Tuesday, February 10, 2009

NBC Takes On War Crime, and Attracts Criticism

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How ironic and hypocritical! They say this about "war criminals," but when it involves so called "online predators," then it's not a problem.



NBC News, which teamed up with local police officers to trap sex offenders for its successful but scandalous “To Catch a Predator” series, is now using similar tactics to hunt bigger game: war criminals.

But one of the first efforts, an investigation of a Maryland college professor on genocide charges, is already attracting criticism from federal officials months before the program would be broadcast.

For more than a year, NBC has been investigating the possible perpetrators of human rights abuses in several countries, but the case of Leopold Munyakazi, a visiting professor of French at Goucher College in Towson, Md., is the only one that has become public.

In December, an NBC crew and a Rwandan prosecutor confronted Mr. Munyakazi with charges that he had participated in that country’s genocide in 1994.

Reached by telephone on Tuesday evening, Mr. Munyakazi vigorously denied the allegations.

“I have never participated in genocide. I saved a number of people,” said Mr. Munyakazi.

The Department of Homeland Security said it had significant concerns “that a program of this kind could negatively impact law enforcement’s ability to investigate and bring cases against the perpetrators of these horrible crimes.” The Justice Department had no comment about the professor’s case.

Mr. Munyakazi is one of at least four subjects that NBC News producers focused on in apparent cooperation with the Rwandan government. Some human rights advocates are objecting to NBC’s investigation, alleging that the evidence of war crimes is insufficient and the collaboration with a foreign government prosecutor is suspect ethically.

Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in an interview on Tuesday that he had called the general counsel of NBC Universal to raise concerns about the project.

“I was worried that a journalist was making false accusations, due to some extent to his close collaboration with the Rwandan government,” Mr. Roth said.

NBC News characterized its investigation of “alleged war criminals and terrorists living in the United States and elsewhere” as an independent one.

“Any contact with foreign governments has been consistent with acceptable journalistic practices,” NBC News the news division said in a statement. “Beyond that, it is our policy not to comment on our news gathering.” NBC said the programs are months away from a broadcast date.

Mr. Munyakazi was suspended in December as the university investigated the claims and was arrested last week for overstaying his visa. He will face a deportation hearing in April.

On Dec. 9, an NBC film crew began shooting on the Goucher campus and set up an interview with the college’s president, Sanford J. Ungar, for the next day. At that meeting, Mr. Ungar said he “listened in disbelief” as a Rwandan official shared the details of an indictment calling for Mr. Munyakazi’s arrest.

That same day, the NBC producers showed Kate Pipkin, the director of communications for the college, a short video clip of a person making claims about Mr. Munyakazi’s alleged crimes.

“I think they wanted it to be an ambush, to be frank,” Ms. Pipkin said.

Later that day, the producers approached Mr. Munyakazi in his classroom after students had left. Confronted with cameras and microphones, he rejected the requests for an on-camera interview. “They were hostile toward me,” he said.

The apparent cooperation between NBC and the Rwandan official, Jean Bosco Mutangana, puts the network at odds with many journalism practitioners, including Mr. Ungar, who is a former host of National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” who argue that journalists should work independently of any governmental entity.

Mr. Ungar said in an interview that the Rwandan prosecutor’s presence was unusual when the camera crew visited the campus in December. “If the prosecutor has evidence or has concerns he wants to present, why is he doing it in the company of NBC News?” he asked.

He added later, “I don’t think it was the prosecutor’s idea. I don’t think he sat in Kigali and said, ‘Hmm, what would be the best way for me to achieve justice? I think I’ll call NBC and ask them.’ ”

Mr. Munyakazi arrived in the United States in 2004 on a visitor’s visa to attend a conference in Atlanta. Since then, he has been applying for asylum.

With the help of the Scholar Rescue Fund, which supports professors at risk in their home countries, Mr. Munyakazi worked as a visiting scholar at Montclair State University in New Jersey before moving to Goucher last fall. His contract with Goucher expires in June.

While at Montclair State, Mr. Munyakazi disputed the Rwandan government’s position about the 1994 genocide in a speech. A month later, the government prepared an indictment against him. “They are hunting everybody who disagrees with their politics,” he said.

Mr. Ungar said Goucher was unaware of the indictment until NBC News arrived on the campus in December. He then contacted Alison Des Forges, a senior adviser at Human Rights Watch, who said she was skeptical about the evidence against Mr. Munyakazi.

“It seemed to me really highly unusual for a national prosecutor in one country to enter another country without official clearance and to accompany a TV crew in order to basically catch people unaware,” she said.

NBC is likely to bristle at any comparisons between the current investigation and the series of sex predator stings that it conducted in the last few years. But the “To Catch a Predator” series was also predicated on confrontations and the element of surprise.

The episodes attracted big audiences for the “Dateline NBC” newsmagazine as they worked with the police to expose people who had set up visits on the Internet with what they believed to be children. Kelly McBride, the ethics group leader for the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit journalism foundation, said “Predator” ignored traditional journalistic standards about independence.

“It’s a classic case where a news organization teamed up with a special interest that had an agenda,” she said. For “Predator” stings, NBC worked with local law enforcement and a group called Perverted Justice. By collaborating with prosecutors for the war criminal reports, the network may be returning to the same ethical minefield.

“As journalists, we struggle to keep an arm’s length from all sorts of officials, whether they’re cops or prosecutors or diplomats,” Ms. McBride said. “Because it’s really important that our audience view us as independent — not carrying water for someone else.”


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The New York Times’ Monica Davey and Abby Goodnough have a really good piece today on states unable to implement a strict new federal law on sex offender registration. In 2005, Congress passed the Adam Walsh Child Protection Act. It was named after an abducted child, whose father John Walsh, is host of the TV show America’s Most Wanted. The law made it a federal felony for someone registered in one state as a sex offender to move to another state and not re-register as a sex offender. It also made a whole class of sex offenders register as sex offenders for life– four times each year.

Sexual predators are a serious problem, but it’s hard not to see this law as a "protect our children" photo-op for Congress. Whatever the law’s motivations, it’s turned out to be a bureaucratic nightmare for both the Justice Dept. and state governments to make it work. There is a compliance deadline for July, which no state is expected to meet. Part of the reason is money. California, for example, has estimated that if it did comply the cost would more than $38 million.

It’s cliche, but running a government is not about which point of view sounds best in a sound-bite ("Let’s make these monsters pay"), but whether Congress and federal agencies can make smart decisions that are vindicated over time ("These people are criminals, but maybe we shouldn’t spend so much time and money publicizing their misdeeds every step of their lives"). Davey and Goodnough provide an excellent example of where politics came before policy.-MB

NY - Former Rudy Giuliani housing official fighting sex offender tag; judge may blacklist Russell Harding

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I checked the National and New York sex offender registries, and guess what, he is not listed on either.



Rudy Giuliani's disgraced housing czar Russell Harding is trying to keep his name off a blacklist of sex offenders statewide who've been deemed dangers to their communities.

Harding is trying to persuade a Westchester County judge that his name and address shouldn't be entered in a statewide registry of 27,000 sex offenders for the rest of his life.

In court papers filed today, Harding complained that federal prosecutors recently turned over transcripts of several damaging online "chats" taken from a Harding computer prior to his arrest.

"As the court knows these chats were not the basis for any charge brought against me either in the original or amended indictments," Harding wrote. "They were never used as evidence as they had no evidentiary basis for the crime of possession of child pornography in this particular case."

Harding recently finished serving a five-year term for embezzling city funds and possessing child porn.

The son of former Liberal Party boss Ray Harding pleaded guilty in 2003 to bankrolling fancy vacations, a car and other luxuries with $400,000 looted from the city's Housing and Preservation Development Corp.

Harding did not return a call requesting comment, but soon after posted his response on his tell-all website, rudyveritas.com.
- Read the above link.  Seems he is saying what we have said, that registries and the sex offender laws, are not and will not work!

"I understood these chats to be sealed as they had never been proven to be authentic and had no evidentiary value since they were not part of the crime alleged," wrote Harding, who lives in Hartsdale.

He accused the feds of underhandedly turning the "chats" over to Westchester prosecutors.

"The way you achieve fairness and equity in the justice system is everyone plays by the rules," Harding blogged. "When one side cheats, especially the more powerful side, there can be no justice."

Westchester County Judge Jeffrey Cohen will hold a hearing on the issue on March 10.

"Whether you think me a good guy or a scumbag I am fully prepared to let you be the judge as to whether or not I received a fair shake," he added.

In a posting yesterday, Harding promised that in the next 90 days he'll be posting a "Big Story." And he promised future blogs on his days working with former New York Sen. Al D'Amato as well as former Giuiliani aide Cristyne Lategano.

If he's classified as a level 2 or 3 sex offender, Harding's name could be accessed online for the rest of his life and police departments would be notified whenever he moves into a community.
- So this is why he is not currently showing up!

MN - Committee approves bill banning sexual predators from Web sites

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View the bill (HF-0130) here (PDF)


By Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio

St. Paul - A Minnesota House committee approved legislation today that would ban sexual predators from social networking Web sites.
- Notice this says "sexual predator," and below is says "any registered sex offender?"  Apparently this reporter or the state legislature think these terms mean the same thing!

The bill would prohibit any registered sex offender in Minnesota from logging on to sites like Facebook or MySpace. Participation in Web-based chat rooms would also be banned. DFL Representative Karla Bigham of Cottage Grove said state officials could warn sex offenders about the ban in a regular notification of prohibited activities. Bigham said enforcing the law would not be a problem.
- Once again, a blanket law where they say "sex predator" and "sex offender" and assume they are one and the same, which they are not.  Discrimination due to a label!  And they said, "enforcing the law would not be a problem!"  So, how are they going to stop an offender from creating a new email address, in a matter of minutes, and then signing up for any of these services?

"When you are a registered sex offender you are subject to searches of your person, house, car," Bigham said. "We are going to extend that to the computer and PDAs and such."
- I think this is for those on parole or probation, if you search someone who is not on either, then you are violating their rights, period!

During a House Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee hearing today, Assistant Attorney General David Voigt said social networks are trying to remove sex offenders from their sites, but they need help.
- If an offender is not doing anything wrong, then what is the problem?  If they are doing something wrong, or you suspect they are, get a warrant!

"Their problem is that there's nothing to prevent the sex offenders from going there in the first place, other than maybe their own user agreements, which can be disregarded," Voigt said. "And their problem is they can't always identify registered sex offenders. And this is something that goes to that problem."

The committee also approved a bill to prevent sexual predators using any electronic device, including cell phones, to solicit children. The measure would close a loophole in a current law covering the use of computers.
- Once again, idiots in office, who know nothing about technology, passing laws.  None of this is going to prevent a crime, watch and see!

NC - CMS meeting over sex offender policy changes

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CHARLOTTE – The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board will hold a public hearing on Tuesday night on changes to its sex offender policy.

Board members are considering a proposal that would ban registered sex offenders from CMS schools and school events. The recommendation is in response to the Jessica Lunsford Act, which took effect Dec. 1.

Exceptions would be made for student offenders visiting campuses for educational services and for adults who receive a principal’s permission.

There are currently more than 600 registered sex offenders in Mecklenburg County.

America's warm comfy denial

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Greay blog.  Check it out!


By Sheeple Herder

I am reading more and more articles in the print media that expose the truth about RSO's and the true risks and dangers they pose. Our very own government statistics point to the fact that Sex offenders have the second lowest re offence rate after murderers yet the myth of predator panic still passes as truth.

States are literally going bankrupt enforcing these idiotic restrictions on offenders many of which were convicted of crimes with no sexual component. The registries are diluted with hundreds of thousands of people that pose no risk to anyone. Whats worse is this hides the 3-5% of people who actually do pose a risk to re offend.

John Walsh and Mark Lundsford have created lucritive careers out of the death of their children and continue to act as fear pimps for profit as these new laws are passed that have nothing to do with actually protecting children and everything to do with keeping their booming victim advocate businesses alive and well.

Lundsfords own son got a pass after he comitted a sex crime against a girl in Ohio yet this story seemed to somehow escape the attention of the national media's. John Walsh admitted that he had a sexual addiction but was "cured" yet he purports that sex offender treatment does no good because their is no cure.

Recently the headlines have read that 90,000 RSO's have been banished from myspace. Now that sure will sell newspapers and breakfast cereal on the 5 o clock news but you have to do a little reasearch to discover that that figure was a 2 year total and also that the 49 state AG's sanctioned an independent study of what actual risks children face online.

The results concluded that the problem was blown completely out of proportion and that children are at far greater risks in their own homes or schools or with inlaws or their own peers than any online strangers.

They of course rejected the conclusions of their own studies because they did not fit their political agenda and the insanity marches on. The sexual assualt of a child is a disgusting henious crime but our paranoia and knee jerk reactions have no led to teenagers being added to the sex offender lists for sexting nude pictures of themselves to friends via camera phones.

With the AWA act juveniles as young as 14 can be added to the list for life because no one will vote no when one of these bills is introduced lest they be labled as soft on sex crime. With AWA the same person who has lived crime free for years as a low risk RSO gets re labeled as a sexual predator. Same person no new crime just new label and punishments

We have a very rich history of creating boogymen in this country from the Salem witch trials to Japenese internment during ww2 to the RSO hysteria of today.

Its so much easier to accept stranger danger myths rather than face the fact that the biggest risk to children comes from their own parents,teachers,coaches or priests. Its so much easier to accept a false sense of security from a bogus list of boogymen rather than face the fact that 95% of all new sex crimes will be comitted by people not on any registry.

It is so easy to pass any new law regardless of how inneffective or unconstitutional it is as long as its done in the name of the children. Well America you get the government you deserve just do not complain when the DUI registries start popping up or that posession conviction you got 30 years ago in college is on some public registry.

We are the ONLY civilized western nation that has a puclic registry like this. Canada has a far more effective system where when an offender is released from prison a town hall meeting is held where the offender and the community have a question and answer session and the offender is allowed to re integrate back into society.

In the United stated our RSO registry has grown to 700,000 with about 30,000 being added every 60 days. If there were 700,000 people that were at such risk to re offend would we not have Jessica Lundsford stories several times per day??

Was it Ben Franklin that said" those that would trade freedom for security deserve neither"? Ah what did he know?

NV - Man in Reno suicide was convicted sex offender

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A man who shot himself during a police stand-off on a Reno freeway was wanted for being a convicted sex offender and not registering his address, authorities said.

Records also show _____, 32, previously threatened to shoot himself during disputes and had restraining orders against him filed by girlfriends.

Washoe County's medical examiner on Monday determined _____ died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.

_____ was pulled over around midnight Friday on Interstate 80 by a Nevada Highway Patrol sergeant for driving a Jaguar more than 90 mph, Reno Police Lt. McDonald said.

He crashed the car into a concrete wall and got out pointing a gun to his head, McDonald said. He fired one shot into the air, then barricaded himself in his car while officers tried to get him to surrender.

After eight hours, SWAT officers fired tear gas into his car and found him dead.

On Sunday night, NHP troopers took a 27-year-old woman claiming to be _____'s fiance into civil protective custody after she became belligerent while placing a makeshift memorial on the freeway.

Trooper Chuck Allen said the woman was grossly intoxicated and refused to leave.

"We are empathetic to the loss of a loved one, but we also have to look at public safety," Allen told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Records show an arrest warrant was issued last April charging _____ with failure to register his address as a sex offender.

In 2000, he pleaded guilty to felony statutory sexual seduction and was sentenced to one year to 32 months in prison.

In February 2008, a former and current girlfriends sought restraining orders against him in Washoe County, saying he had firearms and had battered them, the newspaper reported Tuesday.

The mother of his now 1-year-old daughter reported _____ pulled a gun when detectives came to their home last year to talk to him.

"He was yelling he wasn't going to shoot anybody but him," Maria Castro wrote in her Feb. 13, 2008, request for a protection order.

Dory Palczewski, a former girlfriend, wrote in her Feb. 4, 2008, request that despite having separated from him a year earlier, _____ began stalking her and constantly threatened to shoot or stab her.

VT - Local Official Sentenced For Sexually Assaulting Minor

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Judge Hands Down Serious Sentence

BURLINGTON -- A judge sentenced a former New Haven Select Board member to what he called a very "serious sentence."

Burt Allen, 64, of New Haven will serve 8 to 15 years for sexually assaulting an 8-year-old girl on Thanksgiving day in 2007.

"I would like to remind everyone, my daughter will never be the same," the victim's father said, during an emotional statement in the courtroom.

Allen told the girl they were going to play doctor, before he sexually assaulted her at his then empty shop, New Haven Tire, according to court documents. He made a brief statement during his sentencing, "Your honor, I would like to apologize to the court and people involved," said Allen. He ended his brief statement by listing off all the medications he takes.

His attorney asked the judge for a one to five year sentence, in which he would serve a year and go through sex offender counseling. "He has accepted responsibility for his behavior by attempting to engage in counseling before he was even convicted in the case," said attorney Paul Volk.

The state asked for much more time, a sentence of 10 to 15 years. "He doesn't believe that what he did to that child did any damage to her," said prosecutor Susan Hardin.

Judge Ben Joseph said when he handed down the sentence, "words can't describe how serious an offense this is because of the betrayal of this innocent child."

"I think it's an appropriate sentence for Mr. Allen. It punishes him for a horrific, terrible crime," said Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan.

Court officers took Allen into custody immediately. His attorney called it a "death sentence" citing his medical conditions. Family members of the victim hugged in the courtroom after they heard the sentence.

PA - Ex-Munhall policeman gets foot fetish probation

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The Associated Press

MUNHALL (AP) — A former police officer in the Pittsburgh suburb of Munhall will spend five years on probation after pleading guilty to soliciting sex from an underage girl and offering others $1,000 to suck their toes.
- So will he be on the sex offender registry, and have to live with the draconian punishment?  I doubt it!

Thirty-seven-year-old Michael Curtin was charged in May, three months after he was fired as a police officer.

Curtin acknowledged having a foot fetish and soliciting five teenage girls at various times in 2006 and 2007, sometimes through the MySpace.com social networking Web site.

Some of the girls say Curtin gave them alcohol, let them drive his car, and touched them inappropriately.

Curtin and his attorney didn't comment after Curtin pleaded guilty to indecent assault, corruption of minor and other charges on Monday.

ND - N.D. Legislature: Sex offender ban ... Too much time, money

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The House defeated a bill Monday that would have restricted convicted sex offenders from living near or being near schools, day care centers and other areas with children.

Those who opposed the bill said the state’s police departments and sheriffs testified against it, because it did not offer the protection it seemed to while making it harder for sex offenders to find a place to live.

Law enforcement said that sex offenders barred from living near a school could nevertheless be allowed to live next door to apartments in which several children may live, and whose parents may be gone to work every day.

The bill died on a 65-28 vote.

ME - Maine justices take up sex offender registry issue

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PORTLAND (AP) - Maine's supreme court is taking up the issue of whether the state's online sex offender registry can be applied retroactively.
- Read the constitution!

The Supreme Judicial Court will hear arguments Tuesday in two separate cases involving convicted sex offenders who didn't register as required by a change in state law. Lower court judges sided with the men, ruling that the state law is unconstitutional.

One of the men was 19 when he was convicted of rape for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Now he's required to register for the rest of his life. The other man was convicted of two lesser felonies.

Last year, lawmakers attempted narrow the circumstances under which a person would be required to register, but Gov. John Baldacci refused to sign the bill.

What part of the US constitution and Maine's own constitution, do you not understand?

US Constitution
The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.

The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.

No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.

No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another; nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.

Maine Constitution
Section 11. Attainder, ex post facto and contract-impairment laws prohibited. The Legislature shall pass no bill of attainder, ex post facto law, nor law impairing the obligation of contracts, and no attainder shall work corruption of blood nor forfeiture of estate.

Predator panic increases risk

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By Larry Magid

I've been an Internet safety advocate since 1993 and right now I'm discouraged and angry about what's going on in this field. I'm angry because people who ought to know better are trying to mislead the public with false information about online risks which is diverting attention away from real risks. And I'm not alone. Many respected online safety organizations and leading youth-risk researchers are trying to shift the discussion away from mostly predator danger to youth behavior risk. Thanks to some politicians, it's an uphill battle.

Online safety groups and public officials should be spending our time educating families on how to avoid real risks that affect most kids-- like bullying, harassment and unwanted exposure to inappropriate material. We also need to do a better job of identifying and reaching the small minority of "at risk" kids who are putting themselves at greater risk by the way they behave online.

At issue is the constant drumbeat of predator panic coming from state attorneys general including Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Roy Cooper of North Carolina who are co-chairs of the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking which represents attorneys general from 49 states. Although their rhetoric is purported to help protect young people from harm, the actual impact of their campaign to rid social networks of predators may be inadvertently putting young people at greater risk.

In addition to shifting attention away from more common online dangers, they have proposed the use of age-verification and parental controls which could actually increase risk by driving teens "underground," possibly to overseas sites that are far more dangerous than sites like MySpace and Facebook.

What's more, all the hoopla is disrupting the work of several of the most respected non-profit Internet safety organizations which, ironically, have to spend resources countering this misleading information at the cost of focusing on how to help young people use the Internet more safely.

A bit of background

For more than two years these and other elected officials have been talking about predator dangers on MySpace and other social networking sites and calling for the use of age-verification technology to help separate minors from adults. A year ago, the working group of Attorneys General entered an agreement with MySpace to form a Task Force to study the issue. After months of careful consideration including a review of all research, the Task Force came back with a report that questioned the prevalence of predator danger and also questioned both the desirability and effectiveness of using any single technology to verity the age of users. Instead of carefully considering the report, it was rejected out of hand. The attorneys generals reaction to the report was best summed up by Blumenthal who recently said it was "based on outdated and incomplete data -- falsely downplaying the threat of predators on social networking sites." I have a great deal of respect for much of the work that Blumenthal, Cooper and other attorneys general do for public safety and to protect consumers but when it comes to Internet safety, they continue to rely on anecdotal evidence rather than available peer-reviewed academic research (PDF).

Disclosure: I served on the Task Force as co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a non-profit Internet safety organization that receives financial support from several Internet and social networking companies including MySpace and Facebook. I also served as a member of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force and am the founder of SafeKids.com.

Now there's a new argument based on the disclosure last week that MySpace has evicted 90,000 registered sex offenders from its roles. In a press release, Blumenthal said "This shocking revelation -- resulting from our subpoena -- provides compelling proof that social networking sites remain rife with sexual predators." But what Blumenthal failed to point out is that 90,000 is not the number of currently or recently evicted registered sex offenders (RSOs) on MySpace but a cumulative number based on all the RSO's MySpace has ejected since two years ago when it adopted technology to identify and remove RSOs from its roles.
- Hey Blumenthal, sex offender and sex predator does not mean the same thing.  When are you going to open a dictionary and find that out?  Just because sex offenders may have been using the site, doesn't mean they were looking for kids to molest.  Stop the F'in lies!  By kicking all sex offenders off, that is basically discrimination based on a label!

Facebook too

In the mean time, Facebook has been under attack for its own reported predator problem. Tech Crunch, last week, ran a story with the headline "Thousands Of MySpace Sex Offender Refugees Found On Facebook." It reportedly got the information from John Cardillo, CEO of Sentinel, the security company that helps MySpace and other social networking sites identify registered sex offenders so that they can be removed. Facebook is not one of Sentinel's customers but says that it employs other methods to attempt to identify registered sex offenders and others who might endanger its members. This includes relying on Facebook members and working directly with state databases and state attorneys general according to Facebook spokesperson Barry Schnitt.

But, the attorneys general who are screaming about predators don't seem to have information about specific individuals harming children. Facebook according to Schnitt, "is not aware of a single case where a registered sex offender has contacted a minor through Facebook." The same is true on MySpace. According to MySpace chief security officer, Hemanshu Nigam,"not one of the deleted MySpace offenders has ever been prosecuted for criminal misconduct with a teen on Myspace."
- Just like I said, they kick them off, not because of doing anything illegal, but simply due to a label!

Based on surveys with teens, I suspect that this is largely because the vast majority of teens are savvy enough to avoid these creeps.
- And that is exactly what the report, by the task force, hired by Blumenthal and others, said as well.  Teens are not as stupid as people think they are.

As you would expect, officials from both Facebook and MySpace say that they are doing all they can to rid their sites of registered sex offenders. Of course, that doesn't mean they'll be 100% successful. Short of shutting down their services, I can't think of anything that can be done to completely eliminate even registered sex offenders, let alone the much larger number of offenders who haven't been caught and convicted.
- True, anybody can create a new email address in a matter of minutes, and sign back on with either site.

They're everywhere

At the risk of contributing to the paranoia, it's important to point out sex offenders are also in the real world. Unless we decide to keep them in jail forever, they are going to be among us. They go to malls, they shop at grocery stores, they live in neighborhoods and many have jobs. I know for a fact that there are registered sex offenders living in walking distance from my house and I have no doubt that my children have encountered them in the real world.

And then there are the ones who haven't been caught. It's a known fact that some of them teach in our schools, patrol our streets, preach in our places of worship, work in our hospitals and clinics, and coach our kids. What's worse, family members, according to the Crimes Against Children Research Center, account for "a quarter to a third of offenders." Strangers make up the smallest group with estimates ranging between 7% to 25%.

Strangers who meet their victims on the Internet represent an extremely small percentage of all cases, especially compared to family members. It's analogous to worrying about being killed in a plane crash instead of focusing on driving safely. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is one of several safety organizations that no longer condone the use of the phrase "stranger danger."

As I've pointed out in previous articles, researchers who study sexual assault cases have found very few actual cases of children being sexually molested as a result of a contact they made on the Internet. It happens, but it happens in far fewer numbers than other forms of sexual abuse. And when it does happen, it is almost always a case of a teenager who is taking extraordinary risks online including -- in most cases -- engaging in sexual conversation with a person known to be an adult. I'm not saying this to blame the victims or excuse illegal behavior of adults, but to point out that how young people behave online affects their risk.

It's time that all of us -- politicians too -- start looking for real solutions and talking with real experts, not just relying on anecdotal data and provocative sound bites.
- Amen!

For more perspective, check out CNET News' Caroline McArthy's post on this subject

AL - Bill calls for castrating sex offenders

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By Stephanie Taylor Staff Writer

New law would apply to child molesters

A bill introduced in the Alabama House of Representatives this week would require convicted sex offenders who targeted young children to be surgically castrated before leaving prison.

The bill would require castration for male sex offenders older than 21 convicted of a sex crime against a victim younger than 12.
- What about females?

Rep. Steve Hurst, D-Munford, has pushed legislation authorizing castration for two years.

“We need a stronger deterrent than what we have now,” said Hurst, who introduced the bill Tuesday. “I’d like for Alabama to take the lead and say that enough is enough.”

Hurst said he has been told by some legislators that the bill would likely die because such a law could be appealed in federal court.

“We need to take a stand. I would love to get this in front of the federal courts to test it. You can’t get in the door if you don’t keep knocking,” he said.

If passed as it is now written, the proposed law would make Alabama the 10th state to authorize castration for sex offenders and the only state that would require surgical castration. The other states call for chemical castration.

Specifics vary in the nine other states with laws authorizing chemical or surgical castration, according to research by doctors Charles Scott and Trent Holmberg published in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law. Scott is chief of the Division of Psychiatry and the Law at the University of California, Davis and is a professor of clinical psychiatry. Holmberg is in private practice in Utah.

Offenders in California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Oregon, Texas and Wisconsin can be ordered to undergo castration. Most of the states give a judge the power to order the procedure after a first offense, while some make it mandatory after a second offense.

In chemical castration, a man is routinely given shots that reduce the amount of testosterone in his body and lower his sex drive. Montana, Oregon and Wisconsin permit the chemical method only. California, Florida, Iowa and Louisiana also use the chemical method, but allow offenders to undergo a voluntary surgical operation.

Alabama would join Texas as the only state that authorizes surgical castration only, in which testicles, which produce most of the body’s testosterone, are surgically removed.

Unlike the proposed Alabama law, Texas requires voluntary consent in all cases.

Convicted sex offenders in the states where castration is an option often opt for the procedure, rather than spend time in a mental health or other treatment facility.

Hurst said when he discusses the issue, he thinks of an infant boy he read about who had been sodomized by his father and required several reconstructive surgeries. He said he wouldn’t stop trying to get the law passed in some form.

“If I can’t pass this, I’ll keep bringing the age down to where it would be utterly ridiculous to not pass it,” he said. “Kids this young can’t defend themselves, so somebody needs to.”

Other proposed bills affecting sex offenders have been introduced in the legislative session. A House bill would add colleges and universities to the areas in which sex offenders cannot live within 2,000 feet. A proposed Senate bill would prevent sex offenders from living in the county where the offense occurred.
- What is the deal with this?  Colleges and Universities are where ADULTS congregate!  What is next, sex offenders cannot be anywhere?

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