Shelby: We must protect children
Published 2:10 am Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Almost every week we are confronted with news stories describing heinous acts towards children. As unthinkable as it seems to most Americans, some people in the United States and throughout the world seek to exploit and harm our children. Child pornography is a multi-billion dollar global industry that abuses children and must be stopped. I believe that we have a moral obligation and clear duty to protect children from these acts. For that reason, in every role I play as a U.S. senator, I have made eradicating child exploitation a top priority.
I have worked with the National Center for Missing &Exploited Children and its international sister organization to address the escalating problem of child pornography on the internet. The demand for this type of pornography is staggering and only continues to grow. Likewise, because the internet provides unparalleled anonymity, access and the ability to use credit cards and other electronic payment methods, child pornography has become one of the fastest growing businesses online.
As chairman of the Senate Banking Committee in 2006, I worked to bring banks, credit card companies, internet service providers and alternate payment providers together in an effort to address this issue comprehensively from a financial perspective. The Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography is an initiative organized by the National Center for Missing &Exploited Children and the International Centre for Missing &Exploited Children. These two groups are collaborating with several financial institutions and internet industry leaders to eradicate the commercial viability of child pornography by the year 2008.
I have also worked as the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science to create the Child Sexual Predator Elimination Grant program and secure over $55 million in fiscal year 2008 to provide grants to state and local law enforcement agencies to locate, arrest and prosecute sexual predators. Additionally, I have worked to include $313 million for missing and exploited children programs, including $15 million to combat internet crimes against children and full funding of the Adam Walsh Act. These and other programs and projects were passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 28, 2007, and if signed into law, they will increase our ability to recover missing children, protect them from exploitation and prosecute the despicable criminals that harm children.
Finally, I am a founder and co-chairman of the Senate Caucus on Missing, Exploited and Runaway Children. The caucus has worked with the National and International Centers for Missing and Exploited Children to raise awareness about child exploitation issues. I was proud to support the Amber Alert legislation, which works to find children immediately after they are abducted, as well as the Adam Alert legislation, a dialing service to call every phone number in the area from which a child was taken. I also make sure that every envelope that leaves my office has a picture and information about a child missing from Alabama.
While these efforts are comprehensive, there is still more work to do. The internet is an amazing tool and its benefits are virtually unlimited. In the few years since it became publicly available, it has transformed the way the world communicates, conducts business and gathers information. Unfortunately, access to potential victims for predators has increased hand-in-hand with the internet's expansion. Being informed of the risks is paramount to protecting our children from the dangers in our communities and on our computers. I encourage every adult to take the time to go to the National Center for Missing &Exploited Children website (www.NCMEC.org), particularly the NetSmartz411 internet safety program, for tips on keeping children safe. As your U.S. Senator, I will continue my work to eradicate crimes against children and I will encourage my colleagues to vote to include this important funding in the fiscal year 2008 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations bill.