Cybele K. Daley, Acting Assistant Attorney General
Office of Justice Programs
2007 Project Safe Childhood National Conference
St. Louis, MO
December 4, 2007
Thank you, Drew [Oosterban, Chief, CEOS, Criminal Division].
I want to echo Alice’s comments and thank the organizers of this conference, and also to commend all of you for the work you do to protect our children.
One of the things about working at the Office of Justice Programs that I’m most proud of is that we’ve been able to support the Justice Department’s fine staff of prosecutors. I want to thank Alice and Drew and everyone who works for them for their hard work and professionalism.
I’m also very proud of how we’ve supported our state and local partners – police departments and sheriffs’ offices, the district and commonwealth attorneys across the country, victim advocates, and everyone who works so hard to keep our children safe from predators. Project Safe Childhood may be led by the Department of Justice, but it works because of our partners in the field.
Partnership is the central tenet of our Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program, and the ICAC program is the very foundation of Project Safe Childhood. Our Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has supported ICAC task forces for almost ten years now, and the thousands of arrests they’ve made can be attributed to collaboration and cooperation across disciplines, and across levels of government. If you look at an ICAC task force investigation, you shouldn’t be surprised to find the involvement of local police, sheriffs deputies, state patrol personnel, FBI and ICE agents, postal inspectors, U.S. Marshals, even investigators from other countries. This breadth of involvement is a trademark of the ICAC program, and it is critical to the success of any investigation of online exploitation.
The Internet transcends geographical boundaries, and pedophiles see this as an advantage over law enforcement. A reasonable assumption given the care and deliberation with which law enforcement officers must approach matters of jurisdiction. The only way to remove jurisdiction as an obstacle is to join forces, and the ICAC program is helping us to do just that.
A recent case illustrates the way predators use the Internet to gain access to children across geographical boundaries. An emergency room doctor in Atlanta named Adam Wayne Lebowitz spent more than three years cultivating an online relationship with a Massachusetts boy. When he finally managed to arrange a meeting, he engaged in sexual acts with the boy, which he captured on film. When Lebowitz returned to his home, he sent the images out over the Internet.
He did the same thing with another boy who lived in Georgia. When he tried yet a third time, his would-be victim fortunately reported him to authorities and he was arrested.
In a disturbing footnote to this story, Lebowitz was found to be HIV positive, a fact he kept hidden from his victims.
This case illustrates a few things about online child exploitation. Number one, how easy it can be to reach young people online, no matter where they are.
Second, it demonstrates how shrewd, calculating, and resourceful these predators can be. For more than three years, Lebowitz preyed on his victim, waiting for just the right moment to strike.
Another thing the case demonstrates is that pedophiles can be found among our most trusted professionals, in this case in the field of medicine. Another recent case in Hawaii resulted in the arrest of an engineering professor.
Finally, the case shows that behind every online pornographic image of a child is a victim, perhaps a victim of multiple and violent crimes.
I know that each of you understands what’s at stake in an investigation of child pornography or online enticement. You know that predators use the Internet for more than looking at and exchanging unseemly pictures of children. They see it as a means to gain physical access to those children. That’s why seamless coordination between agencies is so critical.
I’m glad that we have not only a strong network of intergovernmental task forces, but leaders at the national level, particularly our partners at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
One of the NCMEC programs that has been so helpful in our efforts is the Child Victim Identification Program. Many of you know about this program. It’s an image-detection computer program that helps to locate and identify child victims that are featured in sexually abusive images. Each week, it analyzes some 100,000 child pornography images and videos. I can’t imagine having that job.
Also, since 1998, NCMEC has managed the CyberTipline. The CyberTipline has received, analyzed, and referred to law enforcement almost half-a-million reports of child sexual exploitation over the years. And those referrals have led to numerous arrests.
For example, a recent report to the CyberTipline suggested that text messages were being sent discussing the trading of images involving young girls. An analyst tracked down suspects in three states, one of which was Wisconsin. The report was sent to the Wisconsin ICAC task force, which in turn forwarded the report to the Milwaukee police.
In October, one of the suspects went to meet someone whom he thought was a 14-year-old girl, but who instead turned out to be a Milwaukee detective. I love stories like that.
This is a great example of how an online investigation is supposed to work: A bit of information provided by the public, analyzed and turned into actionable intelligence, and used to prevent further harm to victims.
Judging by the many arrests that ICAC task forces have helped to make over the years, this system is working well. But we’re always looking to improve upon it. Our ICAC Training and Technical Assistance Program is providing both basic and advanced training to law enforcement officials and prosecutors to help them combat computer-facilitated child exploitation.
We’re also working on ways to improve data sharing by tying together all the ICAC task forces and their 1,800 law enforcement affiliates, as well as the FBI, ICE, Postal Inspection Services, the Secret Service, and the Marshalls Service.
Investigation and enforcement are two elements of a three-pronged approach to online exploitation. The third element is education. Our work through the ICAC task force program has helped to stop many child pornographers and pedophiles from following through on their designs, but if we really hope to protect young people from these dangerous criminals, we must make sure that they know how to go online safely.
Through programs like NetSmartz, run by NCMEC, and Wired With Wisdom, run by Web Wise Kids, we’re teaching young people how to safely navigate the Internet, and we’re showing parents how they can help their kids avoid the many dangers lurking in cyberspace.
In addition, in March the Department announced a new phase in the Online Sexual Exploitation public service advertising campaign. The latest ad in this series is designed to educate teenage girls about the potential dangers of posting and sharing personal information online in popular social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. Girls represent about 70 percent of young people who are sexually solicited over the Internet, so reaching and educating this audience will do much to help reduce online child exploitation.
Our efforts at OJP to prevent and respond to online exploitation have been crucial to the success of Project Safe Childhood. They’ve also been an integral part of our efforts to protect children generally, as exemplified through programs like AMBER Alert and our Child Abduction Response Team program.
Whether we’re searching for missing and abducted children on the nation’s highways, or trying to keep kids safe as they navigate the avenues of cyberspace, we are very busy working to protect our children. You can see how much we’re doing to address these threats to our children’s safety. But our efforts depend upon those of you who are on the front lines – investigators, prosecutors, children’s advocates, and everyone who works to make life safer and better for our young people.
I appreciate the good work that all of you do every day. I thank you for your dedication, for your professionalism, and for your commitment to our children.