Thursday, September 24, 2009

David Keith wants to "drop an iron curtain between pedophiles and children"

A nonprofit organization based in Knoxville is using computer experts in Oak Ridge to help track down and arrest adults who sexually abuse and exploit children.

Actor David Keith, who is also development director for the National Association to Protect Children, gave an overview of the organization's work Tuesday night at First United Methodist Church.

The Knoxville native, who has appeared in many television shows and movies, said the quickest way to capture child molesters is by tracking their Internet announcements and exchanges of child pornography.

He said Oak Ridge and its "computer geniuses" at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 National Security Complex could be "ground zero" for a national child rescue project, helping with technology advancements, a fast supercomputer, on-scene forensic tools, and software enhancements.

"We can rescue these kids," Keith said.

More than $20 million could be spent in the next four years, and Oak Ridge could help revolutionize the fight against child exploitation and make operations smoother and faster, Keith said.

He said law enforcement officers across the country could rescue every child in jeopardy if they were properly funded and had more help. Right now, there are more than 750,000 traffickers of child pornography in the United States, and 40 percent of them have kids in trouble, Keith said.

He said child pornography is a multi-billion dollar global industry, with production essentially legal in 95 countries. People in the United States comprise more than 50 percent of the world market for child porn, Keith said.

"This country is the country with the appetite for the worst thing on Earth," he said.
He shared brief tales of children as young as toddlers being tortured, raped and sodomized, among other horrors. Sometimes the sex acts are broadcast as illegal pay-per-view events.

Ninety-six percent of all confirmed cases of child sexual abuse are committed by a member of the child's family or other trusted adults, and offenders have often sexually assaulted multiple children, as high as 27 on average, Keith said.

"You cannot change a child molester," Keith said. "They cannot be rehabilitated."
The actor talked about the successes of Internet Crimes Against Children task forces across the country, including in Knoxville, Southern Virginia and Chicago, where authorities were able to target suspects and make relatively quick arrests, in one case preventing a so-called "snuff film."

He also talked about legislative battles and victories across the country and in Washington, D.C., including the passage of the Protect Our Children Act, which was signed into law in October 2008 and was the largest crime bill in the 110th Congress. Sponsors included former Sen. Joe Biden, who is now the nation's vice president.

The bill includes a national strategy against child exploitation, establishes a child exploitation "czar," and increases law enforcement funding, among other things.

The next step is to make sure Congress appropriates money for the legislation, Keith said.

During his roughly hour-long presentation, he also talked about efforts to increase the $400,000 budget of his 15,000-member organization, and add staff.
"There is no other organization that strategically lobbies to save these children," Keith said. "Our dream is to drop an iron curtain between all the pedophiles and all the children."
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