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House Approves Bill Aimed at Child Pornography Suspects

A bill (H.R. 3484) to expand police access to telephone conversations that might pertain to child pornography was approved, by voice vote, by the House on October 3. The House Judiciary Committee passed the measure on September 20 (see The Source, 9/22/00, p. 4).

Sponsored by Rep. Bill McCollum (R-FL), the bill would allow law enforcement officers to wiretap the conversations of individuals suspected of sending or receiving child pornography or of transporting children for related purposes. Under current law, officers are not allowed to wiretap on the basis of suspicion.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) opposed the measure, saying, “I believe the present bill goes too far in extending law enforcement’s authority to use a tool recognized to be so invasive of the rights of citizens in a free society that it can only be made available for use under circumstances specifically approved by Congress.” He added, “It is clear from the list of already existing sex crime offenses that much of the more serious activity for which proponents of the legislation are seeking to justify wiretap extension are already covered by wiretap authority or other confiscation authority and investigatory techniques.”

“While I respect the concerns that have been raised on the floor here, our bill is essential if these kids are to be protected from those in the Internet who would seek them out, befriend them, and arrange to meet them in places through which they can sexually assault them or, as has happened, and will happen more and more often, lead to their harm and sometimes to their murder,” stated Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT), adding: “Our bill simply modernizes the statute.”

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