December 22, 2021

Wyden, Padilla, Hassan, Feinstein, Gillibrand and Schatz Ask White House and DOJ to Reinvigorate Work to Prevent, Investigate and Prosecute the Sexual Exploitation of Children

With reports of child sexual abuse material online on the rise, Senators ask that the administration update national strategy to eradicate exploitation

Washington, D.C. – Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., with Sens. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, asked the Biden administration to take action to ensure a whole-of-government strategy to dismantle the scourge of commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC).

Despite cases of CSEC skyrocketing, the federal government’s strategy for years has been a patchwork of efforts – some statutorily required, some not. As part of this, the federal government operates numerous programs and initiatives to address human trafficking, with few focused solely on CSEC and addressing this pressing issue here at home.

The senators in their letter also highlighted that the Attorney General is statutorily required to file a “National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction” annually, in accordance with the Providing Resources, Officers, and Technology To Eradicate Cyber Threats to Our Children Act (PROTECT Our Children Act). Yet, the Trump administration failed to ever provide a report to Congress and did not prioritize efforts to combat this crisis and tackle its roots. Additionally, the Trump Department of Justice not only restricted the use of grant funding for survivors, but it also requested budget cuts for programs that do important work preventing and supporting victims of CSEC.

"The Biden administration has shown a commendable commitment to protecting our children. As such, we respectfully ask you to seize the opportunity to reinvigorate the Executive’s work to prevent, investigate and prosecute the scourge of CSEC. In doing so, we urge you to come into full compliance with the statutory requirements of the PROTECT Our Children Act without delay," the senators wrote to President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland. "Of course, the devastating human cost of this crisis demands action beyond the minimum required by law. To that end, we urge you to provide increased transparency, accountability and coordination within the federal government’s efforts to find and prosecute child predators, help protect and support their victims and prevent further harm to children."

The senators asked the Biden administration to take the following actions:

  • Submit to Congress a National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, for 2021 and subsequently on an annual basis;
  • Designate a senior official at the DOJ to be responsible for coordinating the development of the National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction; and
  • Prepare a report to identify investigative factors that reliably indicate whether a subject of an online child exploitation investigation poses a high risk of harm to children.
  • Complete a review of the numerous overlapping programs, task forces and organizations related to this effort in order to identify any gaps or unhelpful redundancy;
  • Establish an Office to Enforce and Protect Against Child Sexual Exploitation, within the Executive Office of the President, to direct and streamline the federal government’s national strategy and discrete efforts therein;
  • Combine the statutorily required National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction and the Obama administration’s Federal Strategic Action Plan, and publish an updated strategy within the next year;
  • Ensure thorough reporting to Congress is regularly completed to enable Congress to pass any necessary legislative action or appropriation nimbly in response to new data; and
  • Provide a report on the initiative established under Section 550D of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (P.L. 116–92) to enhance the capability of military criminal investigative organizations to prevent and combat child sexual exploitation.

Click here for the full letter.


Press Contact

Nicole L’Esperance (Wyden) 202-224-5244