Jewish World Review August 4, 2003 / 6 Menachem-Av, 5763

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Consumer Reports

Pull in the 'Net | Anything goes on the Internet these days, and the feds are clueless about controlling the raging high-tech crime wave and egregious privacy violations of every kind. Was anyone surprised when Web thugs revealed the name of the 19-year-old girl who was allegedly sexually assaulted by Kobe Bryant? Was anyone surprised that one Web site even printed bogus topless pictures of the young woman?

The harsh truth is that many lanes on the information highway have become dangerous back alleys of crime and corruption. Download these statistics:

  • The FBI says $455 million was reported stolen through computer scams in 2001.

  • The U.S. Internet fraud complaint center received documentation that $18 million was lost to fraudulent Net commerce in 2001.

  • Federal authorities believe more than 10,000 Web sites devoted to children pornography are operating worldwide.

  • And the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission prosecuted cases totaling $550 million in stock fraud also in 2001.

In addition, overseas pharmacy Web sites will send you illegal narcotics in the mail, and you can gamble away every cent you have with online bookies. The FBI's cyber crime caseload has increased 1,200 percent over the past five years.

Section 8 of the Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce. There is no question that cyber crime is exploding, and the FBI, with its mandate to protect us from terrorists, is simply outmoused. The USA needs a federal cyber police and special federal courts to deal with the avalanche of criminal activity and civil intrusion.

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Nobody really knows just how many people use the Internet, but estimates range up to 500 million people daily worldwide. And here in America, there is no single federal agency that keeps track of the crimes that occur everyday. Things are simply out of control.

This is a classic case of unintended consequences. The Net is an enormously powerful instrument that has improved all our lives. But it can also be used to hurt you. So where is the protection that our federal government is mandated to provide us? Benjamin Franklin had his hands full with a simple kite, what would he think now?

Because right now on the Net you can say anything you want about anybody, true or not. You can lie, cheat, steal, corrupt children, sell drugs, take bets, and send pornography and other offensive material. You can sell fake autographs and antiques. You can threaten people. And the odds of anything happening to you are infinitesimal. Al Capone would have loved the Net.

The argument against a cyber police is that "Big Brother" should not be watching what we do on our private machines. But these machines are not private once that send button is pushed. The Internet can quickly turn into a weapon and grievously hurt people. There must be consequences for those who break the law or practice defamation in cyber space.

So while Congress dithers around and the FBI is overwhelmed, the bad guys have new high-tech opportunities that even Fredo Corleone would have understood. The federal government is being outdueled by thugs and degenerates armed with computers and evil intentions. We need a powerful force to fight those evildoers, and we need it now.

Let cyber justice begin.

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JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author of the new book, "The No-Spin Zone: Confrontations with the Powerful and Famous in America" Comments by clicking here.

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© 2003 Creators Syndicate