DOASKDOTELL TV Reviews: Network Series Specials on Criminal Issues, and other critical public issues (Outbreak)  (Deliver Us From Evil) (Hazing Death) (False Allegations) (Dying for Web Fame) (Web of Deceit) (Into the Woods) (Inside the Cell) (The Last Days of a Secret Agent, Dr. Phil Now)

NBC’s Dateline show is well known for investigative reporting, particularly of criminal cases, but I wanted to weigh in on their Aug. 5, 2005 presentation, “On the Hunt,” where they document (in one hour) how a mother in Texas receives some particularly graphic pornographic spam. The show starts with the analogy to someone’s dropping a free pornographic magazine on your doorstep every morning, like the milkman. Perhaps the magazine is really within a brown wrapper. But the mother gets dozen’s of spam a day, and when she surfs her computer misbehaves with a neverending series pornographic popups, from a website called Spunkfarm. And there are small kids in the house.  So Dateline goes on a Howdy Doody style treasure hunt (or “scavenger hunt”), going from one clue to the next, from a rackspace company in Toronto to a pornography convention in Las Vegas, back to Montreal, where the id number of the spammer paid commission to send the email to 2 million people on the small list is tracked down by control number and confronted in a restaurant. The show arranges a phone call to the lady in Texas, and he apologizes.

 

The program concludes with the usual tips for controlling spam. The documentary filmmaking is compelling, but I want to convey my own experience here. Perhaps 3 years ago (in 2002) I got dozens of spasm a day, and I often got bouncebacks where my own email address was spoofed. We all know this happens, and that email addresses are harvested from infected computers and from webpages. Since sometime perhaps in 2003, AOL 9.0 has had pretty effective spam controls, at least in my experience. I get a few spams a day. A few are Nigerian scams, and a few are phishing attempts.  I still get some bouncebacks, and a few that try to tell me that my machine is infected and try to coax me into downloading their own infected “virus removal” tools. AOL provides regular was to report spam, as do most ISPs. I also run McCafee on my XP machines and have very little trouble with viruses or spyware (knock on wood). AOL 9.0 will check your machine for spyware. The moral of this story is that a with a few simple steps a parent can effectively protect their kids from the most objectionable content. Buy a computer from a reputable manufacturer or retailer, and usually anti-virus software will be installed. Develop a sense for emails that may be phony (I admit, given what I do with my own business, I have a lot more experience with this than most people). Run the anti-virus and XP software updates (if you use Microsoft) regularly. Avoid visiting pornographic or “get rich quick” websites. Get your Internet service from an upscale provider that offers spam controls and even from one that enables you to install your own email confirmation scripts. If you manage your computer well, you will have few problems.

 

This is all pretty important, since Congress is again talking about more regulation of the Internet. The attempts to regulate the bad actors could easily crimp legitimate small businesses and Internet speakers. Don’t expect the government to do what you can do yourself.

 

Visit my discussions of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), at http://www.doaskdotell.com/copa.htm and http://www.doaskdotell.com/content/colpa.htm and of the proposed Child Internet Safety and Protection Act at http://www.doaskdotell.com/content/enough.htm 

Essay on Spam:  http://www.doaskdotell.com/content/espam.htm

 

Dateline often features major crime investigations. For example, on Aug. 12, 2005 NBC featured a two hour interview with the dispassionate BTK killer (Wichita, KS) Dennis Rader, in which his cold explanations acted out his narcissism, sociopathy and psychopathology.

 

On Nov. 4, 2005 Dateline presented a show "To Catch a Predator" in which volunteers  posed as minors on the Internet attempting to entrap pedophiles or ephebophiles into meeting them for intimate contact. ("Like moths to a flame, they just keep coming!") Nineteen men took the bait and showed up for meetings with persons whom they thought were minors over three days. The sting was set up in a home in northern Virginia. Of course, such a “customer” has no way of knowing that the person on the other end is really a minor and not a detective or reporter, and has no idea if the person would be physically appealing in person even if young. So it’s pretty stupid to do this. A few “customers” had even emailed pornography to the “kids”. In most states (including Virginia) it is illegal to solicit sex from a minor even if the person posing as a minor is an impostor (it is the intent that matters legally). It is also illegal to send minors (or presumed minors) obscenity. NBC Reporters (Chris Hanson) were waiting for the marks at a palatial home in suburban Northern Virginia. At first, he did not identify himself, and a few men ran, fearing that he was from the police as well as fearing exposure by the media. The grass-roots volunteer group that runs these stings is called “Perverted Justice. (Peej)” One mark, an emergency room doctor, claims he was only interested in non-sexual physical contact. It is debatable whether that is technically illegal, but it may well be illegal (to initiate an online communication inviting such a meeting with such contact) if sexual arousal was his ultimate intention. The marks wanted both homosexual and heterosexual contact (all were men), but a significant portion were homosexual. Some were teachers (even special education teachers), doctors, ministers, military persons.  It seems that a large percentage were married with children, so lack of marriage or permanent relationship does not necessarily predict such inclinations or behaviors.  It is common now around the country for police departments or sheriff's offices to run stings for Internet predators, especially near state borders with varying ages of consent.

 

At this point, before continuing reading the details, the visitor may want to explore the Wikiposure site, associated with the Perverted Justice Foundation, and Wiki. The "Categories" and "Articles List" make for disturbing reading. Some of the material (besides NAMBLA) describes "self-defined pedophiles" who have not necessarily been convicted of anything or placed on a sex offender registry, but who seem to view their sexuality as a personal expression. There are some books and even films that stretch the limits of what mainstream commercial society finds acceptable to sell. 

 

Apparently this program was the second of the series. There had been an earlier such broadcast in a suburb near New York City where a NYC fireman (remember that the firemen were the heroes of 9/11) went for the bait. The fireman would be fired (pun intended).

 

Over time, there have occurred several more episodes in different cities and states. Except in New York and Virginia, police or sheriffs have been present to arrest the men as they try to leave the sting houses. At least one or two Virginia cases have been prosecuted later (federally), as below. Although there are some repeat offenders, many of the men have no previous criminal records and are lured by a combination of privacy and false sense of anonymity on the Internet in chat rooms. Some major religious leaders, school teachers, and military personnel have been caught. Some of the cases come across as "ball-court Mayan sacrifices" brought on by our candy-store culture, that is ready to pounce on anyone who crosses a previously invisible line (even with a Minority Report style "pre-crime" when there is implicit but clear "intent"), somewhat like in a horror film scenario. 

 

The “Perverted Justice” website suggests a disturbing concept, of “libertarian justice” or, perhaps, vigilante justice That is, a private citizen’s group can police individual behavior and label offenders in public, so that they may lose jobs. NBC4 interviewed the Fairfax County Police Department after the sting, and the police said that legally convictions from such operations are hard to obtain, partly because they are run out-of-state and partly because of the entrapment issue. Nevertheless, publication of misbehavior uncovered by private investigations can lead to job loss. There is always the risk of factual incorrectness (and therefore legal liability for libel). In old gays (when even consensual adult homosexuality was considered criminal and socially destructive), police would raid gay bars and publish names of patrons in newspapers, even though the patrons usually were not convicted. It is important to keep this kind of operation in perspective. 

 

Nevertheless, from the amount of material that I have accumulated on this page from network television reports and specials, it is obvious that Internet stings of decoys (whether "volunteers" or law enforcement officials) are common in many states, and most state laws specifically allow them. The public ostracism against this particular crime is tremendous right now. Anyone who converses with a person believed to be a minor in a chatroom runs a significant risk of eventual arrest and prison time, and it is surprising that more men do not get this. (And almost all Internet predators are male.) Even so, at least with attempted illegal heterosexual meetings, one has to remember that in earlier centuries it was expected that women could marry very young, when they were more nubile and could bear more children (just go back to Shakespeare and Romeo and Juliet).  Today's competitive culture requires that kids have much longer to grow up under protection of the law as minors, and research suggests that it takes until the mid twenties for people to be fully "grown."  The moral and legal outrage is considerable, but historical and biological factors need to be remembered. This is not a justification for crime, but it is an observation. Bear in mind, too, that law enforcement stings to catch people downloading child pornography are common, as has often been reported (as in a 2002 Wired issue). 

 

Apparently police or sheriffs were not waiting outside the home after this first sting in mid August 2006. However at least one person, a rabbi, was indicted on May 19, 2006. This appears to be a federal indictment, probably based on travel across state lines (from Maryland) for illegal activity. The judge noted that it took federal prosecutors an extremely long time to get the indictment and file charges.  The NBC4 story is at  http://www.nbc4.com/news/9256973/detail.html  Perverted Justice has his chat log at http://www.perverted-justice.com/?archive=REDBD   It is pretty shocking (with some gratuitous commentary by the decoy), and would certainly fit the first two "harmful to minors" prongs of COPA (Child Online Protection Act, under litigation). (In fact, Perverted Justice should have been a COPA plaintiff, since, as noted below, it was eventually paid by NBC, it could fit the meaning of a commercial site.) A Baltimore station has a story about this case and another at http://wjz.com/local/local_story_139180602.html   The trial in US District Court (federal) in Arlington VA started on Aug. 21, 2006. The applicable federal statute is called "coercion and enticement:"  (a potentially dangerous concept legally) USC 2422, at http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/18/usc_sec_18_00002422----000-.html . (It appears that the interstate travel charge may actually be a violation of 2423.) There is a story about the progress of the trial through Aug 22, 2006 at http://www.nbc4.com/news/9713287/detail.html    The defendant may have rationalized his actions at the time of their commission, and at an intellectual and perhaps legal level that raises troubling questions about intent; in general it raises questions how someone knows that he/she has "crossed the line" in this candy-store culture that we seem to have. Perhaps the case sets an example. As if all this were not enough, a Navy man, apparently well situated with family and career, was busted by a chatroom police decoy at a Washington DC Metro station in May 2006 and charged with similar offenses, http://www.nbc4.com/news/9262284/detail.html 

 

According to a Perverted-Justice posting (easily reached from the link above), the defendant (David A. Kaye) was convicted on Sept. 6, 2006. Apparently P.J. was contacted by the FBI for federal prosecution when Virginia said that it did not think it could prosecute under Commonwealth law. P.J. seemed eager to press for the conviction. The detailed P.J. account (by Don Pedro) of the prosecution is quite harrowing and may strike some as vindictive. The account also explains the long delay in getting a federal indictment. But apparently P.J.'s grand jury testimony was the major factor in getting a federal grand jury indictment.  

 

There is also a Washington Post story by Jerry Markon,  "Rabbi Caught on TV Is Convicted of Seeking Sex with Boy," Sept. 7, 2006, at this link. (Content viewing may require a subscription.)

Judge James C. Cacheris wrote a detailed opinion in justifying the conviction, and noted that NBC paid Perverted-Justice $100,000 for its help with the "To Catch a Predator" stings.  The judge accepted the evidence as indicating that Kaye really intended to have illegal contact with a minor, and apparently did not question the way the federal enticement law was applied. Apparently the legal basis for the conviction under the federal enticement law was Kaye's "attempt" to contact a minor for illegal sexual purposes (a clause in section (b) says "attempts") even though the actual chat room contact was 26, an adult. The minor was hypothetical. The opinion is now available (PDF) at a manual link (must hand type) at the perverted-justice link given above.  (This is also a manual link to American Jewry's account of Kaye's situation. The judge's legal background is summarized by findlaw here.) Most states (including Virginia) have statutes worded specifically to allow police decoys to pose as minors in chat rooms or similar situations; the federal statute seems less specific.  Although the public might welcome its application in this specific case, it seems to be worded very broadly, perhaps overbroadly, and that could invite abusive prosecutions for political or social agendas. Some will claim that this is entrapment, although there have been court opinions that defend this law enforcement practice against those with an intention to commit a crime, or even a certain "propensity" to commit one given what seems like inevitable, if quirky opportunity. One is left with the impression that this vigilante sting was a way to catch and sacrifice someone for a propensity to commit a crime rather than a real crime -- for "thoughtcrime" or "pre-crime" as in Minority Report. Mr. Kaye theoretically could get two consecutive thirty year sentences and remain in prison until age 116. (By way of comparison, Ken Lay of Enron took the easy way out, never getting sentenced. Of course, Mr. Lay committed real crimes, ruining countless lives.)

 

On Dec 1, 2006 Kaye was sentenced to 6-1/2 years (concurrent), credit for time served, ten years supervised probation afterwards, and he must become a registered sex offender after release. Story is here: http://www.nbc4.com/news/10439310/detail.html?dl=headlineclick The website polled the public as to whether the sentence was adequate, and a majority of respondents voted that it should have been heavier. Jerry Markon wrote a detailed story, which is quite harrowing in its account of the sentencing event, for page B3 of the Dec 2, 2006 Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/01/AR2006120100898.html

 

Note on viewing opinions online:

 

The Eastern District of Virginia has a website that should make the Opinion available "the right way" in compact, professional PDF format for about $2.50.  You have to register as a Pacer user and register a credit card number. Unsuccessful searches for cases cost 8 cents each.  I registered and I tried to find the Opinion, and could not get it to take the case number, which is some variation of 1:06-cr-00205-JCC (the system accepts certain parsings of the case number as printed). The websites are

 

http://pacer.psc.uscourts.gov/ 

 

http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov/

 

http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov/opinions/index.htm 

 

Someone who has used Pacer successfully to find Opinions similar to this is welcome to send me an email at my contact link.

 

In early December 2006, the Virginia General Assembly entertained a proposal to require registered sex offenders to register their email and IM addresses, so that social networking sites and chat rooms can exclude them (permanently, even after total completion of sentences). However, often sentences of sex offenders require, after release, that they stay away from computers altogether. There are similar plans for convicted federal offenders on probation and parole. Myspace and other companies are developing technologies to identify and remove profiles of convicted sex offenders. The story is here. Critics are concerned about offenders who have not been convicted (such as the proposal in Ohio to have a civil registry) and this raises serious due process concerns.

 

Continuing with the discussion of the Dateline series:

 

On Dec. 16, 2005 NBC Dateline presents a followup on the ephebophile sting (repeating much of the original material), and grand juries are investigating several of the men for possible prosecution in Fairfax and Montgomery counties. Apparently a vigilante group can develop legally admissible evidence. A few home computers were seized under search warrants by police, to look for caches of the conversations or perhaps for evidence of child pornography. The show points out (the Arlington story below) that even having the online conversation proposing illicit activities with a minor is illegal even when one does not go to the meeting. The decoy group does not start the conversation; it lets the offender start it, so as to get around the entrapment defense later if police try to get a conviction. The show mentioned the book A Girl’s Life Online (by Katherine Tarbox, now 23). The applicable Virginia statue allowing stings (and making it a crime to solicit someone the offender believes to be a minor) is at http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+18.2-374.3

 

You can watch some of the Dateline video at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032600/

 

There was also an interview with a clinical psychologist, who discussed the psychological compulsions of the offenders, their need to “feel better” which drives repeated illegal behavior in chat rooms. Almost without exception, the offending men who showed up at the Virginia house tended to be somewhat physically unattractive and would have self-image issues.  They demonstrated a certain despair in a reality television environment that would be difficult to replicate with acting in a fictional treatment. The media, however, has added to the despair with its pillory, that “honors” a public outrage motivate by protecting children that goes beyond the law itself—which requires innocent until proven guilty.

 

Oprah Winfrey has recently broadcast a list of accused sexual predators, although one wonders about the importance of having convictions first.

 

There were media reports that an Arlington County (VA) rookie policeman was arrested on Dec. 2, 2005 for soliciting an underage girl from his home computer. Apparently this was in a chat room where another police department (Alexandria) had set up a sting, with another police officer impersonating a minor online. Virginia State Police has also run stings sine the NBC Dateline reports. Apparently the policeman was arrested solely on the basis of the online conversation, and not later when he tried to meet the supposed minor. It was not clear if the software used was an Instant Messaging application (like AOL’s AIM or something similar, often used by moderators of chat rooms). It was also not clear whether another person (that is, a hacker) could have impersonated the alleged violator from a computer other than a computer under control of the suspect (at home or at work or in a public terminal). Because it took about a month for the arrest to happen, we presume that police performed some forensics to satisfy themselves that the suspect had not been impersonated, but this sounds like a possible risk when an arrest is made on the basis of online conduct only (without the attempt to have a physical meeting later, which is usually the case in these arrests). Police would be able to examine the suspect’s home and work computers, of course, but not until they had probable cause and a search warrant. This is a disturbing incident. 

 

On January 13, 2006 NBC presented another followup, with actual arrests by the sheriff’s office outside another sting in Riverside, CA.

 

On February 3, 2006 NBC Dateline will present a 2-hour "Part III" (aka "To Catch a Predator III") on the stings of Internet "predators" and pedophiles or ephebophiles. 

 

The program presented 51 men who showed up at the opulent Sting House, this time in the area of Riverside. CA. 50 of the men were arrested (one had to be tackled) by the Sheriff's department as they left the house (and taken to a makeshift outdoor booking station). (Sheriffs, as opposed to a police department, are often used when county lines or state  are crossed or in rural or unincorporated areas.) A few of the men had criminal records or were registered sex offenders. One of the men had been a stand-in in the films "Pearl Harbor" and "Never Been Kissed" (both reviewed on this site). One was a high school teacher. A number of men brought condoms, alcohol, Viagra, or various other accoutrements that would prove intent to commit an illegal act with a minor. In many states even making the communication with a person believed to be a minor is a crime, but it appeared from the broadcast that (in California) the police usually needed to have the person show up at a location in order to prosecute. A number of men had sent webcam pictures of their own private parts, which might violate obscenity laws. At least one had possession of child pornography. In a few cases, the contents of the online chat logs were particularly graphic. With a number of the men, Chris Hansen would ask, "What are you doing here?" The typical answer was, "I've made a huge mistake." And it was too late. The prosecutor expects each of the 50 men to get some jail or prison time. The teacher lost his state certification, and a Homeland Security employee was fired. At least one man had been already exposed on a previous Dateline sting and yet returned for Part III.

 

A psychiatrist did say that some of the men have maintained compulsions to re-offend because of the constant 24 x 7 immersion in the virtual space of Internet pornography, where fantasy can replace "real life."  He believed that many of the men were "treatable."  It's as if there should be an "adult unsocialized male Internet protection act" and not just COPA ("Child Online Protection Act") which is currently being challenged. 

 

NBC Dateline recommended http://www.isafe.org as a major resource on this problem. Parents should monitor what their kids do closely and expect their kids to report suspicious contact attempts. Chris Hansen maintained a blog during the broadcast. Only men have shown up at these stings, no women. The NBC4 local broadcast (Washington DC) that evening mentioned a system "Adzone" which allows police departments to search logs of chatrooms and IM's by screenname and various combinations of words for persons who troll chatrooms for the purposes of soliciting minors for sex. Again, in many states, the mere use of such chatrooms for solicitation is a crime.

 

There was be an episode 4 ("To Catch a Predator 4: The Creeps, the Cops and the Courts") of this  on April 26, 2006, in which predators are "harvested" by a sting from a small town, Greenville, Ohio.   At least one Perverted Justice volunteer was deputized to make the arrests stand up according to Ohio law. The pattern that most of the attempted contacts seem to be heterosexual continued.  With almost every single man, Chris Hansen asks, "What are you doing here? What would have happened if we weren't here?" Typically the predator male will say he really wouldn't have gone through with it, but is often caught with condoms or other physical evidence for the police to use as intent. Hansen sometimes teases them with, "You know what is going to happen next." The cameramen come out into the room. They will be on national television. By now their hearts are racing with adrenaline, as they must suspect that the police will tackle them to the ground as soon as they try to leave. They can't believe what they have already done, that they have fallen for such a sting, and done something so stupid, but they know they have  There was a 23 year old student from an evangelical college who claimed he was a virgin, and another "apologetic" sixth grade teacher who had actually traded webcam images with an "actress" posing as a minor. Chris Hansen said, it was reasonable (for parents and school administrators) to wonder if his interest in minors in the chatrooms could lead to interest in minors in his own classrooms, but the teacher resigned voluntarily immediately. Sheriffs deputies were particularly aggressive in arresting the men outside, forcing them to lie face down on the ground to be handcuffed; and the men were shown in jail with orange striped jumper uniforms. They can face up to eighteen months in prison. Several of the men had seen earlier Dateline broadcasts in this series and still fell for the sting and could not explain themselves. Others say that they did not know that solicitation over the Internet, where the contact is machine-like and distant, is against the law, and many of them may not have known that stings are legal in many states.

 

There was a followup on the Greenville Ohio (Darke County) sting on May 3, 2006. Most of the johns were shown being arraigned in court in their orange striped jumpers. One tried to stab himself with a pen. One's mother was a prosecutor! At least one (probably more) was married with children. One was an Army reservist age 20. There was some graphic language in this episode from the chats. Chris Hansen reads the chat logs (with bad words blanked out to network broadcast standards), and in one case a "predator" had been quizzing a (decoy) male minor about his body image. One man had already plea-bargained for a previous offense and apparently had been investigated for a statutory rape case. One man from Indiana got cold feet but was arrested in Indiana anyway just before reaching home. Several of the men obviously knew that they could be walking into a sting but came anyway.

 

The Greenville sting may have motivated the first known proposal to implement a "civil sex offender registry", to include people who have not even been charged with a crime. This was proposed by the Ohio legislature and was published in the Toledo Blade on August 29, 2006, at this link. There is more discussion at http://www.doaskdotell.com/refer/intelct.htm 

 

There was a followup "To Catch a Predator 5" on Wed. May 10, 2006, some of it from Fort Myers, FL. 

 

The warm climate environment makes for some pretty bizarre scenes. A nineteen year old acctress impersonates a potential 14-year-old girl. Chris Hansen invites the first mark to enjoy a chocolate chip cookie as he settles in. The guy doesn't want the cookie when he figures out this is a sting. One white guy tries to hide behind a red t-shirt, a hood over his head in physical slapstick comedy. ("There ain't nuttin' happenin' here dude!", in front of a dispassionate host Chris Hansen.) The sexual predators have become comedians, or perhaps tragic media stars with their fifteen minutes of fame, before months to years in prison with probably very intrusive "therapy" and physiological monitoring of their fantasies. Many men had transmitted pornographic pictures of themselves with webcams to presumed minors. One mark shows up with his five-year old son! Another has a diabetic crisis. The police tackle everyone to the ground as they try to leave the mousetrap. NBC Entertainment Tonight interviewed a Perverted Justice volunteer.

NBC reported that up to 500,000 men solicit minors every day in chat rooms. It is hard to believe that so many minors (given the statistical appearances created by all of these media reports) really would want activity with much older, often tawdry, men.  At least one of the chatlogs used in evidence in this show came from myspace.com.  

 

The final episode was broadcast on Wed. May 17, 2006, again from Fort Myers. Another parade of pitiful men was shown, including one who had a rope and duct tape in his car, and another who took off all of his clothes first. In one case, Mr. Hansen said, "this isn't about gay v. straight, it's about adult and minor." One guy from Arkansas win in Florida for business and had the embarrassment of his business rental car being searched.  One guy cried. In the final minutes Stone Philips and Chris Hansen discussed the issue, and Hansen said that the issue demanded both "punishment" and "treatment."

 

There was a wrap up on May 24, 2006, summarizing the series and showing what had happened to the men with law enforcement (note the links above for some of the arrests; so far there have been two federal indictments, based on the concepts of enticement and travel (USC 2422) discussed at http://www.doaskdotell.com/refer/intelct.htm and I'm not sure how it applies in this case; maybe federal law somewhere does allow decoys). Finally the series wrapped up with advice to parents (go to http://www.doaskdotell.com/personal/safeinternet.htm for similar material, perhaps in more detail).    

 

There was a two-hour segment on June 7, 2006 that essentially repeated or recapitulated some of the Ohio and Florida "visitors."

 

On September 13, 2006 Dateline "NetCrime" continued the series, this time with a trap house in Harris County, GA. One disturbing result was that so many of the predators had already seen earlier Dateline busts, but still ran the gauntlet, gambling that Dateline wouldn't bother with rural Georgia. One guy, who acted almost retarded, cried, "I'm an idiot" as he was being arrested. A number of marks tried to leave when they became suspicious and some did not even get out of their cars but were stopped and arrested by sheriff's deputies anyway. One mark was a Baptist minister. Another was a 22 year old man who said he was a "virgin." One mark had to be stopped with a taser gun.  The segment ended with a brief account of the federal "enticement" and "travel" conviction of David Kaye (above) from the earlier Dateline sting in Virginia.

 

The next episode was Sept. 22, 2006. One man kneeled on the floor and begged for forgiveness. What seems incredible is how many men who had seen previous Dateline predator stings showed up. This is disturbing and is not something that I would have ever anticipated before the series started. The court arraignments were shown. One software development manager whose marriage was not going well played hooky from work and showed up.

 

The episodes continue on Sept 29, back in California in a house with a hottub in Petaluma, Sonoma County. Chris Hansen asks one mark, "Bring your swim trunks?"  As usual, the police department is waiting. Ironically, men who had survived Iraq and even suspect a sting when the come to the house, but have given in to irresistible temptations. One man "volunteers" or "bargains" to become an undercover agent. At one point, Hansen has the chat logs mixed up. The youngest mark, so far, only 20, came right after a chat. One also received photos from underage girls that when found on his computer will lead to possession of child pornography charges. The major motive seems to be gratification of fantasies. Some of the explanations of the men given to interviewing detectives are candid and graphic. They come to the decoy houses even if they have seen the Dateline stings before. This time Dateline explains that Perverted Justice has posted fake minor profiles on major social networking sites, AOL, and even Craigslist, all with reputable companies that obviously have terms of service or acceptable use policies prohibiting misuse. That obviously raises some questions. An episode of "Law and Order" that same evening will take up this question.   

 

The saga continues Oct 6. Three military men get busted (one claimed to have depilated everything) and will surely get bad conduct or dishonorable discharges (no claims of "don't ask don't tell" here); several computer engineers from Silicon Valley get it (one gets off because his chat log does not show intent; he came with someone whose does). Men are also charged for sending minors pornography, which is a felony in California (which has a strict age of consent of 18). One doctor is busted, and he is crying, that he didn't do anything. He calls his wife, says "I did something stupid" and on reality TV asks her to write a $30000 check to bail him out of jail. At the end of the segment, a tape of Mark Foley's discussion of the Child Protection Act (more, go here; also see an updated version at Cramer's site here) is shown, and he suggests that men who might be tempted to troll the Internet get "mental health counseling." 

 

Somehow, the anonymity of the Internet enables these men to rationalize their actions.  The length of this detailed account of the series shows the epidemic-size nature of this problem involving abuse of chat logs, and the belief by people that their behavior is harmless and will not have consequences. They don't understand why they must be arrested for just the attempts. A policeman tells one guy, "we prevented an abuse," when they won't let him go.

 

When NBC Dateline was filming an episode near Dallas (Murphy, TX), a former prosecutor was ensnared. This was former Kaufman County DA Louis "Bill" Conradt. When police surrounded his home he committed suicide with a single gunshot wound. The MSNBC story is at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15673192/   New Texas law is very explicit that an offense occurs even if the suspect does not leave his home; he does not have to show up at the sting house. Florida law is like this, too; this may be true in other states, but prosecutors may not have jumped on it. There could even be questions about other forms of indirect solicitation or "enticement" with certain kinds of web postings. On the same show a 54 year old male middle school math teacher appears at the sting house, expecting an encounter with a 13-year-old boy who is the right age to be a middle school student. The teacher is in jail, unable to come up with $50000 bond, and Texas law has become very draconian indeed. NBC seems to be taking its time to present the episode, probably to do legal due diligence because of related legal problems, such as a "frivolous" lawsuit against CNN and her reporter Nancy Grace for an "induced suicide" of a possible suspect. The ABC story is here.

 

The latest on the Texas sting is that the DA may drop charges against all 25 men (besides the prosecutor who committed suicide) in the Murphy sting. See the AP story by Daniel Slater on June 28, 2007, here., from the Ventura County Star (a major story on AOL News today). The reported concern is the "involvement of amateurs" (Perverted Justice). This comports with the recent book The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen, review here. NBC says that other counties are reviewing this case for prosecution. The family of the assistant DA who committed suicide may sue NBC (frivolously) for "wrongful death."

 

On Friday, Sept. 7, 2007 ABC "20/20" ran a show on the Texas sting, questioning the tactics of NBC Dateline and Perverted Justice. Here is a blogger entry about that show, including a link to NBC's response. 

 

The New York Times has an op-ed on March 10, 2008 by Adam Cohen, "What's On TV Tonight? Humiliation to the Point of Suicide?"  The link is here. Conradt's sister is suing NBC.

 

Furthermore, a Florida federal prosecutor (John David R. Atchison of Gulf Breeze FL) caught in another sting (unrelated to Peej) has committed suicide. ABC news story (10/5/2007) is here

 

On January 30, 2007 the Dateline (now called "to catch_a predator", as if a data name) series resumes in Long Beach, CA. The Twenty-two Year Old Virgin walks into the trap, already having "watched television" (that is, TCAP) and saying "I'm not a real predator," when Hansen snaps back, "what are you, then, a pretend predator?" Another man came to the sting house one day after a court appearance for the Riverside, CA sting. "Ooops." A twenty one year old male actor was hired to simulate a perhaps mature 13-year-old, and the 49-year-old "customer" decided to leave because he said he was uncomfortable about the age, but the police arrested him outside anyway. It would sound conceivable that he might have more of a defense (regarding actual intent). Another man needed a taser to be subdued.

 

A second part of the Long Beach sting was aired on Feb. 6, 2007. One predator tried to escape the dragnet by arranging the liaison in a nearby public park. One brought a loaded weapon, found in the car by police (and that has frightening implications, if one wants to think this through). One repeatedly ask the Peej decoy if this was a Dateline sting, and despite misgivings showed up anyway, to find "My life is over." Still another talked about suicide when caught. A number of the predators in the California stings have plead no contest or guilty, and have gotten off with no jail time -- instead, fines, supervised probation (including no Internet access and mandatory psychological treatment schedules) and, most of all, mandatory registration as convicted sex offenders  -- the new Scarlet Letter.  But it's instructive to compare the no-jail-time for some of these offenders with the 6-1/2 years federal sentence given to David Kaye -- and it took the government nine months to indict and arrest Kaye after his appearance at the Virginia sting house!  California recently strengthened its solicitation laws, raising some felony offense levels up to 17 (the age of consent in California has always been 18).

 

The Texas episode "finally" aired on Feb. 13, 2007. Most of the men did not come into the sting house or linger long, but were quickly apprehended anyway. Several were pulled over while driving. As usual, a number of the men sent webcam-taken pictures of their genitals to presumed minors. Two or three of the heterosexual men told police that they were looking for minors because they wanted to "possess" (and deflower) a virgin.  A middle school math teacher did come in, and was placed on administrative leave. Bail in these cases is $25000 and the men must be indicted. An Internet solicitation of a minor (<17) even without showing up is a felony in Texas (2-10 years in prison), as it is in Florida. Neighbors organized a march against the Predators, but some thought that the sting was attracting dangerous men into the area. Internet Predators have become a major local election issue in Texas. That same night, Judy Judy Scheindlin argued on Larry King Live on CNN for a "one strike and you're out" law. 

 

On Feb. 20, 2007 the actual suicide of the DA was shown (to the point that the gunshot from inside the house could be heard in reality TV mode). Several other men were arrested at their homes even though they did not visit the sting house. At least two men told police that they view the Internet as "fantasy" and not real and that their actions do not mean that they really were talking to people that they thought were minors. This is the "temptation defense" but still they actually had explicit conversations with others whom they believed to be actual minors.  

 

The Texas prosecutor, knowing the law well, still went after the bait, and when he realized it was a

sting, he deleted his Myspace account and then put hardware locks on his hard drive. Whatever his public position as a prosecutor (and likely a professed religious conservative), his sexual compulsion was so strong that he put himself through all of this. After his suicide, the police sent the hard drive to Sony to try to recover some of the data. Again, men like this (as may be other men pretending to be on the religious right) are very closeted and may do desperate things to satisfy their "hunger."

 

The Feb 27, 2007 episode takes place in Flagler Beach, FL, near Daytona, and actually starts with the shuttle lauch. 

 

On July 18, 2007 the episode will happen in Ocean County, NJ, "on the beach." This episode had two parts. One man collapsed in the house. Hansen often asks the perpetrators, "do you ever watch television?"

 

The gay community has a very derogatory word for interest in underage people (the "Oscar Wilde" syndrome, often called "ephebophilia"); the slang term is "chickenhawk."

 

Important links are http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032600/ , http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3078811/

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11164933/  "What can be done to stop predators?" Interview with Fred Berlin, psychiatry professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11170126/  On being a Perverted Justice volunteer.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12255248/  A crime that NBC Dateline has brought out into the open.

 

 A nationwide survey also reveals alarming results about the readiness of teens to meet strangers online on the web. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12502825/  

 

See more about this at http://www.doaskdotell.com/content/blog.htm  

 

Some journalists fear that the Dateline series undermines journalistic objectivity by having the television network partner with vigilantes and with law enforcement. Matea Gold, The Los Angeles Times, April 26, 2006, "'Dateline' too close to cops? The newsmagazine's "To Catch a Predator" series alarms many journalism ethics experts," http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/tv/la-et-dateline26apr26,1,820068.story?coll=la-entnews-tv

 

Wikipedia has an interesting summary discussing the journalistic ethics of the Dateline series at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_Catch_a_Predator

 

The second episode of this program took the place of an episode of "The Book of Daniel" (below) which had been canceled for the season.

 

A high-ranking official (a 55-year-old male) in the Department of Homeland Security was arrested at his home (in early evening) on April 4, 2006 in Maryland by sheriff's deputies in a sting set up by a sheriff's department in Polk County, FL, where a detective posed as a fourteen year old girl. He is charged with numerous offenses involving minors in Florida and could conceivably face federal charges. Apparently he was "lured" into logging on and chatting with her when the sheriff came to his home, so that they could have direct physical and observational evidence. He appears to have used some workplace resources in contact with the undercover office. Florida, like many states, makes it a crime to contact someone believed to be a minor for sexual purposes. Ironically this incident occurred on the same day that Justin Berry testified before Congress, shortly (a couple weeks) after Mr. Berry (who had transmitted pornographic pictures of himself from a webcam in chat rooms) had appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show on ABC.

 

Here is a detailed media account (from NBC) of the incident which, if proven and leading to a conviction, seems particularly outrageous: http://www.nbc4.com/news/8472721/detail.html

In these kinds of cases, a sheriff's department will typically be sent to make the arrest when the complaint comes from another county, city, or state. The suspect, Brian J. Doyle, pleaded no contest as part of a plea agreement on Sept. 19, 2006.

 

A Washington Times executive was arrested in an Internet sting apparently conducted by the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington DC, and appeared in federal court on Sept. 28, 2004. The executive attempted to meet the supposed minor in NE Washington and was met by police officers Sept 26. The story is at http://www.nbc4.com/news/9949536/detail.html  The Internet chat may have occurred on worplace or on home computers, but the executive was suspended without pay. The Times story is here. NBC4 has reported that the Washington DC Metropolitan Police Department has at least five police officers employed as Internet decoys in chat rooms. 

 

July 5, 2006, Catherine Rondeaux mentions Dateline in "Can Castration Be a Solution for Sex Offenders," The Washington Post, p. B1, with graphic details about James Jenkins, who castrated himself in a prison cell. Jenkins had gradually become a heterosexual pedophile offender after divorce as he moved into middle age and apparently had severe problems with self-image as he grew older. There is discussion of the chemical emasculation drugs Depo-Provera and Depo-Lupron. This is a particularly shocking story.

 

On Sept 29 2006 a Florida Congressman Mark Foley resigned after inappropriate (although not really explicit) emails to an underage male page were disclosed. Details on CNN are here.  Later breaking news has disclosed a troubling chat that seems borderline sexually explicit, and the political and legal consequences exploded in the media on Oct 1, 2006. ABC News has a link showing the chat log here. This is beginning to sound like an unplanned episode of "To Catch a Predator."  Again, even sending messages like these to an actual or presumed minor would be a crime in most states (based on where the minor is, and that includes Florida), and would come close to violating USC 2422, at least if there was a clear intention of following up and carrying out the acts. There is a newer CNN story about a possible criminal investigation here. The Washington Times is calling also for the resignation of Speaker Dennis Hastert, here. There is a major (previously anonymous) blog http://stopsexpredators.blogspot.com , (by Lane Hudson; see more on the history of his blog here) that keeps track of this problem and has some more of the emails and communications between Foley and the pages. The saga continued Oct 4 with a major NBC4 story at http://www.nbc4.com/politics/10002656/detail.html  that links to images of 8 more emails. Perverted Justice provided an editorial today on its site comparing Foley to the predators that they catch. Foley, as far as known, has not been implicated in improper behavior in chat rooms. Elizabeth Williamson has a story in The Washington Post, Oct. 7, 2006, about former page Jordan Edmund who apparently received many of the emails, and who has hired Oklahoma lawyer Stephen Jones (from the OKC McVeigh case). Some people have termed Mr. Foley's online behavior as a form of "grooming."

 

On Dec 23, 2006 NBC Today talked about the kind of "rehab" that Mark Foley is in. It is very intensive, 7 days a week 14 hours a day. It is supposed to change the "way you think." Of course, it is mainly used for drug and alcohol addiction. But the premise sounds, on the surface, like it could apply to sexual orientation. Or maybe to something more subtle, the lack of socialization of some men that encourages a lot of fantasy interest in younger people while maintaining a sense of disgust for intimacy with people their own age. All of this does serve a psychological purpose.

 

Bloggers are complaining that Mark Foley seems to be escaping from prosecution, for what could have been a felony under Florida law if done by any ordinary person (like a visitor to one of Dateline's sting houses or even someone with a chat log record) -- see this "Smashed Frog blog. The blog doll mockup of Foley's gams is pretty humiliating -- they remind one of Ronnie's in "John Loves Mary." 

 

The New York Times has an editorial on Dec. 30, 2006, "Sex Offenders in Exile," link here (may require an online membership or subscription). .

 

PBS Frontline broadcast the documentary "A Hidden Life" on Nov. 14, 2006, about Spokane, Washington mayor Jim West, an evangelical Republican who had once supported a proposed bill in Washington state in 1986 that would have banned gays from public school teaching (like the Briggs initiative in California in 1978). West, suffering from what would be terminal colon cancer while in office, went on to gay.com and began chatting anonymously with college age young men, who were of legal age. Steve Smith, the editor of The Spokeman-Review, along with reporter Bill Morlin, went after the story aggressively, including investigating insinuations of inappropriate contact with boys when West was a scoutmaster, but these did not turn up anything other than social dates. The FBI never found any evidence of actual crimes involving minors, although sheriff's deputy with whom West had worked as accused of pedophilia and would commit suicide. West was recalled from office, however, after offering internships to young men whom he had befriended, such as Ryan Oelrich, who (from a conservative religious background himself) came out to himself during that period and comes across in the film as rather charismatic himself. It did violate Washington state law for Mr. West to offer these internships. The PBS link, "The Outing of Mayor Jim West, is here

 

It is worthwhile comparing all of the NBC Dateline predator cases with that of TV meteorologist Bill Kamal, in 2004, in Florida. Like Kaye, Kamal was prosecuted under federal enticement law when he traveled to meet someone whom he thought was 14 (according to the charge). It does not appear that he traveled across state lines, however. Here is a detailed account (from the Jacksonville Channel 4 TV station) that gives his side of it, which is quite revealing. Here is the original Washington Blade story in 2004.  In Kamal's case, it seems as if the law enforcement officer impersonating the kid called or messaged Kamal repeatedly despite Kamal's claim that he at first refused to respond to the calls or meet the person. If so that would be entrapment (anyone in this situation should report any such email as spam, not open it, and block it). In any case, police stings of Internet chat rooms have actually gone on for a long time, since at least 2000 or so. Sometimes, people (after taking bait in chatrooms) would travel from Minnesota to Wisconsin, where the age of consent is higher, and get arrested, according to news reports when I lived in Minneapolis (until 2003). But the issue did not get consistent national media attention until NBC Dateline and Perverted-Justice started its series. Certainly, after the second episode in November 2005 (the Kaye "bust", followed by formal arrest nine months later!), public outrage had increased enormously. The growth of social networking sites may have contributed to the sudden public attention. Today, practically every state (and the District of Columbia) has police or sheriff's department employees posing as minors in chatrooms. Men caught in these stings repeatedly insist that they "haven't done anything" (yet), and police insist that they prevented something. The anonymity of chat rooms and distance from others disguises, even to the intellect, that the attempt to commit a crime actually is a crime. Many men caught in these stings have no previous records and would not have committed these crimes in the physical world.

 

On September 12, 2007 NBC4 in Washington reported on a Navy Ensign, who was tried (before a jury) for soliciting sex with a 10 year old girl in an Internet chat room. A DC police officer was impersonating a "pimp" online. But the case is complicated by the fact that the Ensign claimed that this was all "fantasy" and he even asked if the officer was, besides law enforcement, from a private group like Perverted Justice. Whether a claim of "fantasy" could matter legally (and provide a "defense") sounds like an important question, although apparently he did show up at a restaurant in DC's Chinatown to meet the "pimp." The NBC4 story, abbreviated (there was more detail in the actual broadcast) is here

 

Monica Davey and Abby Goodnough ran a three part series ("Locked Away") on sex offenders in The New York Times from Sunday-Tuesday March 4-6, 2007. There was special attention to post prison release civil commitment. (Ohio actually has a law that can cause someone to be committed by the recommendation of a district attorney without arrest and conviction; it may be unconstitutional; it appears to have been used at least once.) The article discusses intrusive treatments and diagnostic tests, like the penile plethysmograph ("the device") in detail with illustrations.  

 

Around July 29, 2007 news media started reporting about a man "chased out of Seattle" to Los Angeles for running a "legal" website with pictures of children and instructions as to where to go to see kids to "fantasize." This certainly sounds like a legal gray area. I put the details on my "intellectual property law page" here (look for the word "Jennifer" -- the reporter of the New York Tomes story).

 

Both ABC and CNN have provided coverage of the appeal of the "statutory rape" conviction of Genarlow Wilson, who was sentenced to ten years in prison for having consensual oral sexual intercourse with a 15 year old girl when he was 17 on New Years Eve, 2003. CNN shows a blurred video of the incident taken by one of the other kids. Right now, the best he could get is a release but as a registered sex offender. However, Georgia has changed the crime in his case to a misdemeanor (with a "Romeo and Juliet law"; furthermore, conventional intercourse even then would have been a misdemeanor, but not oral sex). However, to get Wilson's sentence reduced without sex offender registry, the Georgia legislature would have to make the new law retroactive. CNN indicates that the old law "does not grade on a curve."  Lawyers also feel that the old law was unconstitutional. The ABC Primetime Live news story from 3/10/2006 is here.  The appeal website is this. Another case that CNN discussed was Marcus Dixon, whose similar conviction was overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court. The show also presented the Kemba Smith Foundation, about how easy it is to get a long prison sentence for incidental association with another's drug crimes.  On Oct 26, 2007 the Georgia supreme court ordered Wilson released, claiming that the ten year sentence was "cruel and unusual punishment."

 

On Oct. 8, 2007, ABC News reported "To Catch Two Predators: Parents Who Pimp Their Children: The FBI Steps Up Efforts to Catch the Parents and the Predators Who Want Therir Kids for Sex", by Russell Goldman, story here.

 

NBC4 reports a harrowing case where a Virginia teenage girl gave information to an imposter in 2002 and was kidnapped and held hostage for four years, here.

 

Free Republic reports that there is some evidence that height is inversely related with the propensity to pedophilia, in this reference.

 

ABC Good Morning America on Oct 17, 2006 reported that thousands of registered sex offenders have myspace.com accounts and have been caught using them to troll.

 "Myspace predator caught by code," http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,71948-0.html?tw=wn_index_6   The incident occurred on Long Island, NY.  The ABC news story is this: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=2580950&page=1

 

ABC World News Tonight, on Nov 2, 2006, reported a "Dateline type" sting by Toronto, ONT police in which a man was caught redhanded transmitting webcam pictures of child pornography which he was filming, and he was arrested by an immediate raid on his house. The report ("Cop Witnesses Online Child Molestation, Catches Alleged Pedophile: Toronto Detective Describes Difficult Moment With Child In Distress," is by Dan Harris, and the link is here.  

 

As if all this were not enough, the NBC daytime soap "Passions" on Aug. 15 2006 mentioned the "To Catch a Predator Series" in some dialogue to keep a little boy's computer from reaching "all those creepy websites."

 

NBC "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" (SVU) took up this issue (of chat room predators) up with an episode on Tuesday May 9, 2006. There was a latchkey teenager running a webcam business, and the teen had been victimized by his father but (in this fictitious episode--the show is specific about that) might have victimized a younger brother. The teenager jumps, or may have been kidnapped. The show makes a point that many of the chatrooms are run by offshore ISPs that are hard or impossible to subpoena. The teen believes that he has a legitimate business, and the government insists that he is committing a crime, too. (He is.) The story somewhat resembles the account of Justin Berry in The New York Times (with the webcam), but (it is only fair to say) there are significant differences between this show and the real factual history in the Times. A teacher shows up from the chatroom (much as in the Dateline series) and the cops make a not-funny joke about "no child left behind."  There is discussion of new technology (related to the "war on terror") to trace encrypted IP addresses of sites and chatrooms visited by pedophiles, which might be useful in prosecuting chatroom visitors who don't actually show up for the "meetings." (This series is, as on IMDB, often named and listed as "Law & Order", with the symbol; I have an additional general summary entry on blogspot.)

 

Then "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" (September 26, 2006) took up a case where a young female English teacher was carrying a baby fathered by a sixteen year old student. The kid's father was blackmailing her into sleeping with him. In the show the dialogue and script was surprising neutral about the moral turpitude (as the public sees it now) of the teacher's crime.

 

A Law and Order segment on September 29, 2006 presented another disturbing Internet conundrum in an episode called "Avatar." A rebellious teenage girl angry at a parent suggests a dangerous plot on her blog on a fictitious social networking site. (Of course, the show could not name a real site.) A young adult male who has slept with her when she was under the age of consent gets involved, and eventually the parent's death results because someone actually carries out the plan on her site.  Pictures of the corpse appear on the Internet and provoke 911 calls. Two days before the crime, she had removed the material, but it had been archived. She is prosecuted for second degree murder, as having planned it, or as being an accessory. She is convicted. The family plans to sue the owners of the social networking site (said to be like a "bar" without a "bouncer") for attracting unstable kids to entice others to commit crimes and not doing enough to protect the kids. The show, to the mind of a libertarian, raises disturbing "brother's keeper" questions about when one person is responsible for another's actions. However, the episode does not track very closely to the litigation actually occurring over "harmful to minors" material (COPA). The problem here is that the minors are creating their own harmful material, and what is harmful is their being allowed the access to create it without adult supervision. The show also raises particularly disturbing questions about how "amateur" content on the Internet will be interpreted, because of course fiction stories of crimes like this are published and made into films all of the time, and are not intended to incite people to copy the actions. Is content self-published by an amateur legally more likely to be interpreted as associated with criminal intent than material that went through "the system" (like NBC/Universal)? Very troubling. I don't think we know. 

 

Another Criminal Intent segment, on Oct 31, 2006, seemed to reproduce some of the circumstances of the JonBenet murder, except that this drama took place in Brooklyn, where a boy who was 12 at the time of the murder (and a pedophile as an adult) implicates his mother.

 

The SVU segment that evening related a drama where a 30-year-old teacher has an inappropriate relationship with a 17 year old girl with Turner's Syndrome. She wants to be able to have children and she will be unable to after about age 20.

 

Law & Order: "Bottomless" (Jan. 16, 2008) starts out with the DC drycleaner's case, blogger.

 

CSI ("Crime Scene Investigations") (CBS, repeated on A&E) presents a more technical view of crime investigations and forensics than does "Law & Order." There are settings in New York and Miami.  A typical Miami episode involved a murder that happened outside of a speed-dating club ("the Neuron") that may or may not have been committed by a client. The mechanics of speed-dating, sometimes a subject of cinema comedy, is explored. Women look for husbands, men look for sex. CSI episodes are sometimes shown in high school science or math classes. Another episode in New York deals with a "time machine".

 

Boston Legal (Oct. 16 2007) has an episode about the military "don't ask don't tell" called "Do Tell". Blogger link, also with a discussion of a Dateline inverview by Matt Lauer of Idaho Senator Larry Craig over the bathroom bust.  Earlier link for 2006.

 

An SVU segment "Hardfocus" on October 20, 2006 built upon the "To Catch a Predator" concept, here renamed "Hardfocus." Here Perverted Justice becomes the group "Scum Watch" and a fictitious show sets up a sting that entraps a predator, who then will be murdered by a someone with a grudge. The suspects include a former girl friend and a neighbor, and there are vigilante copycat attacks on other suspected predators.

 

Another SVU segment "Storm" combines the themes of bioterrorism and sexual predation. A man who had ridden out Hurricane Katrina takes three little girls to New York on a van with "fairy dust" that turns out to be weapons grade anthrax taken from a lab in New Orleans as it flooded.  After a taxi cab strikes two of the girls, police track him down as a pedophile, but he dies of anthrax. New York is on the verge of an emergency. It turns out another government employee stole it for the "contractor" black market. In the mean time, a journalist goes to jail for printing the Federal investigation and refusing to name sources, rather like Judith Miller; and the government uses the Patriot Act (denying press immunity) to lock him up. How realistic is this?  

 

An SVU segment on Feb. 6 2007 supposed that police found pictures of small boys as evidence in investigating an NYC apartment burglary. At first the police claim that this is child pornography, but then the issue arises that technically the images, as reported in the script, are not explicit. The questions comes up about the intent of the photographer. It turns out that the pictures were taken by someone illegally testing a new pesticide in an apartment building. 

 

An SVU segment "Responsible" on April 3, 2007 has a female tutor and teacher involved with a teenage boy that she tutors, eventually leading to underage drinking and another girl's accidental death, and still another girl's liver damage. I believe that Randy Spelling played the teen (he had appeared on Dr. Phil as a "role model" for celebrity's kids, who often have careers in the media themselves.)  If L&O actor Fred Thompson runs for president, L&O episodes will cause equal time problems in the campaign according to election law.

 

An SVU segment "Impulsive" on Oct. 9, 2007 presented a female teacher accused of statutory rape of a 15-year-old male student. She has an abortion and is accused of destroying evidence. But the boy is found to have a genetic brain imbalance (exacerbated by looking at online pornography -- as if the show were arguing for COPA) and admits to the rape, and is then raped himself in the juvenile center, and winds up collecting a judgment in a civil lawsuit. As usual, the show ran through all of the sides of the issues quickly in the dialogue.

 

An SVU segment "The Yachtsman" was repeated on ABC WJLA on Nov. 18 and gave a walkthrough of everything that goes on when Internet predators troll chatrooms for minors and encounter police decoys. It debates the amount of sentence that someone should get, probabtion, and the use of sex offender registry. 

 

An SVU segment "Angels" repeated on USA had a horrific case of a pedophile who arranged trips to Thailand, brought back boys and "adopted" them was also involved in ritual murders and in NAMBLA, which was compared to Al Qaeda as having independent "cells." The police catch him with a Dateline-like sting; surprisingly the man doesn't realize the FBI needs only to prove "coercion and enticement" (USC 2422).

 

NBC4  (Washington) ran a story on female sexual predators on May 10, 2004, the same night as this episode.

 

Dr. Phil, on May 22, 2006, presented what amounts to a "To Catch a Predator" segment, that was even more graphic than any of the Dateline segments. An undercover cop in Las Vegas, Rob Nickel, was shown going online to find predators, and then meeting one of them in a local diner. The predator, a frank pedophile rather than ephebophile, gave graphic details of how to get involved with children. Apparently the predator had been involved with his own daughter. The police officer was shown taping up his (probably shaved) chest with hidden microphone leads, much as in a famous scene with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman in the movie "Se7en". The information gathered was so graphic that soon the Las Vegas police raided the house of the guy and arrested him on numerous major felonies. There was some discussion of investigations in California, with the slang term "San Quentin quail" being mentioned. Dr. Phil McGraw warned that this segment was for parents, not kids (who hopefully were not yet home from school). Then he had as brief discussion of myspace.com.  A 25 year old woman from the Dr. Phil production crew created a fictitious myspace ("social networking site") profile of a supposed 15 year old girl, and just as on Dateline, she was soon inundated with predators. It is not clear yet if the police will act on these men, but in some states if is a crime to make the solicitation in a chat room even if you don't go to the meeting.  

 

The segment did seem to be pleading for more regulation, as it claimed that over one million predators go online in the United States, and that the websites and profiles that they use are totally unregulated.
 

Dr. Phil recommended the website http://www.familywatchdog.us  to look for registered sex offenders living in any area. We presume that this site lists only convicted sex offenders. The site encourages webmasters to offer one of its links:

 

 

 

You can't help escaping "that feeling deep inside..." that this TCAP series on Dateline makes us all into spectators at the Coliseum in ancient Rome. We have no real life aversion to feline predators. Just human ones, who are very weak indeed.

 

The VPI tragedy on April 16, 2007 was perpetrated by Cho Seung-Hui, and two of his "screenplays" were quickly posted on AOL at this link. The text, however violent and morbid, seems to resemble some of the Peej chat logs and raises the idea that Cho might have been abused early in adolescence.

 

Dr. Phil did another show on teachers/principals and reputations, on Dec 6, 2006, blogspot review link here.

 

On Aug. 23, 2007 ABC "Good Morning America" ran a story of predators using social networking sites to meet single women with children in order to "get to" the children and even pass them on to other pedophiles. Unbelievable!!

 

On Sept 13, 2006 Dateline had a one hour "Crossing the Line,"  an interview with former Florida schoolteacher Debra Lafave who, under a mistreated bipolar disorder, allowed herself to slip into a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old middle school student. She was eventually sentenced to one year of house arrest, ten years probation, and registration as a sex offender.

 

On June 2, 2006, NBC Dateline presented "A Love Like No Other", a story about the illegal affair between female teacher Mary Kay Letourneau and 7th Grade male student Vili Fualaau in 1997, that would result in two babies and marriage (she 43, he 21) years later. She was sentenced to prison, let out on probation and put back in when she dated him again. She had little comprehension that what she was doing was illegal and a felony, and she was more concerned about seeing her children than being in prison. The story is at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13106958/   But this does really come across as an unusual "Romeo and Juliet" situation. Once he became a legal adult, they could legally marry (as a heterosexual couple). She is still a registered sex offender and can never teach in public schoools again. Yet, her marriage seems, to many people, to have vindicated her relationship. 

 

CNN Presents followed up on Saturday, Feb. 4 2006 with a varied report on international trafficking in pedophilia, "Battle on the Border." The report covered the underage sex trade in Tijuana, Mexico, in the so-called "tolerance zone," but Americans can be arrested for international travel in order to have sexual relations with minors, under the 2003 Protect Act. Consider numbers of minor-age prostitutes are trafficked across the border, even through tunnels. Most of this prostitution seems to be heterosexual.

 

ABC Primetime Live aired a frightening broadcast on January 19, 2006 about pedophiles, especially one being released in California from civil psychiatric commitment for eight years after a six year sentence. The media has fed the hysteria with phrases like “Monster on the Block” and “Sympathy for the Devil”. I will not name the convicted offender here (for the search engines to pick up) because of the hysteria. The “reasoning” behind his crimes at 26 while twisted sounds believable. The state finally provides a trailer for him to live in just off of prison grounds. The broadcast claims that most registered sex offenders in the San Diego area live in downtown area in cheaper motels. The parents and community are, of course, outraged that he is getting out; Oprah Winfrey has recently proposed mandatory life sentences for even a first offense with a child. The public hysteria seems to come from more than just the history of actual crimes committed by the offender. It seems to come from a deep resentment that anyone would turn his back on children and put his own “psychic” needs above those of the young even if he were to commit no actual crime. It does seem to follow an insult that some parents feel because the job of parenting has become so difficult and society as a whole is less supportive to family values than it once was. This is really scary stuff. The public reaction and paranoia goes way beyond what is appropriate given normal legal standards even for the convicted, and it would appear that the innocent could well get caught in the dragnet.

 

The offender, now 42, had actually married while in the mental hospital, but would not be allowed to live with his wife. However, he had not married before offending at 26, and he had not demonstrated an ability to relate to adults in a normal “competitive” manner. He had been abused himself as a boy, and this contributed to his rationalization of his acts, although this is not always the case. He says in the report, “No one understands this deviance.”

 

I was on a voir dire in Dallas for jury duty in 1980 for a case of sexual abuse of a child (a female by a man) and I was asked by prosecutors if I would be willing to believe the testimony of a minor. There is a lot of one person’s word against another in some of these cases, and that certainly can invite prosecutorial abuse, given the public hysteria.

 

Justin Berry, who had made webcams of himself before he turned himself and a lot of adult male child pornography customers in to authorities, appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show on ABC on Feb. 15 2006. For details go to my intellectual property link.

 

On March 2, 2006 Primetime Live reported about the polygamist "fundamentalist Mormon" sect in Colorado City, AZ, and indicated that there was considerable heterosexual abuse (inappropriate touching) of young girls (daughters) by a male "patriarch."

 

On March 30, 2006 ABC Primetime live presented a special on police-induced false confessions that contradict DNA evidence. 23% of people exonerated by DNA evidence had made false confessions under duress.

 

On June 18, 2007 British polices announced the worldwide arrest of 700 pedophiles in a massive sting that started when police in the UK raided a child pornographer's house and operated his website for several months in order to track down other users of child porngraphy. CNN story is http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/europe/06/18/uk.pedophile.ring.ap/index.html

 

Although all the cases in the Dateline stings have been male, there has developed an increasing case history of "female sex offenders," including teachers, as documented on this "Coed Magazine" website.

 

ABC 20/20 ran a challenging report "The Age of Consent" on March 14, 2008. One big problem is that teenage boys having intercourse with girls slightly under the age of consent are charged with felonies, and then plea-bargained down to probation and lifetime registry as sex offenders, lumping them with violent offenders and inviting vigilantism. This is the ultimate "reputation" problem. The state sex offender registries have so many non-violent offenders that their usefulness (implemented in Jessica's and Megan's laws) is diluted. Blogger discussion is here

 

NBC Dateline presented (with Stone Phillips) an intriguing report, “Double Exposure,” on Jan. 20, 2006, about a bizarre story of a horror filmmaker in Pennsylvania who hired a hit man to get rid of his wife for life insurance money after he film failed, and then murdered the hit man. There will be a documentary about the making of the movie called “Rough Cut.” The original movie, now in police evidence in Harrisburg PA, was “Through Light: A Ghost Story.” The crime was somewhat inspired by Sandra Bullock’s “Murder by Numbers.” The horror film, shot along the Appalachian trail in southern PA,  was actually finished with ill gotten gains.  Filmmakers may max out their credit cards and go bankrupt to make their movies, but I have never heard of murder before as a reason. I suppose there have been movies about this idea.

 

The Oprah Winfrey Show (weekdays, 4 PM, ABC)  has also vigorously pursued sexual predators, sometimes posting names and pictures of those needing to be apprehended. Both Justin Berry and Kurt Eichenwald appeared on the Ophrah Winfrey show on Feb. 15, 2006. Justin said that he had forfeited a lucrative book deal by appearing on Oprah. Justin also said that Internet filters do not work against kids determined to beat them (this is relevant to COPA). Mr. Eichenwald said that teenagers should not be allowed to own webcams for their own computers, that they generally do not have legitimate uses, at least not in a kid's own room. He talked about a conversation with a retail clerk in which the clerk told him that the main use of webcams was "porn." Of course, many experts advocate not allowing kids to have computers in their own rooms, although they are becoming increasingly important for legitimate uses, like homework (especially in AP courses). On May 23, 2006 there is to be another segment: details are at http://www2.oprah.com/tows/slide/200605/20060523/slide_20060523_350_201.jhtml

 

On January 18, 2007 Oprah Winfrey presented the two adolescents who had been kidnapped in northeast Missouri and found when a neighboring teenager gave police a major tip about a truck. Here is the link: http://www2.oprah.com/tows/pastshows/200701/tows_past_20070118.jhtml

It is likely that other shows like Dateline will cover this in more detail as facts emerge, especially after the trial of the kidnapper and apparent pedophile. Right now, the visitor can search major media reports for details as they emerge. But Oprah, as well as an FBI agent on the show who had himself been abused once, called for a "one strike law" for pedophiles.

 

ABC Nightline presented a short segment on Wed. Oct 11, 2006 about a coverup of an orthodox Jewish rabbi in Brooklyn, NY who is now accused of pedophilia with boys 11-16 some twenty years ago. The rabbi is reportedly "on the loose" in Israel. There is a culture of coverup, with reprisals (even death) of those who turn rabbis in. The story is on ABC at

http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/story?id=2555575&page=1

 

NBC Dateline presented "Outbreak" on April 23, 2005.  The news team simulated an avian influenza pandemic starting with an index case in New York City, with a female who had traveled for work in Vietnam. Quickly a young executive in Davenport, IA becomes infected, and so does a flight attendant in Seattle. CDC (The Centers for Disease Control) is able to cross-reference flight manifests and prove that the patients were in proximal contact on a flight. Soon public health officials declare a pandemic. The broadcast presents the announcement as a discreet event that could start with a single index case; the practical likelihood is that there could be "false starts" around the world that burn out, and a pandemic would likely be recognized overseas first, resulting in quarantine of passengers from international flights. In a worst case scenario patients are treated in hallways. Up to 1.9 million people in the US can die, and up to 7 million worldwide. 25% may become sickened.  The practical likelihood, however, is that the death toll and severe illness (morbidity) would be much less. Even with Spanish flu in 1918, most people actually recovered. Many businesses, like restaurants, bars and movie theaters are closed, as are major league sports events. Many jobs are destroyed. Does one shut down businesses if the threat to most people in a practical sense is relatively remote? We may not know. The epidemic could take eighteen months to burn itself, circling the world in waves with different kinds of victims. Would these businesses return? The show seems to think so. One observation is that recovered patients, now immune, would be expected to "volunteer" to care for the remaining sick. These scenarios pose ethical questions, testing objectivism and individualism, that we seem to have no idea how to debate. 

 

NBC Dateline presented "Deliver Us from Evil" on May 28, 2006, an hour-long account of the kidnapping of American missionaries Gracia and Martin Burnham by the Philippines terrorist group Abu Sayyaf  (claiming ties to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden) in May 2001 (five months before 9/11) and their detention for eleven months before finally her successful rescue by Philippine soldiers trained by US Special Forces (her husband was killed in the rescue). The couple would learn of the 9/11 attacks while on the island, and would be approached by a reporter in the jungle in November but not be released. The Philippine military repeatedly tried to hunt down the terrorist captors unsucessfully, actually increasing their peril.  Philippine laws does not allow foreign troops to participate in rescues. The terrorists kept increasing their demands for ransom which the missionaries could not pay, but at one point an anonymous benefactor had almost raised enough, to see it upped again. They were captured from a luxury sea cottage while on vacation. Her book is called In the Presence of My Enemy. Her second book is I'll Fly Away. She returned to testify in a Philippine trial in 2004, resulting in a prison riot, and made a second clandestine trip. The account had a lot of video actually shot by the couple. This would make a compelling documentary film. The MSNBC link is http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12988260/ "Spiritual Lessons after her Greatest Nightmare."
 

Dateline would do well to review Benjamin Wallace-Wells, "Annals of Terrorism, Private Jihad: How Rita Katz got into the spying business," The New Yorker, My 29, 2006, p. 28. Katz trolls chatrooms frequented by terrorists, the way cops and Perverted Justice troll those visited by predators. Maybe the unduplicated count of these has some duplicates. She has a book, Terrorist Hunter: The Extraordinary Story of a Woman Who Went Undercover to Infiltrate Radical Islamic Groups Operating in America

 

NBC Dateline: Hazing Death at Chico State, Sat. June 24, 2006, presented a tragic death of a college student from a hazing ceremony at an unauthorized fraternity. The cause of death was obscure: water poisoning. Hazing was done to most college freshmen when I started in 1961, and my skipping out on the "tribunals" might have been a factor leading to my own William and Mary expulsion, but the ordinary hazings then were not as severe as fraternity pledge hazings. Having to take hazing was considered an essential male rite of passage, a part of his assuming his fungible (until marriage) gender role, in many cultures, especially the military, where it still goes on despite official policy. California, as has many other states, has outlawed hazing. Here is the link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13529682/ 

 

NBC4 has another story about a hazing incident resulting in serious personal injury, at http://www.nbc4.com/news/9617814/detail.html

 

NBC Dateline: Secrets & Lies, Sat. July 1, 2006. Stone Phillips investigated the problem of young children being coached by prosecutors and social workers to testify against their parents in trails alleging sex abuse in Bakersfield, Kern County, CA in 1984. Eventually most of the convictions would be overturned and victims compensated. This case was the subject of the film "Just Ask My Children" (below).

 

NBC Dateline: A Web of Deceit, Sun. July 9, 2006, examines a woman who advertised her pregnancy on the Internet, finding adoptive parents who would give her money in what was a scam. Surprisingly, there is little that can be done to prosecute her, and in the interview with her at the end of the show she showed no actual remorse. The report also shows how important having children and a legacy is to many couples, from a psychological or even a moral point of view.  http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13301137/ 

 

NBC Dateline: Into the Woods, Sun. July 23, 2006, gave the bizarre case of a trial of a 15-year-old girl in Craig, Alaska, charged with plotting her mother's murder actually committed by two seedy older men. The age issue comes into play, and one of the men, in terrorist-style, actually shaved his body before the crime (to remove any traces). Her blogs were read, and she was coerced into a "false confession." The idea that the teen brain is not developed fully was explored.   http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13962555/

 

The segment was preceded by "Tom Brokaw Reports" on the black community in Jackson, MS, a half-century after court ordered desegregation, and the area around Lanier High School is more impoverished than ever, because of the breakdown of the African American family, and because better-off African Americans moved to the suburbs. So the polarization has gotten worse.

 

CBS "Without a Trace" ran an episode (6/29/2006) where a female middle school math teacher in New Jersey is suspected of an inappropriate relationship with a student, but it turns out that she has housed him to protect the student from his parents. This would normally be a very risky thing for any teacher to do.

 

NBC Dateline: To Catch an Identity Thief. (aka, to catch an i.d. thief) This is a new undercover sting series by Chris Hansen, started broadcast on March 27, 2007. Dateline set up a website known only to identity thieves and started taking orders from stolen cards, but not letting customers be billed. The initial episode emphasized phishing attacks and leaky corporate security as responsible for a lot of identity theft. One thief pretended to have brides all over the world. 

 

NBC Dateline: To Catch a Car Thief, on April 10, 2007, showed a complex sting in Houston, TX involving patrons of a tough-neighorbood strip bar (straight).

 

NBC Dateline: The Accused, May 22, 2007. Blogger entry. MSNBC link. Features author John Grisham with his new book "An Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town" (Ada, OK).

 

NBC Dateline: The Last Days of a Secret Agent, (two reports), July 8, 2007. The first part is "Who Killed Alexander Litvinenko?" the ex-Russian writer and British citizen for 6 years murdered by ex-KGB agents with polonium poisoning (put in a tea-cup in a London hotel sushi bar), described as rogue nuclear terrorism. Russia denies that any polonium is missing (a claim that probably could be questioned in view of Sam Nunn's film "Last Best Chance") and that it could have come from the U.S., Britain, Ireland, etc. In any case, the story illustrates how difficult it is to account for minute but deadly amounts of state-controlled radioactive sources. The leading theory names an ex-KGB group "Dignity and Honor" as going after disloyal ex-KGB agents, but the question is whether this group would have access to polonium without the complicity of the Russian government and Putin himself. The general literature elsewhere on this issue (such as Nunn's and Graham Allison's book) would suggest that this is indeed possible. Whoever (whether or not part of the Russian government) obtained the polonium could transmit it to Al Qaeda terrorists (with the 2007 "amateur" incidents in London and Glasgow having been perpetrated by "doctors"!). Police have found a trail of trace amounts of polonium at many locations in London. The NBC story is here. The second part is "The Spy Who Loved Her," as a Minnesota woman falls in love with a man claiming to be a James Bond, story (by Dennis Murphy) here. The man turned out to be a super flim-flam man, enticing many women to give him money for "spy school", a bit like the character in the movie "Catch Me If You Can". He is now serving nine years in a British prison.

 

NBC Dateline: Thief of Hearts. Michael Bevan Cox writes a novel "The Associates" about mortgage fraud and then carries it out in real life. Here is the blogger discussion.

 

NBC Dateline: Inside the Cell.  Chris Hansen (in a broadcast Sept. 15, 2008) reports the breakup of a sleeper cell in Britain in 2006, a cell which was plotting to explode seven planes in flight from London. The show demonstrated how the liquid explosives (including Tang) would have worked and NBC maintains that this is material that terrorists already know. The show also demonstrated the crude explosive on a fuselage in the desert. The terrorist was Assad Sawar. The signal was to be a broadcast that said "you leave our lands; this is revenge." The show concluded with an account of a British militant who traveled to Pakistan and then returned when he saw that Al Qaeda was sending young men into battle without weapons. Michael Chernoff from Homeland Security was interviewed. Visit The Hanserfiles which includes a demo. 

 

MSNBC Scarborough Country: Dying for Web Fame, on July 5, 2006, featured attorney Bob Sullivan going over the risks to parents of allowing their teenage children to post "daredevil" or "jackass" or "Fifteen Minutes of Fame" videos on the Internet, where they are shown doing dangerous stunts. A number of these videos were shown. Some of them involved fire. Parents would be liable for injuries to children on their property. Conceivably, if a parent allowed a really dangerous stunt to be posted and a copycat imitated it, there could be a liable issue (sometimes you are your brother's keeper!)  Similar considerations apply to fight club ("web banger") videos. Sullivan suggested that some web hosting companies could be held liable for injuries (but there are safe harbor provisions in Internet law; this is very tricky). Of course, some physical stunts (as with skateboarding and various forms of extreme sports) are legitimate, and many independent filmmakers produce these videos in a legitimate and safe fashion. I don't post "daredevil" videos on my own sites!

 

CNN Presents: Undercover in the Secret State (Nov. 13, 2005) compiles some stunning “amateur video” from inside North Korea (under Kim Jong Il) from various dissidents, including a “Mr. Park” who flees to Thailand (with the help of Tim Peters) and “Mr. Lee” who will try to flee to China. Included is an execution of three men for contacting the outside world. A boy Minho crosses back and forth with China to beg for money (which he swallows in gum) to support his siblings. Dissidents are tracked down by North Korean spies in other countries (especially South Korea and Thailand) and are usually illegal aliens in any country (whatever the efforts of the UNHCR). Family relatives of dissidents may be persecuted. This assembly is important because it shows how amateur film and video can be effective in stirring political change, even in a repressive country. Of course this would also be true of the Internet, not very available in North Korea. Much of the country looks bleak, and corpses lie in the streets of cities. The capital city Pyongyang is sometimes deserted when people are sent to the countryside to gather ride in a Maoist style cultural revolution. Of course, North Korea is well known for trying to build nuclear weapons, a possible threat to launch toward Alaska or even the upper West Coast, or to sell rogue nuclear materials to terrorists. (Compare to NBC Dateline "Deliver Us from Evil" above).

 

Compare this to an ABC Primetime Live broadcast "North Korea: Inside the Shadows" (Dec. 8, 2006), produced and hosted by Diane Sawyer, reviewed on this blog.

 

CNN Presents: We Were Warned: Tomorrow’s Oil Crisis (March 18, 2006, 60 min). Imagine a Category 5 Hurricane hitting the Houston refineries and rigs, followed by an Al Qaeda attack in Saudi Arabia two days later (September 2009). We get $8 a gallon gas and rationing and everybody stays home for Thanksgiving. New rigs in the Gulf peak in 18 months. Brazil is converting to ethanol with its sugar cane fields. Rebroadcast June 2007, blogger entry.

 

CNN Presents: In the Footsteps of Bin Laden (Aug. 23, 2006, 120 min) with Christine Anampour and Peter Bergen, is a biography of Osama bin Laden, tracing his young manhood and his evolution into a terrorist. The film ends with a reenactment of 9/11, and warns about an approval to kill up to ten million Americans with a nuclear weapon.

 

CNN: Christiane Amanpour "Where Have All the Parents Gone", September 23, 2006, examines AIDS in Africa today, with the web of filial responsibility where grandparents are now caring for the kids because the parents have died of AIDS. The incredible poverty is shown.

 

CNN: Christiane Amanpour: "The War Within" about radical Islam in Britain, January 21, 2007, blogspot link.  (Do not confuse with the Magnolia film of the same name, reviewed here.)

 

CNN: Special Investigations Unit: "Narco State": Anderson Cooper investigates the poppy business in Afghanistan and the "political" connection between the drug lords and the Taliban. The claim is that the drug business could help the Taliban come back and could augment 9/11 like threats from Osama bin Laden and others. It's interesting to note in this regard Paramount Vantage 's delay in releasing "The Kite Runner" because of fears and possible increasing unrest in a less stable Afghanistan, which is much weaker than it was a year ago (after the Taliban lost control in December 2001).  Cooper claims that the Taliban has already returned and become strong in the southern part of Afghanistan. "Farmers" in Afghanistan have no support for legitimate crops; they are in a position analogous to farmers in the US who turn to marijuana when farm prices fall.

 

ABC "20/20" presented "Last Days on Earth" on Aug. 30, 2006. Moved here.

 

ABC "20/20" presented "Stupid in America: How We Cheat our Kids" with John Stossel on Sept. 1, 2006, an update of an earlier broadcast. Stossel starts by pointing out that many school districts, when given more money, have built expensive facilities but not improved academic performance, such as a school district in Kansas City MO. In many communities, parents resegregate themselves into expensive exurbs with better school districts (an example is in Dallas, TX, where, when I lived there in the 1980s, most parents would move north of I-635 in order to be in the Richardson or Plano Independent School Districts). In California, school districts hire inspectors to visit homes and make sure that kids actually live where relatives say they live, trying to get into better school districts. In Columbia, SC, the governor's family was offered the opportunity to attend "better" schools than in his residential area. In New York City, the teacher's union makes it so difficult to fire bad teachers (such as one who sent sexually explicit emails soliciting minor students, probably a crime in most or all states) that the school district warehouses them on full pay in "rubber rooms" in secret buildings around New York City. (Remember in 1975, after the "Ford to City: Drop Dead" fiasco on the financial crisis, the City escaped total breakdown only when the teacher's union -- Shanker -- gave in at the last minute. I remember my office mate at NBC writing the news for me on a slip of paper -- we were mainframe computer programmers then.) Not many school districts would allow 20/20 to film on their premises, although Washington DC handpicked Woodrow Wilson High School in NW, where a kid ripped off his shirt and did break dancing on the desks in front of ABC cameras in history class. Stossel compares American public schools to those in Belgium, where the students do much better because the public money is attached to the kids, and the parents can send the kids to schools of their choice. So their is competition. A libertarian concept. The teacher's union demands that Stossel teach for a week (they even chant it) but the school district declines. Stossel does cover the charter schools, where some districts hold lotteries for students to get in (an inverse of the draft), and where teachers are on call. We are left with the reality that many well-to-do parents send their kids to private (often Catholic) schools or home school their kids, or pay outrageous rates to private tutors, particularly in New York City (as recently covered in a Times story; see Craigslist ad). Private learning centers, like Sylvan, were also shown as improving test scores considerably. Stossel has Jay Greene discuss his book, Education Myths (2005), and Stossel discusses his own Myths, Lies and Downright Stupidity (2006). Here is a link to my own discussion of "No Child Left Behind" and substitute teachers (northern Virginia experience). 
 

ABC had a major segment on the "controversy" over Working Moms on 20/20 on Nov 10, 2006. Review is here (blogspot link).

 

ABC 20/20 had a two hour segment on "Revenge" on Feb. 2, 2007, and related many stories. One in particular concerned a reporter in Denver who had been abused as a seven year old boy by a teen in 1978 (in Alaska). When he found out that the man, ten years older, was living in Denver, he plotted to kill the man, until his mother found a handwritten boyhood private diary describing the incident. Instead, he published a story of his abuse and met the man for a confrontation.

 

On January 19, 2007 ABC "20/20" presented "Flat Broke: Begging and Borrowing in America," with a blogspot review here. Abusive debt collection practices (and the FDCPA) were covered.

 

On July 13, 2007, ABC "20/20" had "Hell: The Fear and the Fascination", Bill Weir as host, blogger link here.

 

On July 18, 2008, ABC 20/20 "Why Sex is not as Private as You Expect" (Blogger) covers a number of topics, including the linking of a 19 year old Texas "sex offender" (for having sex with a 15 year old girl) on the same list as 50000 offenders, some of them violent.

 

Dec. 10, 2007: ABC World News Tonight "CIA Agent Speaks Out" (about 34 min with commercials), former agent John Kiriakou discusses the waterboarding and rendition of Abu Zubaydah. Blogger discussion here.

 

That same ABC video page (here) has a 5 minute segment "Mormons Exposed," where journalist Kristiane Klein interviews Chad Hardy, who made up a calendar of LDS men, most of them returning from Missions. A few of the pictures are beefcake, with bare and smooth chests, but none are sexually explicit in the usual sense. Klein discussed the Mormon ideas about modesty; some men will not wear shorts or even short sleeved shirts.

 

CNN, on January 27, 2007, presented a report "How to Rob a Bank" and documented several techniques of massive identity theft, some of it scavenging thrown away mail at large apartment complexes. Several major banks had lines of credit drained, and didn't even catch it until customers got huge bills. Banks often failed to check addresses of applicants (sometimes with poor records and "security deposits", and supposedly have changed their practices today). Many of the white collar criminals, when depicted, sounded completely sociopathic and claimed they were merely "earning a living." Hopefully banks have taken enough measures today that the tricks shown in this show do not work. One idea that I have advocated is using National Change of Address to verify all applications.  My basic proposal is on this blog entry.

 

January 26, 2007, ABC "20/20" presented "Waiting for the World to Change", about inner city kids in Camden, NJ struggling to make it in school while homeless families make demands of their time and loyalty, at this blogspot link.  

 

On Monday, September 11, 2006, MSNBC rebroadcasts a Living History Event, of the Today show from 9/11/2001, recreating the transition from "before" to "after" with the 9/11 attacks.

 

On Feb 27, 2006 ABC News presented To Iraq and Back: Bob Woodruff Reports, blogger link.

 

On Feb. 4, 2008 ABC 20/20 aired an emergency broadcast, 90 min, narrated by Chris Cuomo, "The Final Hours of Natalee Holloway," based on an undercover investigation by a crime reporter and underground filmmaker Patrick van der Eem of the disappearance of a young woman on Aruba when she was with Joran van der Sloot, three years ago.  The style of the investigation resembled Dateline. Here is a blogger entry on the guerilla filmmaking.  

 

CNN: 360: Edge of Disaster: Anderson Cooper 360 presents an interview with author Stephen Flynn, who discusses his book with documentary narratives of several potential disaster scenarios, described at this blogger link.

 

CNN: The Road to Baghdad (2003) documents the fall of Saddam Hussein (including the toppling of his statue on April 9, 2003) and the immediate followup. Sections of the documentary include "An Extraordinary Sight" and "Too Early to Tell". The tone of the film, when it was made, is quite optimistic; history has proved otherwise. Remarkable combat footage. This film is shown at the US Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, VA. Christiane Amanpour and Jason Bellini comment.

 

CNN: Special Investigations Unit: Death Squads (2007, March 25) presented the horrific execution of all six (male) sons in a Sunni family in an apartment building by a Shiite assassination squad. The idea of family lineage through the male in Arab society makes families especially vulnerable to this kind of violence.

 

CNN: Special Investigations Unit: Chasing Life (2007). here (blogger).

 

CNN: God's Warriors (2007). here (blogger) (Jewish Warriors, Muslim Warriors, Christian Warriors -- 3 2 hr. reports with Christiane Amanpour).

 

CNN: Judgment in Jena (2007), a special report on the reported unequal treatment of blacks and whites by the legal system in a Jena, LA, a small town in north central Lousiana. Blogger. A related report, also discussed on that entry, is The Noose: An American Nightmare, with Kyra Phillips (2007).

 

CNN: Czar Putin (2007) is a report of the authoritarian yet prosperous rule of Vladimir Putin in Russia, who does not tolerate dissent, especially from Garry Kasparov. Blogger link.

 

CNN: Impact your World: Rescuing Youssif (2007). Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on plastic surgery given to a 5 year old boy from Baghdad deliberately burned by masked insurgents. Blogger link.

 

CNN: Pakistan: Terror Central (2007) was aired shortly after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. The show demonstrated the two faces that Musharraf must wear and how he lacks the credibility to really control extremist elements. Footage of tribal areas was shown.

 

CNN: Lifetime of Red Flags (2009) about Northern Illinois University shooter Steven Kazmierczak, including his fascination with LionsGate's "Saw" movie franchise and the Jigsaw "psychologist" character.

 

MSNBC: War Zone Diary (2007, March 25) presents an interesting an disturbing point. Insurgents in Iraq commit atrocities against western visitors and journalists just in order to post videos of their crimes on the Internet, without having to go through even their own news organizations. The freedom offered by search engines can work for bad and good. We have already heard repeatedly about radical ideology and training materials being passed around on radical websites, as well as about steganography.

 

For a discussion of a "to catch a money launderer" sting in Albany NY, see the PBS "America at a Crossroads", here.

 

Dr. Phil Now, 3/7/2008, "Sex Offenders Next Door," was a one hour program that documented the contracting by the state of California with a "profiteering" landlord in Long Beach to house many sex offenders (more than one to a room) in one apartment building, even evicting other tenants. Although the immediate neighborhood doesn't have schools and day care centers, the other residents are outraged, and other apartment buildings in the area have had tenants leave and break leases. There was one 70-year-old convicted sex offender on the show who had been picked up teenage boys driving on LA streets and was convicted in 1986 (the pre-Internet, pre-chat room way that these things happened). He was an ephebophile. He claimed that "the feelings never go away." He was quite articulate. He now lived in San Francisco. Other people on the show said "they" should live "somewhere" but not be concentrated in one place. A woman said to the man that she could "tolerate" living near him even though he admitted publicly to still having these "feelings." The idea that publicly confessing "feelings" would make someone objectionable is itself startling (and it's well to note here that Ohio actually has a civil sex offender registry where one does not even have to be convicted; it is maintained by a DA's office, although it has only been used against an "unconvicted" offending Catholic priest). The link for the show is here. It was quite a startling broadcast. 

 

ABC: Homeland Security USA. Blogger.

 

Related reviews:.   The Most Dangerous Game   Kids in America   Student Seduction  The Blair With Project   Murder by Numbers  (in conjunction with Date Predator series)  Hard Candy  The Book of Daniel   Just Ask My Children; various cable TV films about mega-disasters;

Koppel on Discovery: The Price of Security    20/20: Privileged in America (blogspot)  Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story;  Review of Chris Hansen's book "To Catch a Predator"

Nunn's Last Best ChanceGraham Allison's book.

 

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