“THE ‘SOMETHING’ I DIDN’T DO” by Tony Casson

“So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us.
We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!'”

2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT

“I am only one. But still, I am one. I cannot do everything. But still, I can
do something. I will not refuse to do the something I CAN do!” Helen Keller

I have used the words of Helen Keller a couple of times during the last few years in these Chronicles and in “TODAY IS….A Gift From God”. I do not believe that the words are simply words that look good on paper. I believe they provide a good reminder of what our obligation is to those around us, and to ourselves. They are a profound statement of how we should live our lives. Contained within those few, well-used words are instructions on how to help ourselves, for it is only by helping others that we can accomplish that. Found therein as well is encouragement that little things can make big differences and it is a reminder to never refuse to do the little things we are capable of doing. We are all more powerful than we think. We can all do SOMETHING.

I thought my relationship with God, which grows stronger each day, would help me to always DO the ‘something’ that I could do. I suffer no delusions of grandeur that include the notion these “Chronicles” have a wide-ranging audience and wield enormous influence that contributes mightily toward the betterment of the world in which we live. At the same time, I am aware that at least some of the words printed here over the last 3 1/2 years have done something positive; have changed the way some people think; have helped someone in some small way. I always remembered the story of the little girl throwing the starfish back into the sea, saving them, one by one. She couldn’t save them all, but she saved the ones she could. She did SOMETHING.

Unfortunately, I recently failed to do the ‘something’ I could do to reach out to another human being, and now that ‘something’ cannot be done as originally intended, because the individual in question committed suicide. While I certainly did not cause him to do what he did, I failed to do ‘something’ that possibly could have made a difference. It would be argued by some that the chances of my ‘something’ changing the outcome were slim, but when we do nothing, there is NO chance of change or affecting the outcome of ANY situation.

Ryan Loskarn was a long-time, dedicated employee for a well-known United States Senator. In fact, Ryan was Senator Lamar Alexander’s chief-of-staff when he was arrested in December for possession and distribution of child pornography. Of course, he was fired immediately upon being arrested and it is a relative certainty many of the people in Ryan’s address book quickly put as much distance as possible between themselves and Ryan. Ryan had been staying with his parents in Maryland awaiting resolution of his case when he apparently decided that taking his own life was the best way to resolve his situation.

The ‘something’ I was going to do was post an article here titled “FALLEN” which contained open letters for both Senator Alexander and for Ryan. Most of what was going to be printed had been written. All that needed was for things to be ‘tidied up’ and for it to be typed and posted. I dragged my feet. I felt there was time. I was involved in other things. I was focused on me. The lesson of doing the one thing I COULD do was temporarily lost or forgotten.

I feel as if I have let Ryan down and, in turn, his family. As one who was very nearly successful in taking his own life, I ask the public to try to understand his pain, and to join me in prayer for Ryan and his family. I would also ask everyone to read carefully all that follows. Perhaps the words intended for Ryan can reach someone else, and perhaps those intended for Senator Alexander can help to prevent anyone else from getting into a situation where they feel Ryan’s solution is the only one open to them.

I am sorry, Ryan. May God have mercy on your soul and may He watch over your family as they struggle to make sense of something that is senseless in so very many ways.

Here, then, is the ‘something’ I could have done. May God help me to never fail to do it again, and may He help another individual in need of these words find them. In finding them, may they make a difference, even if it is a very small one:

“FALLEN” by Tony Casson

“For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open,
and every secret will be brought to light.”
  (Mark 4:22 NLT)

“Fallen, fallen, fallen, fallen,

Fallen from his high estate,

And welt’ring in his blood;

Deserted, at his utmost need

By those his former bounty fed,

On the bare earth expos’d he lies,

With not a friend to close his eyes.”

John Dryden  “Alexander’s Feast”

As I move through my day-to-day existence in prison, everywhere I look my eyes gaze upon men who have fallen. The greatest in number probably did not have very far to fall, but have fallen nonetheless. Others have tumbled from slightly loftier positions in life while still others have fallen from great heights.

All the men around me, as evidenced by their presence with me here in Oakdale FCI, have all been convicted of, or plead guilty to, their crimes. This is not the case regarding the subject of this article. This particular individual has only been arrested to this point, but he has already fallen a great distance.

His name is Ryan Loskarn, and until recently Ryan was the chief-of-staff for United States Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. At his home in Washington, D.C. early in December, Ryan began his fall when he was arrested for possession and distribution of child pornography.

Unfortunately, and much to the shame of this great nation, this is not an isolated or unusual event. Men and women across the United States are arrested daily in ever-increasing numbers for similar crimes involving internet child pornography. Another arrest is, sadly, unnecessarily routine in this country today.

However, given the high profile person for whom Ryan worked, his arrest naturally garnered national attention. My friend Richard Roy and I discussed the significance of this particular arrest during one of our daily ‘world-problem-solving-walks’ around the track that encompasses the recreation yard. During the course of that conversation, I made a comment which sparked something in Richard who then said something that sparked something in me.

With all of those sparks flying, it was inevitable that we would start a fire. That fire is presented here in the form of two ‘open letters’. The first one is intended for Senator Alexander and was written by Richard. The second was written for Ryan Loskarn and was penned by yours truly.

Our intent in writing each of them, as is the case in all we do, is to try to change the destructive course America is on and to find better ways of protecting America, America’s citizens and – of paramount importance – America’s children.

by Richard Roy

Dear Senator Alexander,

Reading an article in “The Houston Chronicle” concerning the recent arrest of Ryan Loskarn, your Chief Of Staff, for possession and distribution of child pornography, I came across a quote attributed to you which said, in part, that you were ‘stunned, surprised, and disappointed” when you were informed.

Frankly, Senator Alexander, I find the use of those terms to be quite disingenuous in light of the fact you are such a prominent figure in our nation’s capitol. Certainly it has not escaped your attention that the halls of Congress are a place where immorality, indecency, sex, greed, corruption and excess proliferate unabated. You, of all people, should never be stunned – or even surprised – when, in such an atmosphere, those around you succumb to the siren song of sin. Even men steeped in the Word of God – Jimmy Swaggert, Ted Haggard, to name just a couple – have demonstrated the fallibility of men. We are all, simply human – even men of God, as well as those who are public figures.

While you most likely expected Mr. Loskarn to be above reproach in his behavior, to say that you are ‘stunned’, or ‘surprised’ is to place anyone, including yourself, above the capacity to fail. ‘Disappointed’ is an appropriate and perfectly acceptable descriptive phrase to use, but that disappointment should not create the need to distance yourself from him. This need is a perfect example of where this country, and the men and women who lead it, demonstrate a definite lack of character. Our need to disassociate ourselves when someone we are close to in a personal or professional relationship exhibits less-than-desirable behavior portrays a less-than-desirable understanding of what Jesus Christ said when he instructed us to love one another. He most assuredly did NOT mean to love them only when it is comfortable, convenient, and politically advantageous to do so.

Mr. Loskarn would undoubtedly not have held the position he did with you unless his abilities, talents, and personality added value to YOUR ability to serve your country. What is different about this man today than yesterday? What has changed? Did the organizational skills that are required of someone in that demanding position suddenly vaporize? Are his personality and confident manner no longer of consequence? The day before he was arrested, would you have stood up with Ryan, put your arm around him and stated publicly that you were proud to know him? Do you think he is really a different person than the one you thought you knew? Have you asked him if this is so?

Right now, Mr. Loskarn needs the public support of those in his familial, social, and professional networks. Instead of distancing yourself from the situation, close ranks around him, encourage him, hold him up, and let him know that he is not facing this ordeal alone. Ryan possesses the same qualities that endeared him to all who knew him prior to his arrest. The only difference is you are now aware of his fallibility – his humanity. Ryan Loskarn has a flaw. This should NOT come as a surprise.

Perhaps it is the nature of Ryan’s flaw. Possibly you find it to be particularly offensive, and that certainly would be understandable. Without question, it is a SERIOUS flaw. That it is morally repugnant cannot be denied. The charges against Ryan make decent men and women uncomfortable in the extreme.

All of that notwithstanding, it must also be emphatically stated that the crack in Ryan’s character is something that can be repaired, despite what an emotionally-incensed American public has been led to believe.

In fact, the fall from grace of a heretofore dedicated and loyal long-term employee of a well-respected public servant with a long history of service to this country presents us with a unique opportunity. Quite possibly, the closeness of the situation to an individual such as yourself who is at the very center of this nation’s ruling body can cause a closer look to be taken at the entirety of internet child pornography, the havoc it is creating, and the destruction it is leaving in its wake. This destruction encompasses not only those who have violated the very basic tenets of human decency, but includes innocent victims such as the families of these individuals. The ensuing requirement to register as sex offenders further hobbles the return to any semblance of ‘normalcy’ for these individuals and their families and is a part of the overall problem that needs to be addressed in ways that are more constructive and effective than simply passing stricter laws with increased punishments and doing it all under the pathetically self-serving political banner of ‘protecting the children’. Protect the children we MUST, but the time has come to face the fact that the current approach does not accomplish that at all. In fact, this government’s refusal to NOT take the simple steps that are immediately available to it to severely slow the proliferation of these vile images on the Internet actually CONTRIBUTES to the further victimization of those already severely damaged by those who committed the abuse portrayed in the images themselves.

(Editor’s Note: In the pages of these Chronicles over the years, several articles have been published outlining steps that can be taken with very little effort or expense that would positively contribute to achieving that end. Articles such as: “A Necessary Intrusion – Part 4” (7/31/12); “A Child Protection Act That Doesn’t” (8/29/12); “Unnecessary Harm And Confusion – Fast And Furious, The Sequel” (10/5/12); “A Call To Action – A Demand For An Explanation” (3/1/13); “In Knowledge Lies Potential For Change” (5/15/13; “Warning Labels” (6/21/13) In your position Senator, there is MUCH that you can do!)

As for your disgraced former chief-of-staff; Mr. Loskarn will never be the same. Whether this is for the better depends in large part on the strength of those around him and the support he receives. It is possible – desirable, even – to hate the sin and still show love, compassion and hope to the sinner. The most effective demonstration of this principle must be public, not private. Jesus’ public ministry was to the sick, weak, outcast, and those tangled in sexual promiscuity and perversion. He transformed many such lives. You have an opportunity to take Emerson’s ‘road less traveled’ in supporting Ryan publically; promising support and encouragement if he is willing to admit he has a problem that needs to be dealt with; and publicly acknowledging that change IS possible. No one is more miserable or more critical of Ryan Loskarn at this moment than Ryan Loskarn himself. He needs no help putting himself down. He is deserving of your help to lift him up and demonstrate the ability of human beings to correct their mistakes, even the immoral ones. To do less is to state simply that people are incapable of redemption and restoration and if that is the case, then those of you who sit in the center of power might simply say, “When you make a mistake, you go to prison for life.” That, sir, would be ridiculous in the extreme, and totally contrary to the reality which comprises human nature. People can, and do, change. They need help to accomplish that, and Ryan needs YOUR help. So does this country, Senator.

Richard Roy

“A Postscript To Senator Lamar Alexander’s Letter”
by Tony Casson

Senator Alexander,

As you are well aware, this letter is too late to do Ryan Loskarn any good, and that is my fault. Richard did his part in the days immediately following Ryan’s arrest by writing the letter and getting it to me. I dragged my feet doing my part, so it is too late for anyone to rally around Ryan, but it is not too late for you to look into the articles that have been posted here which contain positive, practical, and promising suggestions to address this plague upon our country in ways that might prevent more lost souls, such as Ryan, from ending what could be productive lives. In many cases, we are not dealing with career criminal types, or everybody’s definition of a ‘monster’. In many, many instances we are simply locking up misguided, confused, often socially inept individuals who possibly could have been prevented from straying from the path of behavior that, if not moral, was at least legal. In the process, much of the damage caused to an often unsuspecting world from images that have captured the sexual abuse of children might be prevented. Surely this would be preferred over allowing this material to infest our country’s homes in the hopes of catching people doing something that will destroy their lives, their families, and, in some very sad and unnecessary cases, cost some individuals their lives.

Ryan eliminated the need for you to stand up and support him publicly, as you should have. However, his tragic and senseless death does not eliminate the need for you to stand up and protect this country. It fact, his death CRIES for you to do just that!

Tony Casson

Following is the letter that was intended for Ryan. Perhaps it contains some words that can still do someone, somewhere, some good. Perhaps what was intended for his heart can find its way into someone else’s:

“An Open Letter To Ryan Loskarn” by Tony Casson

Dear Ryan,

My name is Tony Casson. We do not know each other, nor is it likely that we will ever physically meet. Despite that relative certainty, I would like to try to help you.

At this moment in time, your life is undoubtedly feeling rather surreal. More than likely you are numb with the shock and the shame that I have come to learn – as have tens of thousands of others – quite naturally accompanies the discovery of secrets that somehow did not seem anywhere near as deplorable while still veiled with the cover of darkness as they do now the veil has been lifted and the light of decency is shining upon them. Such is the nature of secrets.

With the light now shining brightly on YOUR secrets, Ryan, you are quite probably filled with trepidation at what the future holds for you. The public veneer which you carefully crafted over the years, and has obviously served you well – at least in the framework of how you lived your PUBLIC life – has developed a ‘crack’ in it that may, at least for the moment, appear to be irreparable and about to deliver catastrophic consequences.

It is true that this ‘crack’ is not merely a minor surface imperfection, like a scratch marring an automobile’s paint job which can be rubbed out, smoothed over, and restored to its original appearance. This imperfection, this flaw, has its origins well below the surface and has just now risen to where it is visible and on display for the world to see. It is evidence of an underlying situation or condition that cries out to be addressed. The ‘crack’ does not, in and of itself, carry with it consequences that cannot be overcome, but they cannot be avoided and they MUST be faced.

Ryan, I encourage you to take comfort when I tell you this can all be dealt with to a positive outcome. Let there be no mistake, though: You will NOT be restored to the same “Ryan” you were before, but you CAN quickly learn the “Ryan” you have been is not the “Ryan” God intended you to be when you were born. Dealing with all of this will not be easy. In fact, it will require a lot of support from family and friends, and it will require you to lean heavily upon God.

I encounter men on a daily basis whom I believe are decent at the core but, like me, allowed themselves to be seduced by evil and found themselves consumed with behavior that shocked and repulsed them, as well as their friends and family, when that behavior was finally forced into the light.

There is a rule that must be adopted by individuals who find themselves in this situation, Ryan: DON’T WASTE YOUR MISTAKES. Of the men I encounter in prison, so many lament their situation and spend their days pointing the finger of blame everywhere but at themselves. Turning this ‘curse’ into a blessing is something far too few men I meet choose to do. It is easier to harbor resentment for being in prison than it is to address WHY we are here, HOW we can fix it, and WHAT we will do to make positive use of a very negative experience.

Prison is most likely in your future, but prison certainly does not have to BE your future. When you make a conscious and determined decision to walk through those gates with God, you have immediately begun to prepare yourself for the day when you will walk back out those same gates with your head held high. You will not be proud of what you have done, but you will be proud of the person God has helped you to become.

In no way am I saying that life will be easy while you are in prison, or after you are released, but with God always at the center of your thoughts, you will face both with the confidence that comes from God’s assurance that He will be with you each and every step of the way.

How do I know this? Because I hated the person I had allowed myself to become, Ryan. I hated that person so much I made a violent attempt on my own life when the FBI came to arrest me. God saved me from dying that day because I cried out to Him for help when there was very little time left, and He stepped in and caused me to be saved. Since that day, I have looked to Him for strength to guide me through the entire pretrial, sentencing, and surrendering process; He was with me when I walked onto the compound; and He has been with me daily to light the way and help me to understand who I am and why I am here. I am utterly amazed at the person I have become over the last 4 years, and I am prepared for life – and eager to be an active participant in it – in a way I have never been. I have been a willing student, but all of the credit; all of the glory, goes to God. Proverbs 21:31 says, “We are the horses, prepared for battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord!”

I am prepared for whatever I may face when I walk out those doors because I know that God will settle for nothing short of victory for me, Ryan, and I want this for you. Why? Because I know GOD does, and I know He is waiting to help you. All you have to do is ask Him, and be willing to hand over all of your burdens to Him.

I pray for the very best for you and your family, Ryan. God has a plan for you. Let Him reveal it to you.

With my fervent prayers for YOUR future and YOUR hope,
Tony Casson

“An Afterword”

It is impossible to describe the way I felt as I finished typing the words I WANTED Ryan to read. Another young man is dead. Ryan is far from the first to have ended their life needlessly after their secrets have come to light. Sadly, in this Godless, intolerant, judgmental and hypocritical society of ours, I am certain there were people who applauded his death; people who celebrated his decision to end his life; people who wish more of those of us who have fallen would follow suit.

It is my hope that God will find a way to take these words intended for Ryan and bring them to the attention of someone else who is in need of reading them. The message is the same for anyone who finds themselves seduced by evil and is now going through court proceedings and facing prison or jail time as a result of their inability to resist the ‘siren song of sin’, as Richard Roy so aptly put it.

God CAN help us even when we think we are beyond help. These are not just idle words. This is the Truth as God has said it, and as He has proven it through His restoration and renewal of this man typing these words. Ask Him to help YOU.


And please, do NOT waste another life.

Thank you all for your time, and may God bless you all.

“Another Good Idea”

A group from the Buffalo, NY area, CautionClick (www.cautionclick.com), has sent this proposed letter to be passed on to those who represent anyone reading this. Please pass it on to others and print copies to mail to those addresses posted, as well as to your individual representatives.

Thank you,

We are attaching a copy of a letter we would like to encourage you all to send out to your individual federal representatives as well as to both

Honorable Bob Goodlatte,
Chairman Committee of Judiciary
US House of Representatives
2309 Rabyburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
202 225 5431
Fax 202 225 9681

Honorable Patrick J. Leahy,
Chairman, US Senate Committee on the Judiciary
224 Dirkson Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
202 224 7703
Fax 202 224 9516

We would encourage you to send a copy of this letter to your family members to send out their own copies of the letter to their representatives as well. We would like to get the message out that we support the distinctions that the USSC is making with sentencing and encourage any type of reform of the current system. Every letter helps send a message that there are many people out there that support this thinking..

Make sure you include your return address. It is necessary on all correspondence with elected officials.

Thank you.



In December of 2012 the United States Sentencing Commission released a report entitled “Federal Child Pornography Offenses” (available in full at ussc.gov). The report is the result of a multi year process in which the USSC examined cases of offenders sentenced under the federal sentencing guidelines and corresponding penal statues concerning child pornography offenses.

The conclusion of this report states “The Commissions report is intended to provide Congress and the various stake holders in the federal criminal justice system with relevant and thorough information about child pornography offenses and offenders. As illustrated by the report, child pornography offenses result in substantial and indelible harm to children who are victimized by both production and non-production offenses. However, there is a growing belief among many interested parties that the existing sentencing scheme in non-production offenses no longer distinguishes adequately among offenders based on their degrees of culpability and dangerousness. Numerous stakeholders-including the Department of Justice, the federal defender community, and the Criminal Law Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States Courts-have urged the Commission and Congress to revise the non-production sentencing scheme to better reflect the growing body of knowledge about offense and offender characteristics and to better account for offenders varying degrees of culpability and dangerousness.”

“The Commission believes that the current non-production guideline warrants revision in view of its outdated and disproportionate enhancements related to offenders collecting behavior as well as its failure to account fully for some offender s involvement in child pornography communities and sexually dangerous behavior. The current guideline produces overly severe sentencing ranges for some offenders, unduly lenient ranges for other offenders, and wide spread inconsistent application. A revised guideline that more fully accounts for all three factors-the full range of an offender s collecting behavior, the degree of his involvement in a child pornography community, and any history of sexually dangerous behavior-would better promote proportionate sentences and reflect the statutory purposes of sentencing. Such a revised guideline, together with a statutory structure that aligns the penalties for receipt and possession, would reduce the unwarranted sentencing disparities that currently exist. The Commission also suggests that Congress may wish to revise the penalty structure governing distribution offenses in order to differentiate among the wide array of newer and older technologies used by offenders to distribute child pornography. Finally, the Commission also recommends to Congress that it consider amending the notice and restitution statutes for victims of child pornography offenses. The Commission stands ready to work with Congress, the Federal Judiciary, the Executive Branch, and others in the federal criminal justice community to improve the sentencing scheme for these extremely serious offenses.”

I support the findings of this report and ask you to give consideration toward amending the sentencing guidelines concerning child pornography offenses.

Thank you for your time and consideration,





“Seek to do what is right.”  Zephaniah  2:3b  NLT

“We of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who participated
in the decisions on Vietnam acted according to what we thought were
the principles and traditions of this nation. We made our decisions
in the light of those values. Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong. We
owe it to future generations to explain why.”
Robert S. McNamara  “In Retrospect”

In this day of ‘fiscal cliffs’, ‘sequestration’, trillion dollar deficits, and immature, irresponsible partisan posturing, and dangerous games of ‘political chicken’, the American public is owed a LOT of explanations.

It is rare for those who are elected and paid by the taxpaying public to OFFER those explanations, let alone admit, as Mr. McNamara did, that any explanation is owed.

In spite of that, there is ONE explanation that every decent American should DEMAND of its leaders and lawmakers and it is this: “Why do you refuse to utilize existing technology, and common sense, to provide meaningful and substantial protection to this nation’s children?”

The valiant CAUSE of protecting our most valuable resource is one that is thrust upon us daily. Be that as it may, even though laws that claim ‘protection’ are passed with mind-numbing frequency and in equally mind-numbing numbers, each one of them does little more than lead us further down the one-way-only road of ‘pursuit, prosecution, and punishment’ and do little to provide any real protections to those who most need it. While this is an absolutely necessary road to follow, it should not be the ONLY one.

The very sad truth is that failure to utilize the tools at our disposal effectively has led to the FURTHER exploitation and victimization of countless children who have already suffered the loss of their innocence as a result of child sexual abuse. This failure is a result of decisions made to ignore our capability to take major steps toward blocking the proliferation and prevalence of Internet child pornography from this country’s homes.

In countless speeches given by angry, indignant, and concerned politicians, the phrase “We must STOP child pornography and protect our children!” has been used to great effect in garnering attention and getting votes. It is time for Americans everywhere to demand an explanation from those same people as to why the available technology and know-how to do those very things has not been implemented.

Following is the template for a letter that I hope people will use – and encourage others to do the same – demanding the explanation as to why all of the things that CAN be done are NOT being done. The letter also outlines the technology available and outlines how it could – and SHOULD – be used to prevent further harm from befalling those who have already suffered too much and deserve better than they have received.

I invite you to read the letter and then copy it (or write your own), sign it, and send it to each senator and representative in your state, as well as to Attorney General Holder, and President Obama. I have addressed this template to President Obama for convenience. I will be sending it to him and asking men around me to do the same.

Dear President Obama,

Tonight, in tens of thousands of  homes across this great nation, children will go to bed afraid of the visit that will come when all is quiet. They will go to bed dreading the unholy violation of their innocence that will take place when they should be able to sleep peacefully, dreaming the dreams of children. But instead of dreaming, these children will be trembling quietly under the covers, fearfully anticipating the trespass against their bodies and their minds that will leave them empty of everything but their humiliation, their shame, and their loneliness.

In this digital age, the rape and sexual abuse of children is compounded by the making of permanent records of that abuse. To add to the torment, pain, and the embarrassment that these victims suffer, far too many of those images and videos find their way onto the Internet where they are circulated and viewed by untold thousands of people. The National Center For Missing And Exploited Children has ‘logged’ over 50 MILLION different images of child pornography into its database. Software, developed by companies such as Microsoft has been donated to law enforcement and is used by Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) such as AOL to ‘read’ the ‘digital fingerprints’ of these images as they pass through their servers in order to identify, apprehend, and prosecute those who would view, sell, or share them.

This is as it should be, as there are individuals out there who will stop at nothing to obtain and distribute these heartbreaking images of the rape and abuse of innocent children. Unfortunately, limiting the use of available technology to ‘pursuit, prosecution, and punishment’ actually ALLOWS child pornography to proliferate virtually unchecked and, rather than PROTECTING these unfortunate children, actually CONTRIBUTES to their further exploitation and victimization.

Allow me to illustrate my point:

Last year, the Southern District Director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was arrested for possession of child pornography. Software utilized by AOL, the individual’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) detected the ‘digital fingerprints’ of three images of child pornography in an email DURING TRANSMISSION to the Director’s home computer. The images were allowed to proceed, the FBI was notified, a search warrant was obtained, the computer was seized, and the individual was arrested and prosecuted.

An important point to consider is this: The damage to the child is done when the person VIEWS the images, not when he, or she, is apprehended. At that point, it is too late to prevent further harm to the victim.

Mr. President, what if a different scenario had taken place? What if the individual had first been sent, by AOL, a clear warning outlining the dangerous territory into which he was stepping? Allow me to illustrate further by first examining what Google does for its users in China. It seems that searching for certain words or phrases in China can lead to the government cutting the user’s Internet connection. As a service to their users, Google now has warning ‘flags’ that drop down and inform the user of the possibility of the loss of connection when they type certain words into the search fields.

In the case of someone searching for child pornography, what if a ‘flag’ were to drop down when certain terms were typed in? An example of such a warning would be:


“The use of certain search terms could result in the accidental, or intentional, downloading of child pornography which is a SERIOUS CRIME! These images depict innocent children being raped and sexually abused and viewing or sharing these images with others further traumatizes these victims. Penalties for receiving, possessing, and sharing or otherwise distributing child pornography WILL result in imprisonment for terms up to 25 YEARS OR MORE! Furthermore, convicted sex offenders will be required to register with law enforcement for a period of 15 years to LIFE!

The same holds true where actual emails or downloads are in progress. The software AOL utilized could very easily be modified to BLOCK the images completely. In lieu of that, at the very LEAST, modifications could be made so that a warning message is transmitted before the actual images themselves are allowed to go through. An example of such a warning is:


“Your Internet Service Provider’s software has detected images that contain child pornography being sent, or being downloaded, to your computer. These images depict innocent children being sexually abused, and viewing or sharing these images with others further traumatizes these victims. In addition, penalties for receiving, possessing, and distributing or sharing child pornography WILL result in imprisonment for up to 25 YEARS OR MORE! Convicted sex offenders will also be required to register with law enforcement for a period of 15 years to LIFE!


NO          YES

CAUTION: If you click ‘YES’, your ISP is required by law to notify the FBI

These warnings COULD have a dramatic impact on the downloading, viewing, and sharing of these horrific images and could greatly reduce the additional trauma and victimization of innocent children.

Mr. President, the time has come to STOP the proliferation of Internet child pornography. The time has come to STOP all of the political grandstanding that takes place under the guise of ‘protecting’ children. The time has come to STOP the further exploitation of children already traumatized by being raped and sexually abused.

Mr. President, the time has come to START protecting the children of this country by demanding an immediate Congressional hearing to ask WHY the simple steps outlined have NOT been taken. This is not new technology by any means.

The February 26 issue of the Wall Street Journal carried an article about a “coordinated effort to deal with subscribers (of ISPs) who illegally download movies, TV shows, and music.” How will this be achieved? Primarily through the use of WARNINGS similar to those outlined here. “The goal is to change behavior and get people to pay attention,” said Jill Lesser.

Should that NOT be the goal where child pornography is concerned as well? Should we not want people to change their behavior and pay attention?

Mr. President, I must ask you: Are we REALLY a nation that is more concerned with the downloading of movies that are not paid for than we are with the downloading of movies and pictures depicting the RAPE AND SEXUAL ABUSE OF INNOCENT CHILDREN?

Taking the steps outlined will not eliminate child pornography or child sexual abuse. These steps CAN do more to contribute to the reduction in Internet child pornography and the further victimization of innocent children than the aggregate effect of ALL the laws (and there are literally hundreds nationwide) that have been passed in recent years that carry a child’s name or the words “Child Protection Act”. These simple steps can also increase sensitivity and awareness among the public and serve to enlighten and educate. These steps can also have the added benefit of causing unthinking individuals to ‘wake up’ and realize the horrors represented by child pornography.

There is simply no plausible reason or explanation as to why these steps cannot be implemented with lightening speed! If the desire is to allow these shameful images to circulate to catch those who might look at them, let me point out something that should be painfully obvious: These are not GUNS that are being allowed to be sold illegally in order to track them to the criminals who purchased them. These are PICTURES and VIDEOS depicting the RAPE and SEXUAL ABUSE of INNOCENT CHILDREN.

Software developers, Internet Service Providers, and the United States Department of Justice should appear before a Congressional committee to determine WHY these steps are not being taken to protect our children and our country.

I will close by sharing a thought attributed to Helen Keller:

“I am only one. But still, I am one. I cannot do everything. But still, I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I CAN do!”

The steps outlined in this letter represent something that CAN be done. Please do NOT refuse to do it!



April has been designated as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and Child Sexual Abuse Awareness (CSA) Month. This is a perfect time to mail this letter, or one similar to it, to as many Legislators, Congressmen, Governors, newspapers, and anyone else you can think of.

I also urge you to share it with your friends and family so they can mail it to as many people as possible too. The steps listed CAN make a huge difference.

I thank you.

Resetting My Life Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Prison

by Steve Marshall

      First, let me stress that the title is a joke. I couldn’t resist the temptation to parody the 1964 classic film, “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” In truth, I love prison about as much as I love the bomb.

      Actually, this is about how I arrived at the unexpected realization that I accept being a prisoner and embrace the fact that I am where I need to be. This is the story of how I arrived at this surprising crossroads.

      When I was arrested on April 15, 2009, it was a sudden and immediate wake-up call; a punch in the gut that informed me that my life had gone seriously off the rails. Like many people in a similar situation, I became painfully aware ‘that I had lost sight of my moral compass ‘ and that my spiritual cup was bone dry. I tried to address the problem by joining a traditional Christian church. But with each’ passing Sunday, I realized that, for me, this was not a comfortable fit.

      You see I am, by definition, an atheist. Most Judeo-Christian theology strikes me as magical thinking. My life is informed by science, logic, provable fact and natural law. Having said that, I must add that I have the greatest respect for the beliefs of others. Whatever gets us through the circuitous maze that we call life and provides us with strength, wisdom, comfort and a sense of direction is ‘aces in my book. Let’s face it – no one has the facts. All we have is what we believe to be true. In that sense, each of us has his or her own personal truth.

      So where does an atheist go for spiritual enlightenment? In my case, the answer lay with the Unitarian-Universalist Church.  You see, the U-Us have no dogma of their own. In fact, they offer classes in the world’s religions, urging us to seek what makes sense to us. Take something from Christianity, ‘something else from Buddhism, add a pinch of Judaism or a dash of Hinduism and let simmer. It is, in effect, “Build Your Own Theology.” The principle goal and purpose of Unitarian-Universalism is to lead us in the direction of becoming better people. I knew after attending my first service that I had finally found a spiritual home.

      But when t came to be locked up in a’ remote Southern prison, I discovered that they offered no Unitarian-Universalist services. In fact, they had never heard of either faith (the Unitarians and the Universalists merged in the 1960s), even though both have existed for hundreds of years. So what was I to do? How was I to continue this spiritual journey?

      Happily, I found more than one person in my circle of remaining friends who were Unitarian-Universalists and were willing to download the sermons of U-U ministers from a number of different churches and mail them to me. I keep them in their own envelope and withdraw one each Sunday to read and digest. I have come to think of myself as “A Congregation of One.” Someone very close to me (a U-U, of course) has even started a blog with that as a title, posting excerpts from the letters that I write after reading each sermon.

      Most of the sermons provide interesting and engaging food for thought. But occasionally I’ll come upon one that is a real life changer. Such was the case on Sunday, January 12, 2013 when I read a sermon titled “Want What You Have.” My first reaction upon seeing that title was that I was probably not going to connect with this sermon’s message. After all, what I have is three and a half more years of living in a federal prison. Who could possibly want that? Well, never judge a book by its cover nor a sermon by its title.

      This particular sermon was based on the works of Rev. Forrest Church, the former minister of All Souls Unitarian-Universalist Church in New York and a religious scholar of some renown.

      As I began to read, I was informed that “Rev. Church had written an essay which bore the title “Want What You Have” when he was in the end stages of his life, suffering from terminal cancer. I was taken aback with this news as I stopped reading to consider how anyone could advance such an idea – want what you have – when what he had was a virulent disease that was killing him. I read on and soon realized that I was myopic in my grasp of Rev. Church’s message. His thesis challenged me to look at the bigger picture and see that what I had was more than just a life in prison. What I had, in fact, was an unparallel opportunity to learn and grow.

      When my life deteriorated to the point of leading me to become a convicted felon for the first and only time at the advanced age of 65; the one thing that became blindingly clear was that I was in serious need of a mid-course correction. My problem was so serious that it would require much more than a simple fix. I needed to have my entire life reset.

      In order to achieve a reset, I needed to go back to square one; to lose my home, my family, all of my possessions; my freedom itself.

      I must confess to the fact that I had become a master of the dubious art of distracting myself from any meaningful contemplation that might result in my becoming a better human being. I had my giant screen television, an endless stream of movies and my beloved iPhone, which ensured that I would never again have to endure another nanosecond of boredom. I had the Internet to take me anywhere I wanted to go, including the most degrading and debasing places possible. All of these things conspired to sap away my basic humanity. And then, in the blink of an eye, it was all gone.

      The biggest loss, of course, was my marriage and the love and esteem of people who meant everything to me. Some of those relationships survived; others did not. Some of the people whom I loved to the depths of my soul are lost to me forever. But a reset can’t always be pretty. It can come with a very high price tag. It doesn’t happen in a day, a week” a month or even a year. It takes time, patience, attention and a fierce desire to be a better person than I have ever been. I finally have the time and motivation to focus laser-like on that goal. The seeds ‘for this reset were sown the moment I first stepped into the U-U church while I was still under house arrest. The work has continued at a steady pace ever since.

      I have almost reached the midpoint in the six and a half years that I must spend in federal custody. I know to a certainty that I am already a better man than I was on the morning of April 15, 2009. But I still have some distance to travel before I will be who I want to be – the man I always thought I was. That’s who I want to become.

      I am a work in progress.

      I am grateful for the time, energy and motive to become that man. That is the immutable gift that has been given to me.

      So.   Do I want what I have?


“A Child Protection Act That Doesn’t”

“I am writing these things to warn you about those who want to lead you astray.”           – 1 John 2:26 NLT

“Mr. Kremlin himself was distinguished for ignorance, for he had only one idea – and that was wrong.”   – Benjamin Disraeli

      On June 29, 2012, Texas Congressman Lamar Smith introduced H.R. 6063, a bill which, on its surface, is as noble and well-intentioned as a piece of legislation can possibly be.  Titled “The Child Protection Act of 2012,” it would be difficult for anyone to find fault with its lofty purported goal – to protect children.

      While I cannot find fault with the goal, the bill itself is a misguided, misinformed,  and useless piece of pompous political puffery and does little if anything at all to protect any child from anything. In fact, it diverts still more funds and attention away from any sincere effort to provide protection for those identified in its inappropriately named title.  H.R. 6063 is shameless political grandstanding at its lowest which actually exploits the very children it claims to protect for purely political gain.

      Too harsh? Probably not harsh enough since Mr. Smith and his staff demonstrate surprising insensitivity  and a true lack of understanding of the very problem for which H.R. 6063 claims to offer a solution – how to protect the children of America. This lack of understanding borders on incompetence at its best and blatant exploitation at its worst. In either scenario, a case could be made against Mr. Smith’s fitness to  serve the public.

      Let’s review some of the statements he made while introducing this bill. First, he states that the bill “increases penalties for the possession of child pornography.” According to nationally published data, 76% of the nation’s federal judges feel the guidelines and enhancements for possession of child pornography are too high already, resulting in many thousands of individuals spending much more time in federal prison for looking at pictures than many of the individuals who perform the acts depicted in the pictures themselves.

      Second, Rep. Smith claims that H.R. 6063 “helps prevent more victims by raising the penalties for those who hurt our children.”  Again, he is attacking the problem on the back end, after the damage has been done. The root cause of harm to children in this country is never addressed.

      Third, he further states, “Internet child pornography may be the fastest growing crime in America, increasing on average of 150% each year.” The reality is, if the personnel and prison space were available, prosecutions could increase by ten times 150% per year because the number of computers that contain some form or d fragment of child pornography on them is estimated at 75% or higher by some sources. The answer to the child pornography issue lies in preventing it from being produced.

      Fourth, Mr. Smith states, “Every day these online criminals prey on our children with virtual anonymity.” Our movements, actions and interests are all known by our Internet Service  Providers (ISPs). There is no real anonymity. If there is an increase in the availability of child pornography online, then the ISPs as well as the Justice Department should be held liable for civil and criminal damages since it is within their ability to detect, filter and eliminate it at the source or, at the very least, severely limit its  dissemination.

      The bald truth is that H.R. 6063 offers little more than an attention-getting banner to be waved by Mr. Smith as he campaigns for reelection. It offers precious little in the way of honest attempts to address the very real horrors of sexual abuse that hundreds of thousands of American children face every day. For Mr. Smith to attempt to capitalize on their pain and loss of innocence for political gain is shameful in the extreme.

      For the most part, all Mr. Smith does address is child pornography and this he discusses with a  statement that demonstrates how off-target he and his staff (like so many lawmakers) are. It is difficult to get the real problem addressed because they are too fixed on riding the vote-garnering wave of the easy problem.  The real problem, the root of this evil mess, is the child sexual abuse that enables child pornography to exist in the first place.

       Mr. Smith flaunted his ignorance regarding the root cause of the problem when he said, “Trafficking of child pornography images was almost completely eradicated in America by the mid-1980s. Purchasing or trading these images was risky and almost impossible to do anonymously. But the advent of the Internet reversed this accomplishment”. Mr. Smith spoke as though child pornography was the problem. Child pornography was a separate problem created as a result of the root problem of the sexual abuse of children. At no time does Mr.-Smith give any indication that he understands this.

      The approach of Mr. Smith and many other legislators is tantamount to implying that the drug addict is the problem rather than the result of the real problem – the production and distribution of drugs. The more accurate statement is, if there wel:e no drugs, we would have no drug addicts. Similarly, if child sexual abuse did not exist~, there would be no child pornography, since every single instance of child pornography is a visual record of child sexual abuse.

      This nation’s lawmakers have proven to be woefully inadequate and ineffective in the war on drugs. Do we really want to repeat the litany of mistakes made in that ill-conceived effort? Why not focus on the real problem and work toward a meaningful solution rather than being subjected to a tiresome parade of cheap political smokescreens such as that advanced by Rep. Smith. As for his specious claim that the goal of protecting our children was almost attained in the 1980s, nothing could be further from the  truth.

      Just ask anyone of the hundreds of thousands of individuals who were sexually abused as children during that time. Just because there may not have been an availability of the images recording these children’s pain does not mean there was no pain to record. Because there was a scarcity of video does not mean there was a lack of inexcusable, horrific acts to film.

      A tree falling in the forest when there is no one around to hear it fall still makes a sound and children still cried out as a result of the violation of their innocence and dignity, even if people like Mr. Smith truly believe that the problem was almost solved simply because there appeared to be an absence of photographic evidence.

      The sad and. simple truth is that children have always been at risk. But they have never been at greater risk than they are when in the “safety” of their own homes. It is a very well documented and unfortunate fact of life that fathers, stepfathers, brothers, uncles and family friends – even mothers – account for the overwhelming majority of all sexual abuse of children and some professionals estimate that as many as one in three females has suffered sexual abuse as a child.

      Consider the following information from the book “Perverted Justice” by Charles Patrick Ewing (Oxford University Press, 2011):

According to a report written in 2000 by Howard N. Snyder from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics entitled “Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident and Offender Characteristics,” “Children were very unlikely to be sexually victimized by people they did not know.” In fact, the report gave the following statistics for different age groups of girls who were sexually abused:

– Girls ages 0-5;          51.1% family; 45.9% acquaintances; 3% strangers

– Ages 6-11;                43.8% family;  51.4% acquaintances;  4.8% strangers

– Ages 12-17;              24.3% family; 65.7% acquaintances; 10% strangers

      Since the primary objective is to effectively protect the children, we must first define the things we must endeavor to protect them from:

1) Children have a right to be protected from child sexual abuse and the furt erance of that abuse through the production of photographic images which record it.

2) Children have a right to be protected from the intentional and unintentional viewing of that recorded abuse by individuals unknown to the victims. These individuals help to perpetuate the emotional victimization of the children when they are aware that their abuse is being viewed by strangers.

      So I ask you, Mr. Smith: How does “The Child Protection Act of 2012” protect the children of this country from sexual abuse?   The clear answer is that it does not.

      There are far too many empty promises on the law books already, Mr. Smith. Another one, regardless of how nobly it is titled, is not needed. There is no room, nor is there any time to waste, on any more “professional poisoning of the public mind,” to borrow a phrase from Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.

      In a previous article, I said we must “lock the door on child pornography,” and this we must do, but we must also throw open the door of truth and examine the ugliness that lies beyond 1t and has created millions of broken-hearted and broken-spirited people in this country. It is time to do something that will create positive change in fragile lives and not just enhance political careers.

      I tear nothing down without offering a possible solution or, at least, constructive positive suggestions with which to replace that which I criticize. With that said, I now submit the following steps for addressing the aforementioned concerns and ensuring the rights of America’s children to grow up as safely as possible:

      The language of any constructive bill should clearly and emphatically require all Internet Service Providers to utilize all available technology to stem the flow of child pornography and prevent the images of horror that their filters have captured from further damaging the lives of those victimized in them. A more detailed essay on this point is contained in “A Necessary Intrusion: Perhaps the Wrong People Are Behind Bars,” an earlier posting on this blog.

      To address the root problem, that of the sexual abuse itself, I will first point out that every state has a child protective services agency that is underutilized, understaffed, underfunded and overworked. To combat child sexual abuse in America, I propose the following five items:

1) Priority funding for child protective services should be provided to allow reorganization, rededication of purpose, staff increases and restructuring to include higher standards of performance and increased levels of training specifically to recognize and deal with sexual abuse. Increased staffing levels, lower caseloads and greater  accountability will prove invaluable in any sincere effort to protect children and enhance their safety. These agencies should be a priority in every state and federal guidelines for performance goals and funding to help meet those goals should be provided.

2) Priority funding for top-level psychological assistance for discovered victims, including faith-based counseling if it is desired.

3) Make educational awareness a priority at all levels up to and including high school. Make trained counselors available and set up local and national hotlines for those too timid to come forward, ensuring that they are manned with trained, compassionate and sincere personnel – perhaps even survivors of sexual abuse.  Make certain all available education and information reaches low income, ethnic and foreign language areas in the community.

4) Interact with national child sexual abuse organizations such as “Stop the Silence” to help devise ways to reach out to victims of all ages using rallies in auditoriums and gymnasiums featuring survivors of sexual abuse as speakers to encourage victims to come forward and get help to stop the abuse.

5) Priority funding for a national ad campaign in multiple languages with radio, television, print and  billboard coverage to eliminate the silence on this subject and get victims to seek counseling assistance. These efforts should include print ads and television public service announcements detailing the existing penalties concerning illegal images; the very sentences Rep. Smith proposes to increase. A broad spectrum of the public should be made aware that the viewing, downloading, possession and trading of child pornography will result in a sentence of from five to twenty years in a federal prison and the creation and production of those images will net the offender a sentence ranging from twenty years to life.

      This list, Mr. Smith, is in no way as complete as it can be but it should serve as a solid base from which to put together a plan that will begin to affect change.

      I challenge you, and your fellow lawmakers, to get to work doing the right thing for America’s children. You just might get reelected in the process for doing something worthwhile.

      At the very least, you will be able to say you really did act to protect the children of America.