Internet’s dark side

The Internet is a tremendous advancement for good, leading to an explosion of information and helping fuel democratic uprisings in other countries. But it also can be used for evil, as Barry Grissom, the U.S. attorney for Kansas, told The Eagle editorial board.

The Internet has facilitated an exponential growth in the exploitation of children. The extent and horrific nature of this abuse stunned Grissom when he was appointed to his job in 2010.

Grissom’s staff has to review pictures and videos as it prepares for cases and pursues criminals. This includes images of 2-year-old children being raped.

But even worse than the images are the sounds of children screaming.

“Once you have heard it, it will never leave you,” Grissom said.

Many of the images are sent electronically from overseas through person-to-person file sharing, which makes the criminals difficult to catch. But sometimes law enforcement officers in this country or overseas seize a computer and alert local officials that files were sent to computers in the area.

That’s what led to the capture of a school bus driver from Wichita who had more than 3 million images of child pornography on his computer.

Contrary to the recent claim by GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum, combating pornography is a major focus of the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s also a priority of Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt and local law enforcement.

Wichita and Sedgwick County have a task force that targets Internet crimes against children. When updating the Sedgwick County Commission last year about the task force, Sheriff Robert Hinshaw said that about 1,800 identified child pornographic images had been exchanged over the Internet in the county during the previous 30 days.

But what’s discouraging is that even with this determined work, law enforcement can’t keep up with the amount of crime occurring. And it’s getting worse.

On other topics:

•  Grissom said that the abuse of prescription drugs is the biggest drug problem today. He said young people are becoming addicted to pain pills that they take from their parents’ and grandparents’ medicine cabinets. Many of them eventually switch to drugs like heroin, he said.

•  “Things are in the works” regarding the state’s waiting lists for services for Kansans with disabilities, Grissom said. Officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently met with state officials about the waiting lists, which appear to be a civil rights violation.

•  Grissom said he has seen statistics from Secretary of State Kris Kobach, and “voting fraud doesn’t exist.” He said there are a few voting inaccuracies, but the perception, flamed by Kobach, that there is an army of folks who are committing voting fraud is not correct. Big surprise.

For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee