Eric Holder was confronted with this news immediately upon arriving at the Justice Department. On Capitol Hill, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) pressured him publicly and repeatedly to take bold action, which he vowed to do.
Privately, my organization, PROTECT, began briefing President-elect Obama’s transition team on the urgent need to take action on child rescues even before the inauguration. Throughout 2009, we held face-to-face meetings with officials all the way up the chain of command, ending with a half-hour meeting with Holder and his staff. From the Adam Walsh Act requirements to the law enforcement maps, he was fully briefed and knew lives were at stake.
One of our consistent requests to the Holder Justice Department was that they at least ask Congress for the full funding authorized under the PROTECT Act of 2008 for law enforcement. It was hard to convince Congress of the urgent need for child rescue funding, we explained, when the administration didn’t even care enough to ask for it.
Two years and three budgets later, it’s clear Eric Holder will not take action on these atrocities until he is forced to do so politically, and it’s long past time for Congress to do just that. There should be no excuses for a government that has the means to protect children from predation and exploitation, yet refuses to do so.
Congress needs to fully investigate what the Justice Department knew and when it knew it. It needs a full accounting of what evidence resides in Justice Department-sponsored databases that could locate both child predators and their victims. It needs to demand that the full resources of the federal government are immediately deployed for child rescue in every community across the U.S.
Every child victim who has been, or can be, identified should be brought to safety now, before they come to further, grievous harm.
Grier Weeks is Executive Director of the National Association to Protect Children. He testified before Congress on child exploitation in 2006, 2007 and 2008.