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RAF MILDENHALL, ENGLAND — Two things link an airman at RAF Mildenhall, an Army officer at Würzburg, Germany, and a petty officer in Japan.

They were all deemed outstanding members of their services. And they were all convicted of viewing child pornography on the Internet.

Those two things, it seems, are not mutually exclusive.

“I’ve seen everywhere from 18-year-old airmen up to O-6s,” said Air Force Maj. Don Christensen, lead trial counsel for the Air Force in Europe, who has prosecuted several courts-martial involving the charge. “Some people have been [noncommissioned officers] of the year, [company grade officers] of the year.”

David Court, who has for many years defended military members in Europe from his office in Frankfurt, Germany, said his clients in child porn cases are not drooling fiends. Most of them, he said, were exemplary members of the military, well-respected and recipients of laudatory evaluations, “not anyone you would consider in any way perverted.”

According to federal law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, child pornography is defined as any visual depiction involving the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct, according to the Cornell University Legal Information Institute Web site.

Cases of military members viewing child pornography seem to have become more common in recent years. A search of this newspaper’s Web site resulted in 29 child pornography courts-martial reported in Europe and the Pacific region in the past three years.

The Army, Navy and Air Force declined to provide conviction rates for the crime.

Easier accessCourt and Guy Womack, another lawyer who defends military members from his office in Houston, said they’ve seen more of child porn cases in recent years.

Christensen, the military prosecutor, also said he has seen more cases of this type.

No one doubts the reason, either.

“I think there are more cases and I think that’s because of the accessibility to [child pornography] over the Internet,” Court said.

Military members have used credit cards to pay for access to child pornography Web sites. They’ve exchanged images through chat rooms. They’ve downloaded images onto discs at Internet cafes and viewed them on government computers.

Dr. Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the sexual and psychotherapy program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Cognitive Therapy, said the Internet has changed the dynamic of who consumes child pornography.

“It’s no longer in the shop in the bad part of town,” she said in a telephone interview. “It’s on your computer in your home. People who would not walk into a porn shop will walk into the Internet. Everybody can now get at this stuff.”

And it can be done anywhere. One sailor was convicted of downloading the porn on discs at Internet cafes during port calls and taking them back to his ship for viewing. A Missouri National Guard soldier was caught viewing child porn while serving in Kosovo.

Womack said, “I’ve had cases in Iraq where soldiers and Marines were accessing sites using government computers.”

Most of the time, he said, his clients were searching for adult pornography, which also is illegal on government computers.

“They would stumble into child pornography,” Womack said.

Christensen laughed when he was told of Womack’s words.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve seen those exact words. ‘I was on the Internet and I stumbled across these images,’” he said. “The guy may have 2,000 images [downloaded on his computer] and he stumbled on them.”

For many charged with the crime, their explanation begins with the phrase, “I was curious.”

“Unfortunately,” Court said, “curiosity is not a defense.”

Although conviction may seem a slam-dunk when the images are found on a computer, that’s not always the case.

For example, Womack has argued successfully on behalf of his clients in Iraq that someone either used their password to access the sites or the client simply forgot to sign off after using the computer.

“The problem with defending these cases is a jury can just disbelieve you,” he said. But, he added, he hasn’t lost a case from downrange using this argument.

Most panel members have been deployed and know there’s less control over computers in a deployed location.

Christensen said it is not always easy to convict despite the images being found on the computer.

“The most difficult ones are where we have only a few [child pornography] images and they are among thousands of adult pornography [pictures],” he said.

Going on the listConvicted offenders are tossed out of the military and can face jail time of up to 10 years. Perhaps most damaging, however, is the person’s name being added to a list of child sex offenders.

“That’s the way it is,” Womack said. “Virtually every state has it. Right or wrong, that’s the law.”

The law, he said, was meant to identify pedophiles. Viewing images of children on the Internet may not be legal or socially acceptable, but it is passive, he said. There’s no touching, no contact.

Court said putting the name on the sex offender’s list continues to punish the offenders after they’ve served their time.

“I don’t like the idea,” he said.

Christensen sees it differently.

He said child pornography is not a victimless crime, as some claim. Without the consumers of the product, there would be no need to create it.

Plus, he said, the images aren’t going away. He prosecuted a case involving images produced in the 1970s.

“For the rest of that girl’s life,” he said, “that picture is going to be floating around the Internet.”

‘No detox’ for addicts of child porn, doctor says

Viewing child pornography on the Internet can begin as a curiosity, but quickly become an addiction, said a therapist who has counseled many people who have compulsively viewed the illegal images.

Plus, the need for a fix rivals that of a drug addict’s need for cocaine or heroin, according to Dr. Mary Anne Layden, co-director of the sexual and psychotherapy program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Cognitive Therapy.

“The chance they’ll relapse is greater than with cocaine addicts,” Layden said.

The reason is the permanent imprint of an image left on the brain: A cokehead can be deprived of the drug, but a child pornography addict can forever recall particular photos that aroused him, she said.

“There’s no detox,” said Layden, who has testified before the U.S. Senate about the danger of Internet pornography addiction.

Layden, who spoke by telephone with Stars and Stripes, said people who view the child pornography commonly start out with adult pornography, but seek a different thrill as arousal becomes more difficult looking at pictures that become more familiar.

They then seek a new thrill, starting, perhaps with pictures of teens, but soon finding those old hat, as well, and eventually seeking pictures of children younger than 10.

Despite knowing it is wrong, the child porn consumers develop what she called “permission giving beliefs.” These beliefs, which are common in addicts and violent individuals, convince the person that their behavior is “normal, natural and doesn’t hurt anybody.”

One of the best sources for permission giving beliefs is pictures, she said. It creates an impression that other people are doing this and if the child in the photograph seems to enjoy it, there is no harm.

They refuse to realize, she said, “that someone is holding a gun on that kid.”

— Ron Jensen


Stripes in 7



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