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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 09, 2009
AG McKenna, federal and state officials offer unified front in fight against techno-crime

Mark “Safer Internet Day” by urging passage of bills to prosecute child porn, bolster digital forensics

OLYMPIA—Attorney General Rob McKenna today emphasized the need to leverage the power of technology to protect kids and other victims of modern crimes.

“Our state must stay a step ahead of those who use technology to prey on victims,” McKenna said. “That’s why we’re calling for the creation of a digital crime lab and a new law to make the viewing of online child pornography a serious crime.”

Flanked by U.S. Attorney Jim McDevitt and the sponsors of two bills recommended by his Youth Internet Safety Task Force, McKenna marked Safer Internet Day with a call to action on legislation to protect against technology-wielding criminals.

One law requested by the Attorney General’s Office (SB 5183/HB 1247) would create a class C felony crime of viewing depictions of child pornography. If enacted, the legislation would allow prosecutors to more easily prosecute child sex predators. Consumers of child pornography—many whom also victimize children—currently operate under a legal loophole that allows them to view illegal images without saving them on a hard drive, protecting them from prosecution under the state’s law prohibiting actual possession of child pornography.

The Senate bill is sponsored by Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens and others. The House bill is sponsored by Rep. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe and others (see quotes below).

The other proposal aims to bring statewide criminal forensics into the 21st century.

“Computers and other digital devices like cell phones are increasingly vital links in criminal investigations,” McKenna said. “Predators use cell phones to photograph children on playgrounds. Drug dealers take pictures of their couriers so customers can recognize them when they deliver narcotics, and terrorists detonate bombs using cell phones.”

Whether a case involves terrorism, homicide, illegal narcotics, stalking, child pornography, harassment, robbery, or other crimes, cell phones can link suspects to crimes. However the Attorney General’s Youth Internet Safety Task Force reports that local jurisdictions are not equipped to handle the variety and complexity of technology used to commit modern crimes. To address this challenge, the AGO has requested legislation (SB 5184/HB1248) directing the state to study the implementation a digital forensic crime lab to be housed at the Washington State Patrol.

The Senate bill is sponsored by former Whatcom County Sheriff Sen. Dale Brandland, R-Bellingham and others. The House bill is sponsored by retired Seattle Police Sergeant Rep. Al O’Brien, D-Mountlake Terrace and others (see quotes below). The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Senate bill on Feb. 6. It is now in the Senate Rules Committee.

The Attorney General’s Youth Internet Safety Task Force generated the proposals discussed Monday. McKenna convened the task force in August 2007 to take advantage of Washington’s unique position as a technology leader and identify strategies to make the Internet safer for the people of Washington and their families. The committee is comprised of representatives from across Washington’s education, law enforcement and technology communities who have formed three working groups to address Internet safety. McKenna made the Task Force’s Interim Report available at the news conference as well.

Quotes

Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens
“As a father of 3 boys, I want to do everything in my power to protect not only them but all children in Washington. This bill puts us a step ahead of these perpetrators who are using technology to devise new ways to exploit our children and skirt the law.”

Sen. Dale Brandland, R-Bellingham
“I am glad Attorney General McKenna recognizes the need for a virtual digital forensic lab. After spending years in law enforcement, I understand how difficult it can be to track sophisticated criminals who use computers to commit crimes. Smaller jurisdictions have a difficult time keeping up with the investigative tools necessary to catch criminals committing crimes using technology. This bill is the first step to beating Internet criminals at their own game.”

Sen. Val Stevens, R-Arlington
“Washington’s child pornography laws allow us to prosecute only people who physically possess recorded or printed materials,” Stevens said. “My bill broadens the term ‘possession’ to mean repeatedly viewing child pornography over the Internet. We must be able to prosecute those who make the practice of stealing our children’s innocence lucrative.”

Rep. Al O’Brien, D-Mountlake Terrace
“This bill would start looking at a digital crime lab,” said Rep. O’Brien, “ and help police officers from every corner of the state catch child pornographers, online sex predators and other criminals who hide in the digital shadows.”

Rep. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe
“In today’s high-tech world, it’s critical that we update our laws to reflect the new ways child predators find and exploit their victims,” said Pearson, R-Monroe. “These measures are a reflection of the times and give our law enforcement the up-to-date tools they need to protect children.”

Rep. Mike Hope, R-Lake Stevens (Longtime Seattle police officer and detective)
“Some criminals are very sophisticated, as I’ve seen working for the Seattle police department,” said Hope, R-Lake Stevens. “They have superb communications devices and night-vision goggles for lookout, and keep records on their computers. Law enforcement needs technological advances to be on the same playing field as criminals.”

U.S. Attorney Jim McDevitt
'In my view, when it comes to Internet safety and crimes related to the Internet, especially involving children as victims, our efforts directed toward education and prevention are just as important as our energies directed toward investigation and prosecution.'

Linda Criddle, Look Both Ways
“Increasing consumer safety online requires stepping up in three areas: Internet safety education must teach skills, not just awareness; companies must be required to build safer services; and law enforcement must be supported with the technologies and training they need to combat cybercrimes.”

Links:
Youth Internet Safety Task Force legislation backgrounder (PDF)
The AGO’s 2009 Legislative Agenda

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Contacts:

Janelle Guthrie, AGO Communications Director, (360) 586-0725

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