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U.S. seeks world's help to fight Internet crime

Graphic December 3, 1997
Web posted at: 3:58 p.m. EST (2058 GMT)

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Clinton administration is inviting international law enforcement officials to a conference aimed at combating high-tech and international crime, including pornography on the Internet.

The Justice Department said the two-day meeting beginning next Wednesday will be the first of its kind to gather international authorities to assess ways countries can cooperate to locate criminals who use the Internet and other new technologies and to ensure that there are no safe havens for cybercriminals.

"The rapid and global growth of the Internet raises a host of complex issues involving criminal law enforcement that expand beyond national boundaries," Attorney General Janet Reno said Wednesday, addressing a conference on making the Internet a safer place for America's children.

The Justice Department said law enforcement officials from the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Italy, Canada, France and Russia will participate in next week's conference.

"When we meet, we will be talking about methods to locate and identify computer criminals so we can bring them to justice," Reno said. "Again and again, the message that we have had from law enforcement on the front lines of this effort is the problem of ... trying to locate where that hacker is ... or where that pornographer is."

Action on obscenity debated

The announcement comes one day after Vice President Al Gore announced a commitment from the online industry to report child pornography to law enforcement officials. The agreement to help enforce existing laws against child pornography involves industry groups covering 95 percent of home Internet users.


At Wednesday's session of the conference, Reno defended her department against critics who say it has not actively prosecuted anti-obscenity laws.

Between 1992 and 1996, the Justice Department increased its filings against child pornographers by 162 percent, she said.

Filings against people transporting minors with intent to engage in criminal sex increased by 263 percent, she added.

While some members of Congress favor extending some anti-child abuse laws to companies providing Internet or online access, others say they are concerned about overregulating the Internet.

Making law enforcers more computer savvy

Reno also said the Justice Department is expanding its computer training program to include joint training with industry representatives and local law enforcement.

"Law enforcement needs to know all it can about developments in Internet technology and in the online market industry," she said. "More in-depth training will foster cooperation and ensure that all investigations of cybercrime aimed at children are conducted using the most advanced techniques possible."

Reno also asked for continued cooperation in trying to enforce existing laws and to detect abuses against children as well as other criminal activities online.

"Instead of getting frustrated and saying ;that's just law enforcement, they don't understand our problems,' I appreciate your picking up the phone and calling me or writing me a letter and saying here's the problem" and here are some potential solutions, she said.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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