Data Retention or Adequate Resources for Law Enforcement?

by on October 18, 2006

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and now FBI Director Robert Mueller (see Adam’s post) are fond of reminding us that the Internet creates opportunities for terrorists and sexual predators. But for law enforcement, the Internet is a gift. For example, it allows undercover agents to pose as children for the purpose of apprehending sexual predators. Consider this anecdotal evidence of the success of these operations:

Anytime I go into a chat room and portray myself as a young teen,” according to Wellington, Kan. Reserve Officer Julie Posey, “I’ll be contacted by 20 to 40 men in the first few minutes. And they’re not saying ‘Hi, how are you?’ They’re saying, ‘Are you naked?‘”

“The very first night we started we got a guy from Long Beach who wanted to come and have sex with our ’14 year old,’ according to Laguna Beach, Calif. Detective Darin Lenyi, “it was incredibly easy; we had him come down, and we arrested him that night.”

I can’t remember one case that we’ve lost,” Lake County, Ill. Detective Brian Bone said. “I’d say that we’re very successful at not only apprehending but in the prosecution stage of these predators.

An academic paper concludes, “proactive investigations on the Internet are a creative, successful and sophisticated response to Internet crimes against minors. They result in high conviction rates : they result in more arrests than do cases involving parallel crimes with juvenile victims.

So what’s the problem? As usual, it’s a question of funding. “Conducting any form of undercover investigation requires a great deal of training and commitment of agency resources. This may be especially true for those conducted on the Internet because investigators must develop an understanding of the complex technology involved,” notes the same paper.

Gonzales ought to put more resources into sting operations, but apparently he considers expediency a virtue and/or, perhaps, he would rather divert those resources if he can force the private sector to maintain data on millions of innocent people–even if some of that data will invariably be lost, stolen or mined for some unrelated purpose.

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