Transcript of European Union/United States Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Press Availability

WASHINGTON , Dec. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following transcript of the European Union/ United States Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial Press Availability was released today by the U.S. Department of Justice: 1:40 P.M...

This investigation was the first of its kind involving members of all major American agencies charged with the enforcement of child exploitation laws, along with our partners at Europol, Eurojust and the European Union. I want to thank all of the agents, investigators, attorneys and other staff whose hard work led to the detection of these predators in the United States , including the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Department's Criminal Division, and the U.S. Attorneys' Offices that were immediately involved in the arrests.

It should come as news to no one that crimes against children have been an area of special focus for the Department of Justice and an area of great success. Through initiatives such as Project Safe Childhood, we've increased prosecutions of those who abuse and exploit children by over 30 percent in the last two years. Through a series of national media campaigns, we've made great strides in making parents and young people aware of the dangers. And most important, through cooperation with other law enforcement agencies, such as our partners in the European Union, we've identified, and, in many cases saved hundreds of children depicted in images and videos of sexual abuse.

Obviously, it would be my fondest hope that we would never have to start such investigations or bring such prosecutions, that criminals such as these didn't exist. But so long as they do, it's imperative that our nations work together to rescue children from their abusers and to bring to justice those who commit these acts.

Now I'm going to turn the podium over to some of our guests today for their comments, and then we'll be happy to answer some of your questions. First, I'd like to invite Assistant Secretary Baker to add his remarks from the perspective of the Department of Homeland Security. Secretary Baker.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BAKER: Thank you, Attorney General Mukasey. Also thank you, Minister Alliot-Marie, Vice President Barrot and Deputy Justice Minister Bocek . We've had a very successful meeting today. We discussed a number of topics, including passenger name records, the Visa Waiver Program, and setting common principles on data privacy for law enforcement.

On that topic, we made great and very gratifying progress in setting a framework for data sharing and for data protection, and our success in that endeavor, which will continue, will protect privacy at the same time that it reassures private companies and third countries that they can share information about terrorism with the United States and with the European Union without risking becoming enmeshed in some conflicting policies or principles.

We're also very proud of the role that Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a DHS component, played in the investigation of child abuse crimes that were being committed all across the globe, as the Attorney General described. We're proud of them and we're proud of the international cooperation that we received in that investigation. That kind of cooperation is the key to identifying and apprehending those who commit these heinous acts.

Today's discussion is focused on ways we can work together to more effectively share that information, and best practices to make further progress in fighting child exploitation. Thank you.

MINISTER ALLIOT-MARIE: (Through translator.) First of all, I would like to thank you for the welcome from the Attorney General and also to thank Secretary Baker for the environment in which we were able to work today. The exchanges today correspond to the meetings which happen every six weeks between the United States and the European Union dealing with problems on lower levels that are raised to the ministerial level.

Our populations are exposed to the same threats and risks. This has given us the opportunity to deal with issues that involve protecting our citizens.

I will touch upon one subject briefly, the primary threat facing the United States as well as the European Union is terrorism. It is an area that we know very well. No country can protect itself from terrorism by itself. In addition to cooperation, we need to strengthen our agencies that respond to terrorism.

Over the course of the past few months, we have made tremendous progress in particular with the establishment of several of our organizations dealing with radicalization and recruitment of terrorists. We have established a guide, or a manual in a manner of speaking, that deals with preventing terrorism. We have discussed ways of protecting ourselves from threats posed by dirty bombs, by radiological threats, biological as well as chemical, because there is a risk which we know very well that terrorists will use this type of bomb.