Molester grooms parents; DMCA impedes criminal investigation?

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The headline story in today's Delaware State News reported testimony in the trial of pediatrician Earl Bradley on two dozen counts of rape, sexual assault, and sexual exploitation of children. According to the story, much of the prosecution's evidence is digital video recovered from thumb drives and memory sticks. 86 victims appeared on the tapes, nearly all were toddlers.

Amid the news story's account of the horrific testimony by the detective who had to review the videos, two items stood out:

The first is a warning to all parents. Just as a molester will "groom" a potential victim to be unwary, trusting, and compliant to the molester's advances, this molester groomed the parents of his patients to see nothing suspicious in him being alone with their children for an extended period of time:

Detective Garland said several incidents caught on video illustrate "planning and grooming" by Bradley in order to commit the acts. For instance, giving popsicles and prizes, such as princess dolls and other toys, and keeping them in the basement as a reason to separate parent and child made those occurrences common at his practice.

"By normalizing it, you avoid objections. You have that whole grooming thing going on of parents," Detective Garland said.

I imagine some parents had qualms about their children going alone with the doctor, but perhaps they felt foolish, thinking it inconceivable that a trusted professional would harm their children.

Parents should never feel embarrassed about acting to protect their children against someone who seems to have harmful intentions, even if its only a hunch. You may be mistaken, but you can be firm but gracious, protecting your child unapologetically but
without causing embarrassment to someone whose intentions may truly be honorable.

I'm reminded of the leader (now former leader) of an activity for pre-teen and teenage children. At one event, I saw that he drove a windowless full-size van. As far as I knew, this man had no personal or professional reason to own such a vehicle. I wouldn't have let my child join the group if this man were still involved; happily, he left before any of my children were ready to participate.

The second item that stood out involved a hurdle that the investigators had to cross, an unnecessary hurdle.

Some of the sex acts on captured on video were stored in password-protected files with an encryption software program that posed a challenge to forensic investigators. Detective Garland said that upon learning that the manufacturer that created the software was no longer in business, investigators resorted to trolling "less than reputable" online sites that deal in pirated software to help crack the code.

Why isn't there a reputable company offering software to crack these password-protected files? Possibly because of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). The federal law, passed in 1998 without a roll call vote and signed by President Clinton, prohibits circumventing technological protections on software and media. The law has created a chilling effect, deterring software companies from providing consumers with the means to make fair use of the software and media they own. The U. S. Copyright Office has authorized some temporary exemptions to the law, but as far as I can tell (and I'm no expert) there is no exemption for reverse-engineering software owned by a defunct company.

While I support the right of Americans to use strong encryption (e.g. Pretty Good Privacy) so as to be "secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects," I don't see why we should make it hard for companies to replicate the functionality of obsolete programs. There's something wrong when a measure intended to protect movie studios works instead to protect child rapists.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 8, 2011 9:50 PM.

21st & Yale chase tied to Prue home invasion was the previous entry in this blog.

Walter Lewin, MIT physics professor, retires is the next entry in this blog.

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