received.
I invite you to read the letter and then copy it (or write your own), sign it, and send it to each senator and representative in your state, as well as to Attorney General Holder, and President Obama. I have addressed this template to President Obama for convenience. I will be sending it to him and asking men around me to do the same.
Dear President Obama,
Tonight, in tens of thousands of homes across this great nation, children will go to bed afraid of the visit that will come when all is quiet. They will go to bed dreading the unholy violation of their innocence that will take place when they should be able to sleep peacefully, dreaming the dreams of children. But instead of dreaming, these children will be trembling quietly under the covers, fearfully anticipating the trespass against their bodies and their minds that will leave them empty of everything but their humiliation, their shame, and their loneliness.
In this digital age, the rape and sexual abuse of children is compounded by the making of permanent records of that abuse. To add to the torment, pain, and the embarrassment that these victims suffer, far too many of those images and videos find their way onto the Internet where they are circulated and viewed by untold thousands of people. The National Center For Missing And Exploited Children has ‘logged’ over 50 MILLION different images of child pornography into its database. Software, developed by companies such as Microsoft has been donated to law enforcement and is used by Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) such as AOL to ‘read’ the ‘digital fingerprints’ of these images as they pass through their servers in order to identify, apprehend, and prosecute those who would view, sell, or share them.
This is as it should be, as there are individuals out there who will stop at nothing to obtain and distribute these heartbreaking images of the rape and abuse of innocent children. Unfortunately, limiting the use of available technology to ‘pursuit, prosecution, and punishment’ actually ALLOWS child pornography to proliferate virtually unchecked and, rather than PROTECTING these unfortunate children, actually CONTRIBUTES to their further exploitation and victimization.
Allow me to illustrate my point:
Last year, the Southern District Director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was arrested for possession of child pornography. Software utilized by AOL, the individual’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) detected the ‘digital fingerprints’ of three images of child pornography in an email DURING TRANSMISSION to the Director’s home computer. The images were allowed to proceed, the FBI was notified, a search warrant was obtained, the computer was seized, and the individual was arrested and prosecuted.
An important point to consider is this: The damage to the child is done when the person VIEWS the images, not when he, or she, is apprehended. At that point, it is too late to prevent further harm to the victim.
Mr. President, what if a different scenario had taken place? What if the individual had first been sent, by AOL, a clear warning outlining the dangerous territory into which he was stepping? Allow me to illustrate further by first examining what Google does for its users in China. It seems that searching for certain words or phrases in China can lead to the government cutting the user’s Internet connection. As a service to their users, Google now has warning ‘flags’ that drop down and inform the user of the possibility of the loss of connection when they type certain words into the search fields.
In the case of someone searching for child pornography, what if a ‘flag’ were to drop down when certain terms were typed in? An example of such a warning would be:
“The use of certain search terms could result in the accidental, or intentional, downloading of child pornography which is a SERIOUS CRIME! These images depict innocent children being raped and sexually abused and viewing or sharing these images with others further traumatizes these victims. Penalties for receiving, possessing, and sharing or otherwise distributing child pornography WILL result in imprisonment for terms up to 25 YEARS OR MORE! Furthermore, convicted sex offenders will be required to register with law enforcement for a period of 15 years to LIFE!
The same holds true where actual emails or downloads are in progress. The software AOL utilized could very easily be modified to BLOCK the images completely. In lieu of that, at the very LEAST, modifications could be made so that a warning message is transmitted before the actual images themselves are allowed to go through. An example of such a warning is:
“WARNING FROM THE FBI”
“Your Internet Service Provider’s software has detected images that contain child pornography being sent, or being downloaded, to your computer. These images depict innocent children being sexually abused, and viewing or sharing these images with others further traumatizes these victims. In addition, penalties for receiving, possessing, and distributing or sharing child pornography WILL result in imprisonment for up to 25 YEARS OR MORE! Convicted sex offenders will also be required to register with law enforcement for a period of 15 years to LIFE!
DO YOU WISH TO PROCEED???
CAUTION: If you click ‘YES’, your ISP is required by law to notify the FBI
These warnings COULD have a dramatic impact on the downloading, viewing, and sharing of these horrific images and could greatly reduce the additional trauma and victimization of innocent children.
Mr. President, the time has come to STOP the proliferation of Internet child pornography. The time has come to STOP all of the political grandstanding that takes place under the guise of ‘protecting’ children. The time has come to STOP the further exploitation of children already traumatized by being raped and sexually abused.
Mr. President, the time has come to START protecting the children of this country by demanding an immediate Congressional hearing to ask WHY the simple steps outlined have NOT been taken. This is not new technology by any means.
The February 26 issue of the Wall Street Journal carried an article about a “coordinated effort to deal with subscribers (of ISPs) who illegally download movies, TV shows, and music.” How will this be achieved? Primarily through the use of WARNINGS similar to those outlined here. “The goal is to change behavior and get people to pay attention,” said Jill Lesser.
Should that NOT be the goal where child pornography is concerned as well? Should we not want people to change their behavior and pay attention?
Mr. President, I must ask you: Are we REALLY a nation that is more concerned with the downloading of movies that are not paid for than we are with the downloading of movies and pictures depicting the RAPE AND SEXUAL ABUSE OF INNOCENT CHILDREN?
Taking the steps outlined will not eliminate child pornography or child sexual abuse. These steps CAN do more to contribute to the reduction in Internet child pornography and the further victimization of innocent children than the aggregate effect of ALL the laws (and there are literally hundreds nationwide) that have been passed in recent years that carry a child’s name or the words “Child Protection Act”. These simple steps can also increase sensitivity and awareness among the public and serve to enlighten and educate. These steps can also have the added benefit of causing unthinking individuals to ‘wake up’ and realize the horrors represented by child pornography.
There is simply no plausible reason or explanation as to why these steps cannot be implemented with lightening speed! If the desire is to allow these shameful images to circulate to catch those who might look at them, let me point out something that should be painfully obvious: These are not GUNS that are being allowed to be sold illegally in order to track them to the criminals who purchased them. These are PICTURES and VIDEOS depicting the RAPE and SEXUAL ABUSE of INNOCENT CHILDREN.
Software developers, Internet Service Providers, and the United States Department of Justice should appear before a Congressional committee to determine WHY these steps are not being taken to protect our children and our country.
I will close by sharing a thought attributed to Helen Keller:
“I am only one. But still, I am one. I cannot do everything. But still, I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I CAN do!”
The steps outlined in this letter represent something that CAN be done. Please do NOT refuse to do it!
April has been designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and Child Sexual Abuse Awareness (CSA) Month. This is a perfect time to mail this letter, or one similar to it, to as many Legislators, Congressmen, Governors, newspapers, and anyone else you can think of.
I also urge you to share it with your friends and family so they can mail it to as many people as possible too. The steps listed CAN make a huge difference.
I thank you.