Pres. Obama: Resist Signing the International Megan’s Law

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Who here is in favor of sex trafficking?

Didn’t think so. Me neither. You can be against that crime without using it for political grandstanding and cruel policies. But not, apparently, if you are in the U.S. Congress. In a blistering editorial, the L.A. Times writes:

After rousing themselves from the 30-plus-year bad trip that was the war on drugs — or rather, the war on drug users — many Americans in and out of elected office looked around for someone else to persecute. Someone, somewhere, must be so depraved and hateful that liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans could join in common cause to vilify them.

They appear to have found their target: sex offenders. The current case in point is a congressional proposal to alert the nations of the world that particular U.S. citizens who have committed sex offenses against minors are planning to visit. Passports would be specially marked so that other countries could turn travelers away at the border because of old crimes for which they have already served their time in the U.S.

Why? Not just because it constitutes a kind of double jeopardy — citizens who did their time will be punished again, by not being allowed to travel. And not just because it singles out one just one group of people. (Murderers and drug dealers will NOT be branded this way.) Veto it because it will not actually do any good! As Beth Schwartzapfel at The Marshall Project reports:

Supporters say the bill will help prevent sex trafficking, since sex offenders “hop on planes and go to places for a week or two and abuse little children,” the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., told NJ.com. Multiple requests for comment made to Smith’s office were not returned.

But!

In a rebuttal printed as an appendix in the report, the State Department noted that there was no evidence anyone on that list had traveled in order to commit a sex crime, and that it already has the authority to deny passports to people convicted of sex tourism involving minors and those whose probation or parole terms forbid them from traveling.

“We think the report is very misleading,” the State Department wrote. “Starting with the title, ‘Passports Issued to Thousands of Registered Sex Offenders,’ we are concerned that it conveys more ‘shock value’ than factual accuracy.”

Pres. Obama, please rise above the sanctimonious vote-grubbers and headline grabbers in Congress and refuse to sign a bill that your own State Department finds pointless and misleading. The bill is supposed to prevent the exploitation of children. Ironically, Congress is busy exploiting away. — L

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Hmm. Who else in history branded people's passports? (Hint: They used a "J.")

Pop Quiz: What other government in history branded people’s passports? (Hint: They used a “J.”)

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54 Responses to Pres. Obama: Resist Signing the International Megan’s Law

  1. TNF 13 February 4, 2016 at 11:50 am #

    Readers can write President Obama here:

    https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact#page

    There is also a petition:

    https://www.change.org/p/president-barack-obama-veto-hr-515-international-megan-s-law

    This bill would put more children in danger by increasing the stigma of a population that generally offends once, not repeatedly.

  2. James Pollock February 4, 2016 at 11:54 am #

    I don’t think this law does what you think it does.

    Other countries already have the authority to block American visitors they find objectionable, just as the U.S. has the authority to block visitors from other countries if it chooses to do so.

    So, this doesn’t create a “double jeopardy” by “preventing people from traveling, even if they have already completed their sentence”. Now, if the U.S. proposes a new law that forbids sex offenders from leaving the country, that would; but this doesn’t do that.

    There ARE people who travel to take advantage of lax laws in other places… Las Vegas is built on this, of course, and Amsterdam is famous for it, as well. Sex tourism specifically for underaged prostitutes is a problem, and it is already illegal for Americans to travel out of the country to patronize one, even if it is legal in the country where it happens.

  3. Janice Bellucci February 4, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    The International Megan’s Law is reprehensible because it would require, for the first time in the history of our nation, the federal government to add a “unique identifier” to the passports of U.S. citizens. Today the target is sex offenders. Tomorrow the target could be Muslims, gays or drunk drivers. The “unique identifier” on an individual’s passport states more than that the person has been convicted of a sex offense involving a minor, it is also a statement that the person has been convicted of or is likely to participate in sex trafficking.

  4. anonymous mom February 4, 2016 at 12:29 pm #

    Lenore, thank you so much for your passionate writings about this topic, and this bill in particular. I have been heartened to see the many smart editorials by a number of writers in different publications about it.

    I’m married to a registered sex offender. I’ve told our story before, but I don’t mind telling it again, because I think too often we get bogged down in a false dichotomy about sex offenses: there are innocent people who don’t deserve to be sex offenders at all because they did nothing wrong (people who urinated in public, 18 year old guys sleeping with 15 year old girlfriends, etc.) and then there are those horrible child molesters who deserve the harshest punishments we can throw at them. The argument goes that these policies are wrong because they lump the “innocent” in with the “guilty.”

    I disagree. I think many, if not most, sex offenders, actually *did* do something genuinely wrong, but still don’t deserve to be punished for life. Some, of course, do. But, a huge number of sex offenders are men like my husband: men who, in their 20s, committed a non-violent, non-forcible offense (either in “real life” or virtually) involving a willing post-pubescent teen (or an officer pretending to be one). That’s not okay. It should be a crime. But, it should not be a crime that you are never, ever allowed to move on from. The 22 year old guy who sleeps with a willing 15 year old, the 20 year old guy who has some nude pics of a 14 year old girl he met online, the 25 year old guy who engages in inappropriate conversations in an adult sex chat room with an adult officer who poses as a sexually-experienced 15 year old eager for a hook-up (as happened to my husband, with an officer who initiated conversations with him for months until he finally agreed to a meeting), the 26 year old assistant coach at a high school who begins a relationship with a senior on the team: these are people who did things that are wrong. They did things they should have not done. They did things we can rightfully condemn as a society and punish.

    However, treating these acts as the most heinous crimes imaginable, as crimes that a person should never be allowed to leave in their past, seems like an overreaction. We do not and should not treat every transgression as an ultimate transgression.

    The judge and prosecutor offered my husband a deal of two years probation, based on their assessment of the situation and evaluations by two psychiatrists. That is how serious they considered his offense, that it was worth a sentence of two years probation. His probation officer and the judge signed off on him having completed his sentence after 16 months. And yet, because of our state legislature, he has 25 years on the registry. He’s done almost half that time. At this point, over 12 years have passed since his offense, and a decade has passed since he successfully served out the punishment the court deemed appropriate for it. We have been very fortunate that he has remained employed and we have faced minimal harassment. He is now almost 40, the father of 4, and a very different person than he was at 25. (Aren’t we all, thank God?!) However, he will spend the rest of his life, until and unless the registry is abolished, waiting for the next shoe to drop. He is part of a class of citizens we have deemed it okay to discriminate against, in the most heavy-handed and blatant ways, and he knows that any law can be passed against him at any time. At any time, we could have to move because a new law makes our current housing illegal. At any time, he could lose his job because a new law, say, requires employers of sex offenders to put a sign on the window announcing such. At any time, he could no longer be allowed to legally offer a juice box to one of our kids’ friends (a few years ago, an MI lawmaker tried to pass a law making it a registry violation for an SO to give any food or drink to any child under 18). At any time, anything could happen. And, yes, most of those restrictions would likely be deemed unconstitutional at some point in the future, but in the meantime he would be committed a felony sex crime if he violated them (because registry violations are often considered new sex offenses).

    This is not okay. The farther out we get from his offense, the less okay it seems. If he had, 12 years ago, committed a carjacking of a woman and child, or an armed robbery, or at this point even voluntary manslaughter and today be out of prison and free to move on with his life, without notifications going out to neighbors every time he moved. I just personally don’t see how what he did was worse than committing a carjacking, armed robbery, or taking a person’s life, but according to our laws the people who committed those offenses do not have to belong to a class of individuals who can be discriminated against at the whim of lawmakers (as it should be! they SHOULD be free to move on with their lives and have a second chance!) while my husband is.

    We have to move beyond a “Yes, but” conversation about sex offenses. “Yes, maybe these laws are overreaching, but what these people did was wrong!” Yes, most sex offenders did something wrong. Agreed. But, that doesn’t mean that it is okay to throw whatever laws we want at them, for the rest of their lives. We already have a number of options for dealing with people who commit sex crimes–or any crime–who we think pose a serious risk of reoffense. Many sex offenders who commit forcible offenses against minors or offenses against those under 13 end up on lifetime supervision, which means that even after they get our of prison, they will be under the supervision of a PO and have restrictions on where they can live, where they can go, and who they can be around (including being barred from ever being around minors without a trained monitor, if at all). Some SOs who are considered high-risk can be electronically monitored long-term. And, of course, international travel can be banned for life for anybody who has been convicted of child sex tourism or trafficking.

    What this law will do is create one more barrier for those who once committed a sex crime but have been deemed to have successfully completed a legal punishment and ready to reintegrate into society from doing so. Thank God more and more people are realizing this is not okay. In many ways, I think our SO hysteria has and continues to sow the seeds of its own destruction: law enforcement has become so overzealous, especially about internet crimes and going after teens and young adults, that soon nearly everybody will know somebody on the registry they think doesn’t belong there, and that will cause them to question these policies.

  5. oncefallendotcom February 4, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

    On 2/1/16, the CONTROVERSIAL International Megan’s Law passed via the equally controversial “suspension of the rules.” This must NOT become law! IML as written will place a “unique identifier” on the passports of ALL registered citizens and will establish a new bureaucracy for expanded government control.

    International Megan’s Law is an attempt at imposing the American way of thinking on the rest of the world, an act of arrogance that will lead to disastrous results if implemented. IML will attempt to force other nations to create a registry and raise the age of consent to conform to the American standards. This is a blatant violation of international law and a show of contempt for the governments of all nations who do not maintain close ties to the US.

    Victim industry advocates have tried to justify International Megan’s Law using anecdotal examples, assumptions, unsourced statistics and non sequiturs to attempt to justify this bad piece of legislation. In reality, various government agencies have reported they have found very few examples of actual sex tourism, and even fewer examples of sex tourism from a registered citizen. It is estimated only about 10 convictions a year occur from Americans engaging in sex tourism annually. The GAO, the US Dept. of Justice, ICE, and the now defunct NDIC have all stated they have found few, if any, examples of Americans traveling abroad specifically to engage in sex tourism or sex trafficking. Key researchers studying sex crimes have repeatedly warned their own research or the research of others have been misinterpreted or distorted by those trying to promote human sex trafficking as America’s next social panic.

    International Megan’s Law will be a costly and ineffective measure. It will cost millions just to establish a new bureaucratic agency and to revise the passports of registered citizens. It will cost millions more to enforce the various proposed changes to passports proposed by Congress. Passport limits run afoul of international law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), by interfering with the free movement of citizens. The ICCPR was signed, ratified, and enforced by the US. In addition, 22 U.S. Code § 217a has been narrowly tailored to limit passports only to those registrants convicted in a court of law for sex tourism, thus nullifying the perceived need to pass IML passport provisions. As previously noted, very few cases of sex tourism/ trafficking are confirmed by government agencies, so the cost of investigating and prosecuting a mere handful of cases do not justify the need for a new bureaucracy, especially if the SMART office is passing IML notification provisions without the authorization of Congress.

    The proposal to mark the passports of registered citizens is unprecedented in American history and is offensive enough that even mass media have made parallels between International Megan’s Law and Nazi law. In 1938, the Nazi government required all Jews to surrender their passports and have new passports issued with a scarlet “J” stamped on them. If IML passes, registered citizens will be forced to surrender their passports and have new passports issued with a “unique identifier” on them. In addition to the obvious parallel to Nazi law, this practice will obviously lead to travel impediments and denials of entry across the globe for all registrants regardless of offense. This mark of infamy could potentially lead to travel problems domestically as states struggle to fall into compliance with the so-called “REAL ID” system and thus requiring passports to fly within the boundaries of the US. Furthermore, IML could have an effect described as “humiliating” and “devastating” for individuals whose passports may be falsely marked as belonging to a registered citizen and would lead to costly litigation.

    While certain provisions of IML imply that these provisions would be limited to “high risk/ interest” registrants, the harsh reality is this law will be applied to every registered citizen regardless of offense, even teens who engaged in consensual relations with other teens. The law is especially difficult for juveniles on the registry, who are assumed to be less likely to reoffend, more amenable to rehabilitation, and far less likely to become a “sex tourist.”

    Finally, International Megan’s Law violates a number of constitutional safeguards, including the 1st (freedom of association) and 14th (Due process) Amendments, as well as the Ex Post Facto clause. In addition, protecting the reputation of American travels and their privacy is of great governmental interest, especially given the attitude of much of the world regarding American tourists. Unconsidered in this report was the potential chilling effect IML could have on ALL American tourists as the US gains a reputation for being a country full of “sex traffickers.” International Megan’s Law will ultimately do far more harm than good, not just in regard to registered citizens, but for the reputation of this nation as well.

    For the full report and references for my assertions, go to http://www.oncefallen.com/internationalmeganslaw

  6. oncefallendotcom February 4, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

    Little typo– this must NOT become law.

    Long day.

  7. John February 4, 2016 at 12:40 pm #

    You know, if the sex offender registry we currently have in the United States was reasonable I MIGHT be for this law, but it’s not even close! If the sex offender registry only included people who abducted and raped kids, it might be a good idea to deny them travel to places such as Southeast Asia where child prostitution has been a problem in the past. But people on that registry because they got drunk and peed in public and people on that registry because they played doctor with a younger sibling when they were kids, are NOT sex traffickers!

    Of course, my conservative friends will vilify the LA Times for this article and they’ll decry the State Department as being a bastion of liberalism for the statement they made. But facts are facts and as bad as “Megan’s Law” is in this country, now we want to export it out to the whole world!

    Unfortunately, the American public does not care as the perception they have of a sex offender is a “child rapist” so most Americans will be for this law. With that being the case, any elected official opposing this law will be branded as somebody “who does not care about children”.

    So our country has no problem allowing murders and drug dealers who have served their time to travel to a foreign country but heaven forbid that somebody who peed in public or had sex with a 16-year-old girl when he was 20 should be allowed to travel to Thailand! Makes no legal sense.

    BUT, it’s all for the protection of children……sigh.

  8. That_Susan February 4, 2016 at 12:41 pm #

    Oh, I hope he vetoes it.

    On a somewhat similar though not exactly related note, my husband and I had a mild disagreement this morning over the murder of the 13-year-old girl committed by the Virginia Tech student. Dh felt that there needed to be stricter standards for social media. I pointed out that it’s possible that our own 15-year-old has conversed with somebody evil on the Internet. The reason this girl got murdered wasn’t that she had a conversation with an evil stranger on the Internet — it was because she snuck off to meet him and must have met him under conditions in which it was possible for him to murder her.

    So needless to say, this made me a victim-blamer (a term society is increasingly using to shut up anyone who has an alternate view of the current prevailing social narratives about our “danger-fraught” world). I really, really don’t like dissecting horrible crimes after they’ve happened to explore whether the victims made any wrong choices — but at the same time, it seems kind of dumb to lump all crime into the “random” category. It’s random (and, as we know, extremely rare) for a child who’s been taught safety rules and is comfortable walking to school on his or her own, to be forced into a car and abducted on the way to school. And yet, if such a crime happens, the public is all too ready to blame the parents and insist that no child should EVER be allowed to walk anywhere alone, ever again. This is as crazy as saying that you should never leave your house when it’s raining because of the random possibility of being struck by lighting.

    But when I hear about crimes like this murder, it seems totally preventable. A teen who wants to meet someone that she’s connected with on the Internet should be able to tell her parents about it, and have their help in meeting this person in a safe way. It’s very dangerous to sneak off to meet a complete stranger with NO ONE who cares about you even knowing that you’ve left the house. Criminals are much more likely to prey upon kids who will meet them “secretly” because they see a much greater likelihood of getting away with it, as no one will know where to look or whom to look for.

    So I get angry when people try to use horrible crimes like this as an excuse for trying to limit Internet freedom. I certainly “get” that this family is in heart-wrenching pain and will be for the rest of their lives, and I have no desire to twist the knife in their hearts by analyzing what happened in their daughter’s mind that made her think it was a good idea to sneak off to meet this guy with absolutely no safety backup…but, again, when people try to use this stuff to limit the freedoms of ALL teenagers, I feel compelled to say that I’m not worried because if my own teen meets someone she’d like to get to know better on a site like Tinder, she can tell us and we’ll take her to meet this person in a public place.

    I’m not saying that this gives us absolute protection against random, unpreventable events. And I also get that sometimes people take every precaution and still get murdered, by someone they really trusted. And sometimes people who are usually very smart make one not-so-smart choice. We’re not insured against any of this, but I still think it’s better to be free, and I also think the benefits of a free Internet outweigh the risks.

  9. That_Susan February 4, 2016 at 12:45 pm #

    anonymous mom, thank you so much for sharing your story! I agree that people like your husband should be able to move on.

  10. MichaelF February 4, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

    I’m not sure I agree with the double jeopardy bit, but it sounds like bad legislation where it is taking a specific class/group out for harsher treatment. Since the registry is already a blanket that covers more than it intends, there will be even more people who are subjected to ridiculous treatment because of previous bad legislation.

    Considering this sounds like something a Conservative majority would propose and pass, and hey they just happen to have a majority in Congress!! So, not surprised. It’s also timely that they have this happen in an election year, where once its vetoed then it can be used to say that certain people are not for the children. Or that certain people want to allow your children to be trafficked, or whatever. Good political football here…but I am cynical that way.

    I agree with the point though, once you begin to classify one group, its a short hop and skip to classifying EVERYONE!

  11. anonymous mom February 4, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

    @That_Susan, the more time passes, the easier it is to share. It just begins to seem more and more petty that these laws continue to affect us.

    This is pure speculation, but I wonder if the spectre of the registry is the cause of the horrible crime in VA. If this 18 year old had engaged in any sort of sexually-oriented chat with the 13yo on a teen dating site or dating app, that alone would be enough to get him charged with a felony sex offense and put on the registry, even if no pictures were exchanged and even if they never previously had real-life contact. He was an ambitious guy, and from what I’ve read he wanted to work in the military. A sex crime on his record would put an end to that. It doesn’t seem completely outside the realm of possibility that this girl (who may have been younger than he’d initially thought, or maybe not) began saying things that made him nervous she was going to expose their conversations, and he killed her to avoid being labelled a sex offender. Obviously murder is worse than a sex crime, but he would have been thinking that if he could kill her and get away with it, at least his future would be intact. That is no justification at all, but I have been thinking that could have been how it went down.

    I do worry about things like that happening more and more. I do worry that in wanting to highlight the very real injustices in our sex crime laws, we’ve presented the idea that being a sex offender is a fate worth than death and it’s worth it to do anything–maybe even killing a girl–to avoid it. Honestly, at this point, 99% of the time it’s not even on our radar. Most of our problems involve things like trying to find the baby’s shoe when church starts in 10 minutes or getting everybody to agree on what TV show they want to watch or stepping on Legos or having to figure out how to get the weeds to stop growing in our yard and the totally normal problems that other people have. We really can’t complain about much. 🙂

    But if our laws are creating situations where people have incentive to commit much more serious violent crimes in order to attempt to avoid the penalties involved with an internet sex crime, well, something has gone seriously, seriously wrong.

  12. That_Susan February 4, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

    anonymous mom, that could be a possible motive — but in this case, having looked at the little girl’s photo, she just looks like a cute, chubby-cheeked little kid, so it seems unlikely that he thought she was an older, experienced girl.

  13. anonymous mom February 4, 2016 at 2:30 pm #

    @James, you seem to still be at defending the registry. I’m not sure what about it being unfair seems so hard for you to get, but let me give a concrete example, which might help.

    Again, my husband was sentenced to 2 years probation for engaging in an explicit chat with an undercover officer posing as a minor in an adult sex chat room. During his actual sentencing, the prosecutor and judge both agreed to set aside several of the usual probation conditions for SOs, and the relevent one here is that, because he had recently become a new father and they did not feel he posed a risk to children, he was able to go to schools, parks, and playgrounds with his son. So, during his period of probation–when he was actually being punished by the state for a crime he committed!–he was allowed, with the blessing of the judge and prosecutor, to take his son to the park or drop him off at day care.

    However, years after my husband was off probation, state legislators passed harsher restrictions for SOs, including barring them from being in parks, playgrounds, or school property. So now, years after he had served his time, my husband was legally barred from doing things that he was allowed to do during his actual period of punishment. He could now be charged with a felony sex offense if he took our kids to a playground, even though, during his actual sentencing, the judge and prosecutor both agreed that was something he was allowed to do. He could be arrested and charged if he were to attend a school event or drop one of our kids off at school.

    This is why SO laws are wrong, and this is what SOs deal with every day. You can say that’s fine, they deserve it, if they didn’t want to pay the price they shouldn’t have committed the crime. But if that’s true, why isn’t it true for every crime? Why not say that we can decide, ten years after they served their time, that somebody convicted of a DUI in their college years can no longer drive with children in their car, ever? Because that is not and never has been how any fair justice system works. That people are, years after their crimes were committed and legal sentences fulfilled, saddled with more restrictions than their actual punishments entailed because of the whim of state legislatures should make everybody nervous and strike everybody as antithetical to a just society.

    @Susan, that is true. But, girls are very good at taking selfies, and 18 year old guys are not known for being the smartest, so I think it’s fully possible he could have thought he was talking to a 15 of 16 year old. Even if he believed otherwise, he could have been somebody who just engaged in a lot of explicit chats with people from teen dating sites he was on, thought it was harmless time-wasting with a 13yo who he’d never meet in real life anyway–not at all cool, of course–and then freaked out when he heard she was showing his picture to people and saying he was her boyfriend. Maybe not, of course. But, stranger things have happened.

  14. BL February 4, 2016 at 2:36 pm #

    “Again, my husband was sentenced to 2 years probation for engaging in an explicit chat with an undercover officer posing as a minor in an adult sex chat room.”

    That just floors me. Nobody even explicit-chatted a real minor, but it’s a crime. I wonder what percentage of these actually involve real children?

  15. Donna February 4, 2016 at 2:36 pm #

    I just don’t understand the point of this law at all. I would understand a law that prohibited convicted sex offenders from entering this country (I may not agree with it, but it at least makes some rational sense). I don’t understand trying to stop convicted sex offenders from leaving this country if they want to go. We are not the world’s policemen.

  16. James Pollock February 4, 2016 at 2:39 pm #

    “@James, you seem to still be at defending the registry”

    Um, sure, in the sense that I’ve never defended the registry. Do you have me confused with someone else?

  17. Warren February 4, 2016 at 2:45 pm #

    It seems like the State Dept. has a handle on this. So let’s hope Obama sides with those that have the facts, instead of those that are just preying on people’s fears and emotions, while looking for votes.

    Let’s face it the only ones this is going to affect and hurt are those that have been travelling for years, with no problems, never done anything. Now at any border they will be flagged and turned around. You know the man with his family that heads to some destination that they have been to before will now deny him and his family entrance.

    And someone recently told me the US is not paranoid. Guess again.

  18. Warren February 4, 2016 at 2:48 pm #

    James,
    It is easy for people to confuse where you stand on anything. Since you never actually take a stance, just argue crap to try and make yourself feel better. You do realize that this forum is not a real substitute for having actual people listen and put up with your bull?

  19. anonymous mom February 4, 2016 at 2:48 pm #

    @BL, our laws around internet sex crimes are insane, and internet sex crimes are the fastest-growing area of prosecution in the nation right now.

    For some perspective on this, in many states it is perfectly legal for a 22 year old to have sex with a 16 year old, but if they discuss having sex with that same 16 year old on their phone (a computer, gasp!), they have committed “internet luring” and will be charged with a felony sex offense and put on the registry. In that NH prep school rape case, what actually got the young man convicted on the registry was NOT the actual intercourse that occurred, but the texts he had sent her where they *planned* to have sex.

    The chat room stings seem to be dying down now, as they had begun to receive criticism as some journalists finally started to look into what was going on and expose that these are not officers going into children or even teen sites and “luring” innocent children but instead officers posing as sexually-aggressive post-pubescent teens in parts of the internet that are designated for people 18+ to go to meet other adults for sex, and that many times they will simply refuse to cut off contact with the target until the target agrees to plan a meeting. Still, I’ve followed these stings for the last decade, and I would venture to guess that we have tens of thousands of men on the sex offender registry in this country–many of them who were in their late teens or twenties at the time of their offense–for chat room stings involving officers who were in reality decades older than them pretending to be horny teen girls just a little below the age of consent.

    But, we are still left with a legal system that treats, in many cases, conversations that happen online as more serious than actual real-world sexual contact.

  20. That_Susan February 4, 2016 at 3:17 pm #

    anonymous mom, I can certainly buy that the alleged murderer from Virginia Tech may have been deceived into thinking that the girl was older; she probably sent him different selfies than the photos they’re showing on the news. But how many boys reach the age of 18 without realizing that young girls are GOING to brag to their friends about an older boyfriend? Still, the current legal responses to Internet chatting are way over-the-top.

    And that’s awful that your husband can’t even take your kids to the park! I hope society gets saner, and quickly!

  21. Donna February 4, 2016 at 3:28 pm #

    “And someone recently told me the US is not paranoid. Guess again.”

    This nothing to do with paranoia. It has everything to do with our blood thirst and insanely high levels of desire for retribution (not one of our better qualities as a country). We have no fear that a sex offender going to China is going to harm us in some way. We don’t give a damn what happens in other countries. We want to punish undesirables as much as we legally can.

  22. Warren February 4, 2016 at 3:43 pm #

    Donna,

    Again this is how the rest of the world sees the States. Going from NY to Penn. no one will see these passports. But they will have to be produced in every other country. Not just at the border, but in hotels, excursions and the like will all see that label.

  23. Donna February 4, 2016 at 3:49 pm #

    anon mom –

    The county I worked in as a public defender had one of those stings. I hated those cases. They are such entrapment.

    Most of our clients told us that they believed that the “girl” was over 18 and engaging in role play. They were in an 18+ chat room. They were shown a picture of a woman in her 20s. The “girl” was very sexually advanced, far beyond what you’d expect from a 15 year old. She wrote like an adult pretending to be a teen. I don’t know where they’d get the perception that she was over 18.

  24. Emily February 4, 2016 at 3:50 pm #

    >>For some perspective on this, in many states it is perfectly legal for a 22 year old to have sex with a 16 year old, but if they discuss having sex with that same 16 year old on their phone (a computer, gasp!), they have committed “internet luring” and will be charged with a felony sex offense and put on the registry. In that NH prep school rape case, what actually got the young man convicted on the registry was NOT the actual intercourse that occurred, but the texts he had sent her where they *planned* to have sex.<<

    @Anonymous Mom–Do you mean to say that a 22-year-old and a 16-year-old having unplanned sex is perfectly legal, but planning it over the phone or Internet is "luring?" What if they have limited chances to meet in person (for example, if one of them is away at university or something), and this "planning" consists of "I'm on the Pill, you get the condoms, and we've both tested negative for STD's, so we're safe?"; and mutual agreement? Without that planning, it might end up with mismatched expectations and assumptions, and disastrous results.

  25. Donna February 4, 2016 at 3:57 pm #

    “Again this is how the rest of the world sees the States.”

    I’m not sure where you get the idea that the US cares what the rest of the world thinks about the US.

    That said, if you or anyone else is reading this as paranoia, rather than blood lust, you have no common sense or knowledge of the US. If there is one thing that the US cares about less than what people outside of our borders think about us, it is what happens outside our borders. We don’t truly give a damn if our sex offenders are going around raping people left and right … as long as it isn’t happening here. We just like to brand as many people as evil as we can.

  26. James Pollock February 4, 2016 at 4:05 pm #

    “Do you mean to say that a 22-year-old and a 16-year-old having unplanned sex is perfectly legal, but planning it over the phone or Internet is “luring?””

    This is a result of mismatched state and federal laws. States are free to set the age of consent where they prefer. Most states choose 18, although all of the ones I’m familiar with have provisions for marriage before 18 with parental consent, and once married, age of consent laws are not applied.

    To the feds, however, all sorts of laws are applied to protect “minors”, and under federal law, minors are under 18. So, for example, in some states the age of consent is 16… two 16-year-olds can have sex. In other states, the age of consent is 18, but there’s a “Romeo and Juliet” provision that age of consent does not apply if the two are within some number of years in age, which again means that two 16-year-olds can have sex. But… if someone takes a picture of those two 16-year-olds legally having sex, they are child pornographers and subject to some significant prison time, under the federal child pornography statute. In fact, if the two 16-year-olds are married to each other, and take pictures of their honeymoon, intended for their own use only, they are child pornographers (to the feds).

  27. Papilio February 4, 2016 at 4:12 pm #

    This is actual quite the right moment for this bill, since Obama can do the right-but-unpopular thing now without worrying that he won’t be reelected…

    @Donna: “I don’t understand trying to stop convicted sex offenders from leaving this country if they want to go. We are not the world’s policemen.”

    No, but we know what goes on in, for example, Thailand in terms of child prostitution and Western pedophiles (and I don’t mean teens who had sex with slightly younger teens, I mean actual pedophiles), and we know that country absolutely isn’t capable of dealing with that problem. I can understand people not wanting those little Thai girls become the victim of that.
    But that’s a far more specific group of people on the registry and a far more specific type of country – no reason to ruin Anon Mom’s family trip to Canada.

    @Warren: Don’t be so harsh on poor James. Life must be so hard after his double hemispherectomy…

  28. James Pollock February 4, 2016 at 4:29 pm #

    “Don’t be so harsh on poor James. Life must be so hard after his double hemispherectomy…”

    On the other hand, NOW I understand what your life has always been like…

  29. Donna February 4, 2016 at 4:47 pm #

    Papilo –

    First, again, this law is not being proposed to protect little Thai girls. The US government couldn’t possibly care less about little Thai girls.

    Second, how exactly does it protect little Thai girls? It doesn’t, itself, prevent a single registered sex offender from going to Thailand. All it is is a notation on a passport. The Thai government can choose to ignore it. The Thai government has been unwilling or ineffective or a combo of both to protect little Thai girls so there is no reason to believe that it will act as a result of this. And there is certainly no reason to believe that Thai customs workers can’t be bought off.

    What will happen is anon mom will not be able to take that family vacation to Canada anymore, but the rabid pedophile will be able to easily buy his way into Thailand.

  30. Donald February 4, 2016 at 5:12 pm #

    The US is certainly doing some strange things. Some call it bloodlust. Others call it fear hysteria. I call it target fixation. There is no one word to describe it. The reason why I chose ‘target fixation’ is to describe how a person or a nation could become blind to anything else other than what they are focusing on. I bring up ‘the invisible gorilla’ experiment often. I also talk about how Mickey Mouse made the magic brooms carry water for him but was unable to make them stop. (like sex offender laws)

    This is the concept of my blog. The pages talk about different things. However the underlining message is target fixation. Some pages are about bureaucracy and the ‘automatic program’. Other pages talk about the brain and the automatic program of heartbeat or the negative self talk such as, “I’m worthless”

    http://www.onmysoapboxx.com/puppet

  31. Resident Iconoclast February 4, 2016 at 5:18 pm #

    Just watch. Representative Chris Smith will turn out to be the latest Eliot Spitzer. Smith wouldn’t be the first Republican, whose holier than thou ways turned into shame when his dalliances with the hookers, the pages, or the young children was revealed.

  32. Jason February 4, 2016 at 5:29 pm #

    I think the Canadian border authorities can already access at least some U.S. criminal records, because they routinely turn away visitors with even decades-old minor convictions. Other countries don’t have this access, so this law would provide information they can potentially use, if they want to.

    The U.S. *is* apparently interested in protecting little Thai girls, because the govt can arrest you for sex offenses you commit overseas when you return, even if they are legal in that country. I believe Australia has a similar law, aimed at discouraging sex tourism.

    While I certainly don’t approve of Anericans traveling overseas to have sex with kids or indulge in child porn, I worry about the slippery slope when a govt says that its citizens are bound by its laws no matter where they are in the world.

    If that is legally true, as determined by 9 robed elders, then there’s nothing to stop the the govt from prosecuting “underage” drinking, pot smoking, public nudity, consuming foie gras, etc.

  33. James Pollock February 4, 2016 at 5:50 pm #

    “If that is legally true, as determined by 9 robed elders’

    it is. The U.S. government has jurisdiction over what its citizens do anywhere in the world, and over anyone who enters U.S. territory.

    “there’s nothing to stop the the govt from prosecuting “underage” drinking, pot smoking, public nudity, consuming foie gras, etc.”
    Well, the real answer is, of course, amazingly complicated. Let’s poke into a couple of them, purely with regard to internal affairs. States, not the federal government, sets the drinking age (exceptions apply, but the federal government passed a law that says, basically, “the law on federal lands will be whatever the state decides”, so it used to be possible to drink legally on military bases at 18, but now it isn’t.
    The federal government decided that the drinking age should be 21. Can they just pass a law that says “the drinking age will now be 21”? No, because the Constitution divides power between the states and the federal government, and drinking age isn’t on the list of things the feds get to decide. So, the feds can’t force the states to raise the drinking age. But even if they can’t use the stick, they still have the carrot… raise the drinking age to 21, and we’ll pay for highway projects in your state. Leave it at less than 21, and we won’t. The states all chose to raise their drinking ages.
    Pot smoking is another interesting case, seeing as how some of the states have decided that maybe pot smoking by adults isn’t so bad (my state is one of them). However, pot is still considered an illegal substance by the federal government. So, at the same time, a state cop would look at someone’s pot farm and say “hmmm, good crop this year!” while the federal agent is trying to arrest you for producing a controlled substance.
    Now, for legal scholars, the question of whether or not the federal government has the authority to make pot illegal is one that has been assumed to be true, but… is actually on fairly shaky legal ground. The authority is derived from the “commerce clause” of the Constitution… the one that gives Congress authority to regulate commerce between states (fairly tiny back in the days of the Founders, much more common now, is interstate commerce. But… if the government says “it’s illegal to possess, distribute, or sell this item”, is it still regulating commerce? The Roberts Court, in general, would like to rein in commerce clause authority.)

  34. Jason February 4, 2016 at 6:06 pm #

    And if the federal govt can pass a law making it illegal to cross state lines for the purpose of having sex with a minor (e.g., traveling to a state with a lower age of consent), then they can make it illegal to travel abroad for the purpose of….

  35. David (Dhewco) February 4, 2016 at 6:08 pm #

    I doubt Obama will veto. I really do. It’s his last year in office and he wants to feel relevant. He’ll approve pretty much any law that crosses his desk, as long as it’s not repeals of other laws.

    Just my opinion

    David

  36. Warren February 4, 2016 at 9:00 pm #

    Donna,

    It is fear. Scared out of their wits that these “monsters” are not easily identifiable. This is not about anything more than shutting up all those paranoid people that want any and all sex offenders in prison for life, chemically or physically castrated, or put to death. And since this is not what is happening, because the system lets these monsters out, the public wants every possible ounce of protection from them.

    You know as well as I do, that most people think the people on the registry are monsters, that can never be “cured”, and will continue to commit sex offences. And it scares the crap out of them. I am sure that some time soon offenders will be implanted with chips, so that the app on your freaking phone will tell you how many, who and what their crime was, are within 50 m of you.

    The American public is scared of so much. Why do you think a snake oil salesman is so popular as a Presidential candidate? Because he is playing on everyone’s fears.

  37. snow February 4, 2016 at 10:21 pm #

    There are already countries that refuse entry to people with criminal convictions that involve imprisonment over some fairly short length of time or for some specific crimes, UK and Australia spring to mind but there are others, too.

  38. James Pollock February 4, 2016 at 11:11 pm #

    “There are already countries that refuse entry to people with criminal convictions…”

    And? Should they not get to decide who comes into their country, and who does not?

  39. Warren February 5, 2016 at 1:07 am #

    James,

    Your last repeat and comment was absolutely pointless and needless. Are you really that lonely, that you have to post nonsense like that? Pathetic.

  40. Donna February 5, 2016 at 8:18 am #

    Warren,

    Maybe you should accept that an actual American knows a little more about the American mentality than a Canadian. I work in the criminal justice system in America. This has absolutely nothing to do with fear. None of it does. Fear is not motivating the US criminal justice system. Retribution is the sole motivator.

    “This is not about anything more than shutting up all those paranoid people that want any and all sex offenders in prison for life, chemically or physically castrated, or put to death.”

    Absolutely, but it is not paranoia and fear that drives that desire. It is blood thirst. We want people to pay for crimes forever. Not because we fear them, but because it makes us happy. It makes us feel better about ourselves to believe that other people are evil and we are good. The less moral we are as people, the MORE we want to see all the “evil” people rot in jail and die painful deaths, hence the reason that the most vocal tough-on-crime and anti-welfare people tend to be just a step or two above that level themselves. It is just a less bloody form of watching gladiators fight to the death.

  41. David (Dhewco) February 5, 2016 at 8:19 am #

    I think Warren and James should get a room…or a boxing

  42. David (Dhewco) February 5, 2016 at 8:20 am #

    …ring. Oh, for an edit

  43. James Pollock February 5, 2016 at 8:26 am #

    “I think Warren and James should get a room…or a boxing”

    And why is this?

  44. Donna February 5, 2016 at 8:26 am #

    “The U.S. *is* apparently interested in protecting little Thai girls, because the govt can arrest you for sex offenses you commit overseas when you return, even if they are legal in that country.”

    That has nothing to do with Thai girls. We don’t care about them. If we cared about the Thai girls, we would help the Thai girls themselves.

    We care about the fact that a pedophile has now been identified and we can throw him in jail. We care about American citizens and believe that a man who will sleep with children in Thailand is a danger to children in America.

  45. common sense February 5, 2016 at 9:11 am #

    first they marked the SO and I didn’t fight because I wasn’t one. then they marked the thieves and I didn’t fight because I wasn’t one. then they marked the dui s and I didn’t fight because I wasn’t one. then they marked those who spoke out against the government and nobody fought because no one was left to. can you spell slippery slope?

  46. Warren February 5, 2016 at 9:12 am #

    Donna,

    The US doesn’t care how the rest of the world perceives them? That is the arrogance and ignorance of the US that has and will continue to create problems for them. Hell, you sound just like Trump.

    David,

    I would welcome the opportunity to get him in a ring.

  47. Donna February 5, 2016 at 10:57 am #

    “The US doesn’t care how the rest of the world perceives them? That is the arrogance and ignorance of the US that has and will continue to create problems for them.”

    I agree completely, but that is a totally different discussion. And by that statement, I didn’t actually mean necessarily that the US citizens don’t care. I mean the US government doesn’t care. Many US citizens do care, both about how other countries perceive us and what is going on in other countries.

    But back to the fear issue, there is some fear at play in these laws, but not the fear that you are thinking. It is not a fear of the pedophiles that drives this; it is a fear of things being out of our control. The western world, with America leading the pack, has a real fear of the realities that (a) life is random, (b) other people, even our own children, have minds and wills of their own and (c) bad things sometimes happen to good people. There is a belief that every outcome is within our control if we just try to control it. They teach us that from birth in America. “You control your destiny.” “Anyone can be anything they want if they just try hard enough.” So if we could just get all child molesters on a list, child molestation would stop. If adults watch children, nothing bad will happen to them. If we punish sexting, our teens will stop wanting to do it. And we tend to react in super harsh fashion when life doesn’t meet those expectations – ie the thing we want to prevent happens anyway. We then have to view it as the failure of the person, not that we really have no control because if we have no control, then we have to accept that this bad thing could happen again and to us.

  48. Warren February 5, 2016 at 1:23 pm #

    Donna,

    Control, yes that is what it is. You do know what that kind of control is? Fear.

  49. Donald February 5, 2016 at 4:04 pm #

    If a tree falls in a forrest, does anybody hear? That’s debatable. It all depends or your definition of sound and if it needs to be heard in order for it to be noise. What happens happens regardless of whatever we call it or however we define it.

    There is a big population and many are driven by different motivations. Donna, Warren, I think that you’re both right. Some are driven by blood thirst. Others are scared out of their wits. I also think I’m right. We passed sex offender laws. However when we ran out of good laws to pass, we kept going. We are not able to stop just like Mickey Mouse was unable to stop the brooms from bringing more water even though he was in danger of drowning! (mindless bureaucracy) Political grandstanding is another problem. As I said, there is no one word to describe it.

  50. Warren February 5, 2016 at 10:19 pm #

    Donald,

    You are right. One of the problems is that the public in general actually believes that you can “Stop” or “Put an end to….” rape, molesting, drugs, terrorism and so on.

    When anyone with half a brain knows that as long as humans exist none of this will ever stop. Humans are capable of such great brilliance, while at the same time capable of such great horrors.

  51. Donald February 5, 2016 at 11:02 pm #

    “When anyone with half a brain knows that as long as humans exist none of this will ever stop.”

    This is why I keep bringing up bureaucracy. When it’s allowed to swell to its extreme, it doesn’t have half a brain. A society where authority is given too much power, (such as a dictatorship) is catastrophic! However, a society where laws and regulations are so ridged that common sense cannot be used is equally as destructive! Either extreme is a disaster.

    I’m ecstatic to see that people high up in the government are starting to listen to Philip Howard

    http://www.commongood.org/

    Just like the free range movement, this is slow but it IS changing the world.

  52. anonymous mom February 6, 2016 at 3:07 am #

    @Emily, yes, that’s basically how it goes. It’s mostly because laws about computers and sex and minors are much newer, and therefore harsher, than older statutory laws. So, if you are 20, you can have sex with your 16 year old girlfriend totally legally, and touch her naked body as much as you want. But if you take a picture of her naked body–only for your own personal use, kept on your private phone or computer, with no intent to sell or share or show anybody, and entire with her permission–you are a child pornographer. In NH, where the prep school rape case took place, an 18 year old sleeping with a 15 year old was a misdemeanor that wouldn’t require sex offender registration but, as you note, planning on using birth control for that sexual encounter via text would be a felony sex offense that does require registration. It’s an upside-down world of sex crime laws here.

    @Donna: “Most of our clients told us that they believed that the “girl” was over 18 and engaging in role play. They were in an 18+ chat room. They were shown a picture of a woman in her 20s. The “girl” was very sexually advanced, far beyond what you’d expect from a 15 year old. She wrote like an adult pretending to be a teen. I don’t know where they’d get the perception that she was over 18.”

    I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a website to post the actual transcripts of these stings, if I could find men willing to share them. I have read through all the transcripts of the chats the prosecution used in my husband’s case, and it was honestly insane. Aside from, at one point, claiming to be “15,” nothing else about the “girl” indicated she was a minor, much less a child. She claimed to have been very sexually experienced. At no point did she bring up school, homework, friends, typical teen interests or hobbies, parents, curfews, or anything that might set off a red flat. The officer tried three times previously to set up meetings with my husband, before he agreed to one, and this “child” who was too young for a license was supposed to be able to show up at places all over her county, that doesn’t have good public transit, on her own during school hours. At one point, she urged my husband to “be a man” and turn the conversation toward explicit talk, and the bulk of the conversation was the officer (who had exchanged head shots–nothing explicit–with my husband) telling my husband how hot he was and how much she wanted to meet him and how disappointed she’d be if she couldn’t. At more than one point my husband expressed that he thought this person was a cop. He thought it was a game, because he was an idiot, but certainly not an idiot who should be on a registry for 25 years.

    How these things stand up in court, I have no idea. I will say that, if anybody has an actual 15 year old daughter going into adult chat rooms and conducting herself like that, “internet predators” are probably the least of her problems.

  53. sexhysteria February 6, 2016 at 3:30 am #

    Aren’t the supporters confusing sex trafficking with sex tourism? Sounds to me like a sneaky way to shame other countries into losing much-needed tourist dollars.

  54. Linda Ronstadt February 7, 2016 at 2:46 am #

    If whizzing in public qualifies as a sex crime, then dudes like Jeffrey Epstein and Don Simpson should get the electric chair.