Internet Abductions


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Congressional Statement by the FBI

Statement for the Record of
W. Hagmaier III, Unit Chief
Morgan P. Hardiman
Child Abduction and Serial Murder Investigative Resource Center
National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime
Critical Incident Response Group
Federal Bureau of Investigation

Internet Predators

Before the
Senate Subcommittee on
Children and Families of the
Health, Labor, and Pensions
Washington, D.C.

Good morning Senator Gregg and members of the Subcommittee. It is an honor to testify before you today with respect to the problem of "Internet Predators" and how some criminal predators are using the Internet to stalk their victims. I would also like to recognize the courage and commitment of the victims who have graciously come here today to bring about a human side to this growing crisis.

Before I speak to the issue of stalking and Internet Predators, it may be helpful if I briefly explained the roles of the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) and that of my unit, the Morgan P. Hardiman Child Abduction and Serial Murder Investigative Resource Center. The NCAVC and its Morgan P. Hardiman Child Abduction and Serial Murder Investigative Resource Center are elements of the FBI's Critical Incident Response Group. The NCAVC responds to over 1000 requests for assistance from law enforcement around the globe, especially in complex or bizarre cases, violent crime, threats including those involving weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and organized crime matters. The NCAVC provides behavioral profiles, research, training, threat assessments, and other services to law enforcement in matters pertaining to violent crime.

The unit that I am privileged to head is a component of the NCAVC. The unit was established by an Act of Congress on January, 27, 1998, upon the passage of the "Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998." The unit's mission is to provide investigative support through the coordination and provision of Federal law enforcement resources, research, training, and other expertise to assist law enforcement authorities in matters involving child abductions, mysterious disappearances of children, child homicide, and serial murder. The CASMIRC exists largely due to the efforts and vision of Senator Gregg and others. We are also cognizant and appreciative of the support and commitment of Senator Dodd as well.

Many outstanding laws were enacted through this legislation, including several that prohibit the use of computers in committing crimes against children. In brief, these laws make it illegal to use a computer to commit such crimes as: enticing or engaging a minor in sexual activity; to produce, transmit, or possess child pornography; and to transfer obscene material to minors. Additionally, the Act increases the penalties for the use of a computer in the sexual abuse or exploitation of a child.

Significantly, the Act also requires Electronic Communication Service Providers engaged in providing interstate or foreign commerce computer services to the public, to notify law enforcement should evidence of child pornography be discovered in the transaction of computer services. A key consideration for the purpose of this inquiry is that it does have to be interstate or foreign commerce related and it does not cover stalking activities.

The crime of stalking in general, and in particular the use of computers as well as the Internet to commit stalking, is a relatively new phenomena. Given the recent awareness of stalking and domestic violence, we are just beginning to understand its gravity and scope and obviously we have a great deal more to learn.

A recent study noted that there probably have been many cases of stalking and many stalkers in the past, but the problem of stalking had never been studied in depth, primarily because it was never classified as a distinct crime until 1990. An earlier study of stalking estimated that one in twenty women will be stalked in her lifetime. Further it was estimated that as many as 200,000 stalkers were at the time of the 1991 study stalking one or more victims in the United States.

There is no commonly accepted single definition of the term stalking. A working definition for early research purposes was developed, as "a repeated pattern of harassing behaviors intended to frighten, intimidate, or terrorize a particular victim."

Research determined that to varying degrees, all stalkers probably are mentally ill with the degree of mental illness ranging from personality disorders to psychosis. All reports strongly advocated the need for additional study and continued empirical validation of its preliminary research.

Interest in the study of stalking has grown. Further research must be encouraged in order to help better understand not only the numbers of the actual offenses but to determine the motivations and behaviors of the offenders.

The unprecedented interest in stalking over the past decade has resulted in the passage of Federal and state anti-stalking laws. Today, all 50 States and the District of Columbia have anti-stalking statues but legal definitions and requirements vary widely from State to State. Less than one-third of the states have anti-stalking laws that cover stalking via electronic communications. Of the U.S. states that have anti-stalking laws, only seven contain language that deal with stalking by computer [Jenson, 1996; Meloy 1998 - Alaska, Delaware, Connecticut, Michigan, Montana, Oklahoma, Wyoming].

In 1994, Congress passed "The Violence Against Women Act, Title IV of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. The Act requires the U.S. Attorney General to collect information about stalking and domestic violence and provide an annual report to Congress. In 1998, Congress also directed the Attorney General to report information concerning existing or proposed State laws for stalking crimes against children.
The Office of Justice Programs at the U.S. Department of Justice is committing resources through the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) to conduct research on stopping violence against women, including domestic violence and stalking. The NIJ and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, through a grant to the Center for Policy Research, are cosponsors of the National Violence Against Women Survey, a nationally representative telephone survey of 8,000 U.S. women and 8,000 U.S. men. The most recent NVAW Survey estimated that 8% (or 8.2 million) of the women and 2% (or 2 million) of the men in the U.S. have been stalked at some time in their life to the point where these victims felt a high level of fear.

I have provided an abbreviated general overview of the research and legislation applicable to stalking. I would like to devote the remainder my time discussing Internet Stalking also known as Cyberstalking, or the use of the Internet, e-Mail, or other electronic communications devices to stalk another person. As the use of computerized communications continues to increase dramatically, it can be reasonably expected that stalkers will increasingly exploit computerized communications as a medium or tool to harass and terrify their victims. Like other mediums or instruments that stalkers have traditionally deployed to harass and threaten victims: including written messages; mail; and the telephone; computerized communications is the latest conduit for stalkers to abuse.

A noted forensic psychiatrist, Dr. J. Reid Meloy, author of The Psychology of Stalking, wrote that every new technology can serve as a vehicle for criminal behavior and the Internet is no exception. There is minimal research on cyberstalking but legal cases exist in which the Internet has been used as a means of unwanted communications to stalk someone. Significantly, Dr. Meloy points out that the Internet can be used for two criminal functions associated to stalking. One, to gather private information on the target to further a pursuit, and two, to communicate with the target to implicitly or explicitly threaten or to induce fear. There are technical means that make both tasks difficult to trace to the perpetrator, such as sending e-mail through two or three sequential servers (anonymous remailers that are often located outside the U.S.).

In his book, Dr. Meloy refers to an FBI case involving a University of Michigan student (Jake Baker) who was arrested for publishing a fantasy of rape, torture and murder that was posted in a Usenet newgroup and read around the world. He used the name of a female classmate in his electronic correspondence with another man. In e-mail communications, the offender wrote that he planned where and how to carry out his attack by kidnaping the victim at gunpoint, raping, torturing, and then killing her. He was charged with Interstate Transmission of a Threat to Injure, a felony under Federal Law.

Federal law provides an important tool to combat cyberstalking. Under Title 18 U.S.C. 875Ic), it is a federal crime, punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, to transmit any communication in interstate or foreign commerce containing a threat to injure the person of another. This law includes threats transmitted over the telephone, e-mail, beepers, or the Internet. The law does not actually cover non-interstate communications.

Although this is an excellent law it does not apply in situations where a cyberstalker engages in a pattern of conduct merely to harass or annoy without making an actual threat. It also does not prohibit stalkers from obtaining information about a victim from Internet Information Providers that stalkers use to locate the victim or obtain personal information, such as the victim's address, social security number, or place of employment, as was the situation in the Amy Boyer Case. Additionally, it does not cover a growing phenomena whereby the stalker goes on-line and pretends to be the victim and invites literally thousands of others to approach or contact the victim due to a claimed interest or desire in certain sexual activities, inappropriate conduct, etc.

In another case, the FBI arrested Michael Ian Campbell of Cape Coral, Florida. On December 15, 1999, Mr. Campbell contacted a female student from Columbine High School over the Internet. Campbell obtained the student's first name by viewing her AOL "profile". Campbell also learned from her "profile" that she attended Columbine High School. Using this information, Campbell contacted the victim and implied he was a fellow Columbine High School student who intended to finish the job that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold tried to accomplish on April 20, 1999, during their armed attack upon the students of Columbine High School. Campbell warned the victim not to go to school on the following day or face a similar fate as the murdered Columbine students. The defendant is currently is awaiting sentencing for this offense.

It is clear from such senseless tragedies as Amy Boyer's murder, that stalkers present a clear and present danger to their victims. Internet or Cyberstalkers exploit the electronic communications network as a means to carry out their criminal objectives of harassment, threats, and violence. Research studies are needed to determine the prevalence of stalking offenses so that corrective measures may be fairly and intelligently determined. We need to continue to study those individuals who commit stalking offenses as well as educate ourselves regarding the diverse methods and techniques used to convey the stalkers' messages of hatred, terror, and violence.

In conclusion, whether the criminal makes use of the unlimited resources of the Internet for the purposes of locating the victim, learning to build a bomb to kill them, or simply to brag to others of his ability or intent, or does it without the aid of electronic communications, the victims and their family become virtual prisoners. Their world becomes a prison without bars and their first thought every morning and last thought each evening is of the predator. Plain and simple they become the victim of a terrorist who threatens and perhaps ends the victim's pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

The victims exist in a state of constant fear and, because of a sadistic predator, can never be confident of safety - for themselves, their families, or others who may be nearby. Each unexpected sound or shadow may be construed as a potential attack.

Law enforcement is painfully aware of this cat and mouse scenario and experience great frustration waiting for the first overt action taken by the stalker. In some situations this first act is homicide. Stalkers can many times materialize into serial predators. Many serial child exploiters, serial rapists, as well as serial killers began their evil trades by gaining confidence through participation in less serious but successful crimes. Once stalkers begin to progress, and then accelerate, their criminal careers, law enforcement is usually at a severe disadvantage. The freedom and anonymity offered by the Internet as well as the seemingly endless opportunity to exploit the information highway may increasingly serve as a staple for today's criminal predators.

Again, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this hearing and like you, I am most hopeful that the legacy of Amy Boyer and other innocent victims will serve to prevent other such tragedies.

Thank you.