Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today gave the following statement on the House floor in support of the Targeting Child Predators Act (H.R. 883).

Chairman Goodlatte: Over the years, we as a society have made great strides in combating crimes against children.  As with many other crimes, however, law enforcement often struggles to keep pace with modern technology.  That is why H.R. 883, the Targeting Child Predators Act, is both an important and a timely piece of legislation.

While many of the bills we have discussed today have been aimed at prevention and punishment, H.R. 883 provides law enforcement with the tools necessary to stop ongoing abuse, occurring in real time, and to locate offenders.  Because of the severity of sex crimes committed against children, and the often-irreparable harm they cause, we must take steps to ensure that law enforcement has the ability to swiftly locate sexual predators.

In 1998, Congress recognized this urgency by passing the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act, which permitted the FBI to use administrative subpoenas in cases of child exploitation.  That legislation was intended to enhance the FBI’s ability to investigate online child exploitation offenses in an expeditious manner.  Administrative subpoenas are especially useful in child exploitation cases because they are not burdened with grand jury secrecy obligations, so the information may be shared among law enforcement to quickly locate offenders in emergency situations.

Under current law, the FBI is permitted to use an administrative subpoena to obtain non-content information from Internet service providers in child exploitation cases. H.R. 883 allows the government to prohibit the recipient of a subpoena from disclosing the existence of the subpoena, provided the government certifies there is reason to believe that disclosure may result in: endangerment to the life or physical safety of any person; flight to avoid prosecution; destruction of or tampering with evidence; or intimidation of potential witnesses.

Presently, if agents want to obtain this information with a non-disclosure provision, it must go through the courts, which, of course, defeats the purpose of a speedy mechanism to obtain non-content information.

Importantly, the bill contains a provision that allows a company in receipt of such a subpoena to insist that the government obtain a court order prohibiting the company from disclosing the subpoena to the target. Alternatively, the company may initiate such proceedings itself, in a relevant court, to challenge the nondisclosure requirement.

Mr. Speaker, a non-disclosure provision is vitally important in child exploitation cases.  If a bad guy who has taken a child knows that law enforcement is onto him, or is looking for him, what might he do to get away?  What might he do to that child?

H.R. 883 is an important bill, which promotes Congress’s original intent to ensure law enforcement has quick access to this information.  It is narrowly tailored to ensure that its provisions apply in cases where time is of the essence. And it provides a mechanism for companies to challenge the nondisclosure requirements.  I commend Mr. DeSantis for introducing this bill and I urge my colleagues to support it.

I reserve the balance of my time.

For more on the House Judiciary Committee’s work to protect children, click here.