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Congress Aims to Protect Kids Online

Wednesday, November 24, 2004;

The Xenia, Ohio, police department has a friend in Sen. Mike DeWine (R), not to mention the woman who runs DeWine's offices in the state.

The Buckeye State's senior senator came through with $100,000 in federal budget allocations that would keep the Xenia Police Division's Internet Child Protection Unit afloat for at least one more year. The unit, staffed by two detectives who work on overtime pay, has nearly exhausted its initial $200,000 in funding, which DeWine secured two years ago.

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Fortunately for the hard-working officers, Greene County prosecutor William F. Schenck used to practice law with DeWine. To take it a step further, Schenck's wife Barbara manages DeWine's state offices. DeWine included the $100,000 in the massive government spending package that Congress is trying to send to President Bush before leaving for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Despite the pejorative label of "pork," this particular slice appears to be yielding dividends. According to Police Chief Randy Person, that initial $200,000 enabled the detectives to arrest more than 100 people from Ohio and other states who came to the Xenia area looking to have sex with children whom they met online. The unit also contributed information to more than 400 other online child-pornography cases throughout the United States, Person said.

That money is not entirely in the bag, however. Congress approved the package Saturday only to discover that it must revisit the legislation to remove one small provision that would allow congressional investigators to look at people's federal tax returns after they're filed at the IRS. Congress was expected to send the revised package to the White House before the end of the week.

Xenia wasn't the only local or state government expecting federal funds to fight online child exploitation:

* The Virginia Computer Crimes Unit is down for $732,000. The unit fights child porn and related issues, but the flashiest feather in its cap this year was for securing the first felony spam convictions in the nation. The money comes courtesy of Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), according to Tim Murtaugh, spokesman for Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore (R).

* Fairleigh Dickinson University stands to receive $500,000 to launch a cyber-crime program, which university spokeswoman Gretchen Johnson said would include a forensic security training center and a computer forensic laboratory. Johnson said the New Jersey school worked with local U.S. Reps. Steve R. Rothman (D) and Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (R) to secure the funding.

* Enough Is Enough, a group run by Donna Rice Hughes, is expected to get $500,000. Rice Hughes was appointed in 1999 by then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) to a congressional panel that studied child pornography. She also has received recognition from the National Law Center for Children and Families, a conservative group that supports anti-pornography laws. The lead in Congress was House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.).

* Morality in Media, a conservative watchdog group, would receive $225,000 for its Obscenity Crimes Project. The Web site, obscenitycrimes.org, bills itself as a resource for "educating the public and reporting possible violations of Internet obscenity laws." It also offers "help for porn victims and addicts" and a petition for visitors to sign that asks Bush to more vigorously enforce the nation's obscenity laws. Again, Congressman Wolf was the lead on this effort.

-- Robert MacMillan, washingtonpost.com Tech Policy Editor


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