WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Mark Meadows (R-NC-11) led the introduction of bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would help the Department of Defense (DoD) stop the use of its internet network to possess, procure, or produce child pornography.
In the course of a national investigation—titled Project Flicker, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement identified over 5,000 individuals who subscribed to child pornography websites, including several DoD-affiliated individuals. This discovery prompted an inquiry by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, which in turn identified hundreds of DoD-affiliated individuals as suspects in these child pornography cases. While only 20 percent of these individuals were investigated, of the cases investigated, several of the individuals were found to be using their government devices to download or share said pornographic material.
The bipartisan End National Defense (END) Network Abuse Act would crack down on this activity by upgrading the training and technical capacity of military criminal investigative organizations to confront the misuse of DoD computers, facilities, and equipment to access and trade child pornography. It would also require DoD to enter into collaborative agreements with law enforcement, child protection organizations, trauma-informed healthcare providers, and targeted social services.
“Sexual abuse and the sexual exploitation of children are horrific crimes, and we should pursue all avenues to combat these crimes, eliminate images of exploitation from the internet, and prosecute those who traffic in these images. 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,” said Spanberger. “As a former federal agent who worked child exploitation and child pornography cases, I recognize the need to improve the training available to those responsible for bringing perpetrators to justice. This bipartisan bill would give investigators the tools they need to protect children, eliminate existing images, and prevent the future misuse of DoD networks. Keeping our children safe from exploitation should be a priority for every Member of Congress, and I’d like to thank my colleague Congressman Meadows for joining me as we lead the introduction of this critical legislation.”
“Peer-to-peer trading of child pornography is an unacceptable practice, and federal agencies cannot allow their networks to become a platform for it,” said Meadows. “Using the ICACCOPS program is a common sense solution that will confront the problem, closing the security gaps in the Department of Defense network to help identify perpetrators and ultimately hold them responsible.”
In 2018, the National Criminal Justice Training program found that DoD’s network ranked 19th out of 2,891 networks nationwide when it came to peer-to-peer file trading of child pornography. As shown by the limited number of cases investigated during Project Flicker, these troubling statistics are coupled with a lack of training and resources within the DoD to take on child sexual exploitation.
“Child pornography is a shocking crime, and it’s all the more shocking to learn that our military’s computer networks are used by abusers to share and even produce images that harm victims for years to come,” said Teresa Huizar, Executive Director of National Children’s Alliance. “The END Network Abuse Act empowers military investigators to ensure networks created to protect our country are not used to exploit its children. More importantly, this bipartisan bill strengthens the relationship between DoD and our nation’s children’s advocacy centers to help heal kids victimized by child pornography. Sincere thanks to Rep. Spanberger and Rep. Meadows for their critical leadership on this issue.”
U.S. Representatives TJ Cox (D-CA-21) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA-18) have also joined the bipartisan legislation as original cosponsors.
The END Network Abuse Act is supported by the National Children’s Alliance, American Academy of Pediatrics, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, National Children’s Advocacy Center, National Children’s Alliance, National Criminal Justice Training Center, Safe States, Alliance, Thorn, American Prosecutor’s Association, and National District Attorney’s Association.
The End Network Abuse Act is companion legislation to a bipartisan bill in the U.S. Senate introduced by U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Brian Schatz (D-HI).
Click here for a summary of the bill.