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Jeff Sessions Says Social Media, Encrypted Apps Hamper War on 'Modern Slavery'

These are the tools of pornographers, "sextortionists," and human traffickers, Sessions told a police conference this week.

ERIK S. LESSER/EPA/NewscomERIK S. LESSER/EPA/NewscomU.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told a gathering of more than 1,500 federal, state, and local law enforcement agents that he was ready to follow President Donald Trump's orders and "make our country safe again." For Sessions, that entails "mak[ing] the fight against child exploitation and human trafficking a top priority."

Both were major priorities for the Obama-era Department of Justice and FBI too, so Sessions' bluster is based on a bit of a false premise. But what difference does it make—prioritizing the protection of children and trafficking-victims can't be a bad thing, right?

Alas: When it's done by the likes of the Justice Department, it can be. Beyond all the big talk about saving kids, the agency actually allocates most of its anti-exploitation agenda to arresting adult sex workers and snagging people in stings that involve no actual victims. That is, when it's not aiding in the arrests of exploited children themselves. If Sessions' June 6 speech—closing the National Law Enforcement Training on Child Exploitation meeting in Atlanta—signals greater federal investment in status-quo solutions, expect to see even more "human trafficking stings" targeting adults engaged in prostitution, immigrants eligible for deportation, and asset-heavy escort-advertising sites, as well as any broader civil liberties they can plausibly grab along the way.

In Atlanta, Sessions warned of the dangers of "emerging technologies," encrypted-communication platforms, social-networking sites, and "the so-called Darknet." These, he declared, are the tools of such "depraved people" as "child pornographers, sextortionists, and human traffickers."

"We need to help our fellow citizens know what to watch for, and encourage them to tell us when they see something troubling," Sessions urged. "Nothing less than a united effort will be enough to keep our children from becoming victims of exploitation."

Sessions finished his speech by presenting a video on "the importance of recognizing the signs of child sex-trafficking and reporting suspected crimes." It featured the tagline: "Modern day slavery exists. If you see it, report it." Even the aggressively neutral Politico couldn't avoid making drug war comparisons, describing the video as "hearkening back to the D.A.R.E era" with its "hyperbolic language" and its portrait of "a slippery slope of behavior leading to irrevocable consequences."

The idea that every American child is just one smartphone app away from being snatched into sex slavery is absurd, and it bears no relationship to what both anecdotes and data tell us about such matters. But it does make a nice narrative if you want to wage war on pesky encrypted technologies that thwart all sorts of investigators; or to insert more Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security, and FBI agents into community policing; or to get everyone from flight attendants to truck drivers telling federal agents about anyone "suspicious"; or to ensure the continued relevance of an agency whose drug-war glory days are behind it.

As Reason's Matt Welch pointed out in January, the Sessions confirmation hearing featured no lack of hysteria about human trafficking. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) began her interrogation by asking about sex trafficking, which she called the second-largest criminal industry in America—a "factually insane claim that will probably give [Sessions] more power," Welch noted:

In order for "human sex trafficking" to be the second largest criminal industry in the United States, it would at minimum need to supplant illegal narcotics (roughly $100 billion a year, according to a 2014 Rand Corp. estimate), or Medicare fraud (in the ballpark of $60 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office in 2015). So distant is reality from those numbers that even the commonly cited figure of $9.8 billion a year for all trafficking — and keep in mind that human smuggling dwarfs sex trafficking — was given "four Pinocchios" by Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler.

Senators at the confirmation hearing also grilled Sessions on whether pornography is a public health crisis and how open he is to aggressive use of obscenity laws.

Photo Credit: ERIK S. LESSER/EPA/Newscom

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  • Citizen X - #6||

    The #PIZZAGATE hashtag on the video is a nice touch.

  • Elizabeth Nolan Brown||

    It was the only one I could find!

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Admit it, you're just trying to win over Simple Mikey. Well, give it up - that's a man who regularly knocks himself unconscious trying to fight his reflection in hubcaps and other shiny objects.

  • timbo||

    It seems rather obvious that the path towards ridiculousness will not be altered in any way during trump's tenure.

    He has some guys that love a good boogeyman and wars so that level of idiocy will not be curbed. Sessions sounds as idiotic as the left maniacs and their fear mongering.

    If his agenda continues to fail, his apologists and minions will jump on board with every single moronic meme and crazy assertion to change the subject and distract from the real problems.

    Obama's scheme proved all to well that a little sleight of hand is all you need to get americans freaking out about silly bullshit while the media perpetuates the nonsense.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Jeff Sessions, eat a fucking dick and die.

  • Johnimo||

    How about just "die"? What's your obsession with the "eat a fucking dick." LOL

  • simplybe||

    If you want to make America safe again start arresting corrupt politicians and Wall Street bankers instead of making taxpayers pay for there corruption. But that is exactly why they put corrupt politicians in cabinet post to protect the other corrupt politicians. A kid grows a illegal plant for personal use and gets 20 years. A President father in law steal 300 million and gets a 30 million fine and told don't get caught again.

  • Libertarian||

    Okay, that's the last straw. I'm taking guitar lessons and forming a band called "The Sextortionists."

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Dibs on #1 fanboy

  • Libertarian||

    It won't be that kind of a band. I'm thinking that we'll ironically do Perry Como and Pat Boone covers.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    Either way you'll need a guitar as sexy as Prince's to make it work.

  • Johnimo||

    "Moon River"?

  • BYODB||


    In Atlanta, Sessions warned of the dangers of "emerging technologies," encrypted-communication platforms, social-networking sites, and "the so-called Darknet." These, he declared, are the tools of such "depraved people" as "child pornographers, sextortionists, and human traffickers."


    While that may be true, it's also the tool of people who just want to be left the hell alone. Of course, the government will never be able to keep up with technological innovation so their inevitable and consistent response is 'we need to control everything' rather than 'we can't keep up with everything so maybe we should focus on crime with a actual victim'.


    Sessions is apparently a guy who believes in thought-crime. No surprise there.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    All these threats and pressure will just make mesh networks and private DNS servers become common sooner. It sucks that government wants to do this, but coercive government always works this way, it's inevitable, and it sucks in every other aspect of life it intrudes in, so no big deal in the end.

    I bet within ten years, a dark mesh net will be more common than VPNs today, within 20 years, mesh nets will be ubiquitous, and within 50 years today's nets will be obsolete and quaint. At that point, jamming will be their only recourse, and that will be impossible withotu shutting down the economy.

  • BYODB||

    VPN's are already ubiquitous, although as far as I'm aware they're mostly used to get around geofencing for various applications (gaming, for instance.)

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    I mean among the general populace. Most people don't know what they are, let alone use them.

    My prediction is that within 20 years, a lot of equipment will be mesh net as standard and most people will only know it as a marketing buzzword, if at all. Another Wifi type to go along with a b g n x y z.

  • Half-Virtue, Half-Vice||

    I don't know which classic Nazi figure Jeff Sessions is most like, but he definitely parallels someone.

    You got Trump, who is literally Hitler, off doing is own mad schemes, speeches, and curve balls; but the moment Old Jeff here got appointed he did a 'sieg heil' and hit the ground running. And he's not going to stop until Berlin falls.

  • Libertarian||

    I don't want to holiday in the sun.

  • Fascist loofa-faced shitgibbon||

    Sessions reminds me of the creepy Nazi in the first Indiana Jones, the one whose face melted off when the opened the ark.

  • gaoxiaen||

    He deserves a swastika carved on his forehead. Or better yet, an encounter with the Bear Jew.

  • BYODB||

    If the law of the land wasn't what it is, then Sessions wouldn't have the power to do what he does. Calling him out specifically for being a mendacious fuckwit, which may be true, isn't that helpful when the law is the problem.


    Of course, the law doesn't tend to slow an AG's roll. RE: Holder and the Fast & Furious operation et cetera. That would seem to have been illegal at face value, but somehow since it was the government it was 'no big deal'.


    I'm curious to see what actions Sessions takes in that regard. Will he be limited by the law, or like the previous administration will the law cease to exist? That's actually the more important question than is Sessions going after drug offenders or prostitutes, who are quite definitely violating Federal and/or State law. At least in my opinion, that is.

  • Fascist loofa-faced shitgibbon||

    Not exactly.

    It's not a problem that Slavery is illegal, or kidnapping, or sexual assualt, or pedophilia, etc.

    The problem is that these terms are lumped in with any sex commerce under the heading of "human trafficking".

    That allows LE to make stupid claims like there are "10's of thousands of human trafficking arrests made", or "human trafficking is an epidemic occurring in every town and city in the nation", etc.

  • BYODB||

    They can claim whatever they want, the fact of the matter is that under either definition those things are still 'illegal' whether or not they lump them in together or carve them out separately.

    It would appear that what people take umbrage with here is the verbiage instead of the crimes, somehow, which is a little perplexing.

    Their appeal is for greater powers to investigate those crimes, which are crimes, based on that categorization but regardless of how they categorize those crimes they are still crimes. They could realistically call them all sex crimes as well, which I've heard before with the same underpinning arguments.

    That can certainly be a problem if those greater powers are granted, for sure, but do we really see such powers being granted with our current Congress? Doubtful. That part of things isn't under the Executive, thus the AG's, purview.

    My question to Sessions would be if they plan to actually follow the law. This is a good question to ask since the previous administration did not limit themselves to what was technically legal which sets the precedent that perhaps the AG does not need to follow the law at all.

  • Tionico||

    so WHY is prostitution illegal? Did not SCOTUS declare, in the Lawrence decision, that "morality" cannot be used as a basis for law? What we have here is conduct between consenting adults. Some physical, some monetary. Some flip hamburgers for a paycheck. Others, well, they do other things for money. What, does Sessions have a problem with this sort of transaction because it is "off books" and FedGov can't track, er, squeeze me, tax it? Seems likely. WHY does government insist on declaring certain activities that have no victim to be illegal, and then spend billions in taxbux to find (or manufacture) violations of that law, arrest, process through the courts, then either fine or jail them? Just learned yesterday that the annual cost per prisoner in California is a touch north of $70K per year.

    Yes, when minor children are caught up in it, or some creep has his female "livestock" chained or locked up, that IS slavery and should be dealt with. But how common is that, REALLY? Not very..... mosst seems to be a figment of some perverted imagination looking for excuses to increase his operating budget. So, WHO really is the slave?

  • Hank Phillips||

    Goebbels, definitely, down to the IQ and stature. Goebbels published "Michael" in 1929. It's the story of an humble Christian war veteran trying to get on with life after the Great Disappointment of 1919 and finding comfort in the bosom of a corpulent, submissive blonde. Instead of kids texting selfies or munchie-seeking hippies, the meek hero is surrounded by Selfish Jews. But the general mood of long-suffering altruistic resentment is the leitmotif for the whole mawkish tale. "While the soldiers of the Great War risked their lives to protect their homeland, and two million bled to death, the profiteers minted gold from the noble red fluid." That was found opening at random to p114. The moral: "Socialism means: I believe in work."

  • Jury Nullification||

    Hey Half-douche,Half-bag,

    You obviously do not understand the definition of "literally."
    Go over to your shelf of Nazi figurines and give it another shot since your set on manufacturing a Nazi link. Reserve Goebbels for yourself as you are literally an unofficial minister of propaganda.

  • Jury Nullification||

    Or you can settle for grammar Nazi and criticize "your" for "you're"

  • Fascist loofa-faced shitgibbon||

    "the fight against child exploitation and human trafficking a top priority.""

    Something tells me it's going to enter the LE black box sounding like that, and come out completely differently.

  • Palin's Buttplug||

    Sessions will head the new Ministry of Truth and Purity soon.

    The Con Man spoke to the 'Faith and Freedom' little fascist club today. MAKE AMERICA PURE AGAIN!

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Make Shreek Pay His Bet Again!

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Jeff Sessions Says Social Media, Encrypted Apps Hamper War on 'Modern Slavery'

    Hate to break it to Sessions, but there's only one set of entities that uses violence to lay claim to the fruits of my labor, and he's part of it.

  • Hank Phillips||

    It is kinda creepy to know this is still a lever looters can pull and out pops a gang of men with guns and badges. The old surrender documents the US accepted in lieu of the Treaty of Versailles (and that treaty itself) all contained "package-dealing" clauses in which "traffic" (bad trade) in some drugs (identified elsewhere) is bound hand and foot to "traffic in women and children"--widely practiced in China under pressure of British Opium Wars, and in the Ottoman Empire (to say nothing of Rudolph Valentino movies). There is no better evidence of a Stone Age Religion mindset persisting--like mohammedan Sharia law--into a civilized era in which electricity is generated in reactors that burn rocks.

  • Dilligaf||

    "Modern day slavery exists. If you see it, report it."

    Uhmm, ..Yeah. We have already been doing this for years around here, Captain Obvious. What do you think all the timeless Libertarian rejoinders and catch phrases like "Fuck Off, Slaver!" are all about?

  • Dilligaf||

    What kind of a misanthropic half witted kind of a sub-moron would you have to be to conclude that things like stronger encryption encourage slavery?

  • Zeb||

    You know what else gets in the way of trying to fight sexual slavery and child exploitation?

    Investigating and punishing consenting adults who choose to work as or hire prostitutes.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Sure, but it's a super easy way to pad your stats when there aren't any sex slaves or exploited children around. If in the process some of your officers get they dicks wet, well, that's just a sacrifice they must make in the line of duty.

  • Bgoptmst||

    The irony of this all is that the more the Feds try and crack down on peoples cyber lives the more innovation that will happen.

    This is like big music going after Napster. We can get more free stuff via torrents and file sharing services because of Napster being blown up (second, third order effects) then we would of had they left it alone or marketed it (ie: what Apple did with ITunes).

  • josh||

    Yes, freedom makes it more difficult to catch the bad guy.

    Sometimes it just has to play hard.

  • JuanQPublic||

    With everyone fixated on Trump/"Russia", Jeff Sessions continues his assault on the Constitution and individual sovereignty.

  • Tionico||

    Since when is it the responsibility of FedGov to "keep America safe"? The ONLY areas of "keeping America safe" listed in the duties assigned FedGov are two: One, a Navy to assure the safe passage of American vessels round the world, and to deal with piracy on the high seas; Two, to repel foreign invaders.

    Our Navy does a pretty good job of protecting American shipping, but adds to its list of operations the harrassing of various places round the world, playing warmonger far too often.

    To repel foreign invaders? Almost a joke. The previous admin seemed determined to flood our shores with various foreign invaders, and refuses to cooperate with immigration and visa regs.... the current one tries to do that but the remaining detritus from the former administration seems to have their mind made up the incoming flood of illegal aliens will continue, and haev blocked Trump's efforts to manage the influx to minimise the incursion of those bent upon our destruction.

    But Sessions seems to think entrapment of individuals engaging in victimless activity in private is going to "keep us safe".

  • Jay Dubya||

    Keeping adults from regularly masturbating or engaging in safe sex would be a public health crisis

  • swampwiz||

    I love how the SJWs claim that when a Super Bowl comes to town, 50K prostitutes are trafficked in. It's like almost every single Super Bowl attendee is there for the off-the-field action.

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