House bill targets use of Pentagon networks for child pornography

THE HILL, MAGGIE MILLER

Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) introduced legislation on Tuesday meant to halt the use of Department of Defense (DOD) computer networks by users for sharing or procuring pornographic images of children.

The End National Defense Network Abuse (END Network Abuse) was introduced in the wake of in an investigation called “Project Flicker” carried out by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This investigation identified over 5,000 individuals, including many affiliated with DOD, who were subscribed to child porn websites.

The Pentagon’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service subsequently identified hundreds of DOD-affiliated individuals as suspects involved in accessing child pornography, several of whom used government devices to view and share the images.

The END Network Abuse Act would require the Pentagon to enter into agreements with groups including law enforcement, child protection services, social services, and trauma-informed healthcare providers in order to cut down or halt the spread and impact of these images on DOD networks. The bill would also upgrade the training and technical expertise of the military organizations involved in investigating these types of crimes.

The bill is being co-sponsored by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and T.J. Cox (D-Calif.).

The National Criminal Justice Training Center, one of the groups that has thrown its weight behind the bill, reported in 2018 that DOD’s network was ranked 19th out of almost 3,000 nationwide networks on the amount of peer-to-peer child pornography sharing.

Spanberger described the issues of child sexual exploitation and abuse as “horrific crimes.”

“The notion that the Department of Defense’s network and Pentagon-issued computers may be used to view, create, or circulate such horrifying images is a shameful disgrace, and one we must fight head on,” Spanberger said in statement.

Meadows added that the “peer-to-peer trading of child pornography is an unacceptable practice, and federal agencies cannot allow their networks to become a platform for it.”

There is a Senate version of the bill that was introduced in May by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). A spokesperson for Spanberger told The Hill that while there are no set dates in either the House or Senate for marking up the bill, the sponsors are trying to pass it “both as individual bills and as amendments” to other legislative packages.

Multiple health care and child protection groups have expressed support for the bill, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Children’s Alliance, and the National Children’s Advocacy Center.

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