Sunday, December 13, 2009



This is going to be a brief Post, but I think it will help clarify a phenomenon the SO community (and everybody else in the country) faces when it comes to ‘statistics’ and claims made for public consumption.

I am going to do a brief review of the 1-page House Resolution 454, passed June 10, 2009. The text of it is here. It is a Resolution honoring the 25th anniversary of Congress’s setting up the Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Of course, I will say right off that I hold no brief whatsoever for those who abduct, abuse, or otherwise exploit children. It is not my intent here to cast aspersions on the purpose of the Center.

But the Resolution offers in one single page some very clear examples of how things can be done in the ‘advocacy’ world, and in the Beltway generally.

First off, as so often, is a question of definitions: what exactly does the group mean by “exploited”? Do public school kids who are not getting much of an education count? Who haven’t got health care and are growing up in poverty? Probably not what the Center takes to be its mandate or its preferred ‘sense’ of “exploited”, although the unsuspecting Citizen-reader may not be privy to the ‘mental reservations’ included in the Center’s definition of “exploited”.

Second, it’s a little curious how they define “missing”. The first ‘Whereas’ clause says that “800,000 children are reported missing each year in the United States”. OK. How do they define “missing”? My guess is that either they have somehow extrapolated the number: you ask say 100 families if they reported any of their tykes “missing” to the police this year; if 25 say Yes, then you simply get the number of ‘families’ (however defined) in the country, and say that 25% of them have had a (or several, if you think it will help) tyke reported “missing” this year. Or, you might add up all the ‘missing child’ reports from the police departments throughout the country (there may be a public clearing house or FBI or DOJ Report with the number, or you may have access to police info – who knows now?).

But that “missing” includes the tykes who aren’t where a parent expects them to be and so the parent immediately calls the police.

That possibility is supported by the next Whereas clause: “Whereas 200,000 of that number are abducted by family members, and 58,000 are abducted by non-family members, for which the primary motive is sexual assault”. So a quarter of the 800,000 go missing because they are with family members.

And does “abducted” mean that they were purposely and with malice-aforethought kidnapped? Or that they happened to be with some other family member and the parent calling the police didn’t know it at the time?

And that 58,000: grammatically, the way the Resolution’s text is written, with the comma after “members” in the 58,000 clause, then the following clause – “for which the primary motive is sexual assault” – applies to both of the preceding clauses, yielding the ‘fact’ that all 200,000 are “abducted” for the primary motivation of “sexual assault”.

I think they mean to say that the “sexual assault” clause only refers to the 58,000 (and that’s just my surmise). But that leaves the question: do they actually pay attention to what they’re writing in the Beltway when they do these things? Or does some pol just get a fax with the group’s desired text and then parrot it to the Membership under his/her sponsorship?

At any rate, a quarter of all “missing child” reports, apparently, are the result of abduction by family members or strangers for the purposes of “sexual assault”. That’s a huge number, if by “sexual assault” we mean attempted rape or rape or something along those lines. Of course, if “sexual assault” is defined in the Center’s special vocabulary as involving any physical contact whatsoever (picking the child up to put him/her into a vehicle or to give him/her a bottle or some such) then the picture changes greatly.

I don’t know the answer to that myself, but this text doesn’t enlighten me either. But then, perhaps it’s not designed to do that, at least as its “primary motivation”.

But then the next Whereas clause says “Whereas each year 115 children are the victims of the most serious abductions, kidnapped by non-family members and either ransomed, murdered, or taken with the intent to keep”. So out of 800,000, 200,000 and 58,000 we now get to 115 who are actually abducted in the sense that the average person might understand (and such abductions are genuinely outrageous and abhorrent). 115 out of 800,000. Which tallies to 0.00014375 if I’ve gotten my calculator to do it right.

Which is not to minimize the 115, but to put it into context of the actual percentage of cases where things are really bad.*

I think that the percentage of kids killed in autos driven by or hit by negligent or impaired or distracted adults is probably a lot higher than 0.00014375, but I don’t suppose Congress will leap at the conclusion that to save ‘even just one’ it is necessary to ban adults from driving kids in cars, or tasking the nation’s police with setting up checkpoints every day, or keeping a Registry of who has or might usually drive kids around in a vehicle.

Clause Six asserts that “Whereas NCMEC has assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more than 138,500 children”. Again, I’m happy to hear that so many cases turned out more or less well. But just how did the Center manage to do that? It is it involved in resolving each of these cases? Or does it count every reportedly missing child whose name it puts up on its internet list and is later found – by anybody – as a ‘save’ for itself?

Clause Seven asserts that “Whereas NCMEC’s Amber Alert program has led to 443 recoveries”. “Led to” directly, or is this another matter where any recovery of any child whose name is Amber-Alerted counts as a “recovery” attributable to the Center? And don’t the police put those Alerts out? Does the Center have the authority to issue those too? On the police network? How does it work with the Center rather than the police agencies doing it?

And 443 out of 800,000 works out (again, I don’t vouch for my math – never my best subject) to 0.0005537. Which, again, is nice but … and do these ‘recoveries’ count from the most serious cases or from the overall 800,000 or from the 200,000 or from the 58,000?

Clause Eight truly stupefies: “Whereas in 2008, NCMEC helped recover more children than any other year in the organization’s 25-year history, raising the recovery rate from 62 percent in 1990 to 97 percent today”. So 97% of the children are recovered – is that 97% of the 800,000, the 200,000, the 58,000, or the 115?

And if it’s from one of the vastly larger numbers, then is it not possible that a very large percentage of those “missing children” were actually only misplaced tykes, or got picked up by Grandma, or were teens who ran away in the first place? And if it’s runaway teens, then that’s hell and gone from an infant or toddler snatched by a stranger for purposes of sex and murder. Which it would be nice to know so that Citizens can judge things for themselves.

Clause Nine reports “Whereas NCMEC operates the toll-free 24-hour national missing children’s hotline, which has handled more than 2,377,000 calls”. OK, and over 25 years that works out to around 95,000 calls per year (presuming that the line has been in service for 25 years) – although in that same timeframe, 20 million “children” (however defined) have gone – or at least been reported – “missing”. I’m not sure how long the hot-line has been working, but the Resolution says 800,000 per year and so there have been 20 million ‘children’ missing in this country in the psat 25 years - if this were genuinely true, it dwarfs 9-11 and either or both of the World Wars. Can this be right? Can this be true? It depends, of course, on how you define things and how you crunch the numbers.

I wonder, though, if the Citizens are expected to crunch any numbers at all – but rather to simply listen to the Congressional recitation and then applaud politely and agree (bringing back memories of the attendees at Stalin’s birthday parties).

Clause Ten acknowledges that “Whereas NCMEC provides assistance to families and law enforcement agencies in locating and recovering missing and exploited children, both nationally and internationally”. Yes, although how many families and just how many phone calls and letters qualify as “internationally”? Does this mean they are working with Interpol, or that sometimes European families call about ‘children’ vacationing or going to college here who haven’t called home and don’t write? Again, there’s a lot that is and isn’t in this assertion.

Clause Eleven, however, more directly invites SO community attention: “Whereas NCMEC offers technical assistance and training to law enforcement in identifying and locating non-compliant sex offenders”. Sooooo, they just accidentally happened upon these persons while looking for missing children (however defined)? Or are they also another volunteer bunch in the ‘sex offender hunting’ business? And if the latter, then do they have access to the NCIC and police databases, being a formally erected or chartered or recognized (by Congress) organization? Of course, if the Center is part of the SO mania, then I can start to see why Congress is going to such lengths to enable it, just as the Center is grasping so deeply to puff itself up. (And if memory serves, the head of this Center is a formal and public supporter of the AWA – but that can’t be a surprise to anybody.)

And what sort of “training” does the Center provide that the official police agency training establishments do not offer? And what sort of “technical assistance” that the police agencies don’t have access to already? (And again, how much access to official police databases does this Center have?)

Clause Twelve reports that “Whereas NCMEC has a team of forensic artists who create age progression photos, which has assisted in the successful recovery of 895 children”. 895 out of which number? 800,000, 200,000, 58,000 … ?

Clause Thirteen reports that “Whereas NCMEC CyberTipline has handled more than 686,000 reports”. Reports of what? Are people cybering the Center rather than the police? Are they cybering to report the missing child? Are they cybering to ‘report’ suspected ‘sex offenders’? (the vast majority of whom, as is known, have nothing to do with children)? Surely, the original sin of conflating ‘sex offenders against children’ with all ‘sex offenders’ (often on the baseless assertion that if you sex-offend against an adult (or animal) then you are bound to do so against children sooner or later, if you haven’t already) now comes home to roost.

And over how many years has this cyber-thing been in operation? And do these ‘reports’ also include ‘opinions’ and blog-like one-liners?

Clause Fourteen reports that “Whereas NCMEC’s Child Victim Identification Program has reviewed and analyzed 23,000,000 child pornography images and videos, 8,600,000 in 2008 alone” – that’s an awful lot of viewing of pornography … how do you get away with it if you’re not the police? I thought you could get in a lot of trouble merely for ‘possession’ of if it were on your hard-drive or in an email that you – advertently or inadvertently – opened? Are they somehow as immune as the police and prosecutors?

Clause Fifteen continues to give something of a hidden game away. “Whereas NCMEC’s sex offender tracking team has already located 402 missing sex offenders”. So they are in the sex-offender hunting business, and I notice that the Resolution – as so often in this thing – does not distinguish between ‘sex offenders against children’ and ‘sex offenders’ generally. ** And how much authority does this ‘tracking team’ enjoy, the Center actually being a Congressionally-somethinged entity? And in what way were the 402 (spread over how many years?) sex offenders “missing”? We are seeing more and more SOs who can wind up being out-of-compliance simply because the web of SO laws and regulations are so minute. And who can say how many SOs are technically ‘missing’ because they haven’t complied with the retroactive net swung so widely by AWA?

Clause Eighteen informs the taxpayers that “Whereas NCMEC facilitates the deployment of the National Emergency Child Locator Center during periods of national disasters”. There is such a thing? And rather than an actual government agency (FEMA, DOJ, FBI, DHS) this quasi-governmental entity runs such an expensive and complex operation? Or is it just a tent with some laptops and a coffee-machine? Sorry, but this is starting to really irritate me.

The Nineteenth and final Clause informs the Citizens that “Whereas NCMEC deploys Team Adam, a rapid response and support system comprised of retired law enforcement officers, to provide on-site technical assistance to local law enforcement agencies investigating cases of child abduction and sexual exploitation”. Named, no doubt, after Adam Walsh (upon whom be much peace) whose disappearance and death – and the motivation for them – remain unknown to this day, and the perpetrator(s) undiscovered, and whose death may have had nothing whatsoever to do with sex or sex offenders at all.

This whole operation sounds to me like not only a quasi-governmental but also quasi-police organization.

I would have to say that while its general original and titled purpose – missing and exploited children – extends far far beyond sex-offenses, yet it has found its operational niche in matters sex-offensual. And to that extent, whether unintentionally or otherwise, has become an active element in the sex-offense mania.

This is not to denigrate its cause or the cases of the truly missing and exploited children in this country. Nor to impugn the good intentions of the participants. But there’s an awful lot of stuff here – which the Center almost certainly intended for the House to publish in its Resolution – that raises more questions than it allays.

And my original purpose in this Post is not the Center itself, but rather to demonstrate how one might go about reading these sort of things – as Soviet readers used to read Pravda and Izvestia: between the lines and for ‘what wasn’t there’.

Nor do I accept that the Soviet reference is ‘extreme’ or ‘shrill’ or uncalled-for. Given the way things have gone, I think it’s quite justified indeed.


*Of course, you can say that ‘if even one’ is abducted, or ‘if even one’ such abduction is prevented, then it’s worth it – but I’m looking at the general techniques here, not examining child-abductions. This ‘if only even one’ approach has been used to justify the huge matrix of sex-offense police-state laws (and the domestic-violence police-state laws before that). You get to the point where you have to ask yourself – and where the Citizenry has to ask itself – just how much ‘police state’ can the country survive in order to meet this problem? The problem of answering that question, you might realize, was and still is precisely the one that later arose after 9-11, in terms of security-vs-civil-rights, free-speech-vs-civil-and-Constitutional-rights, and even ‘torture’. These things have a tendency to migrate among the ongoing Beltway excitements.

**In making this distinction I am not at all implying that sex offenders against children deserve fewer Constitutional rights and protections; like any American who is convicted of a crime, a sex offender against children retains all of his/her Constitutional rights and is still, in the Constitutional scheme and vision, a Citizen. (And you can see why the Sex Offense mania and all its supporters are, willy or nilly, a threat to the Constitution and the Constitutional vision, and to the future of the American Constitutional polity.)


I can recommend to you the site where you can keep track of all Bills pending before Congress. Simply go to the homepage, click on 'Bills and Resolutions', then on the page that appears, enter 'sex offenders' or some such in your search terms box, and it will show you every Bill pending in this or the previous Sessions and Congresses that relates to the search term.

I am happy to report that although there are a number of 'sex offender' Bills introduced this year, they all are 'in committee', and not many appear as if they are going to make it to the floor for consideration and a vote.

Don't pop any corks yet.


  1. Dear Sir,

    As a frequent but fair critic of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (USA), I will object to some of your above analysis of H.R. 454 while also commending you for picking up on the bare truth of the matter: the prevalence of the "problem" of missing children as it has been sold to the United States Congress is way overblown.

    Specifically, I must first point out that H.R. 454 is not really legislation as such. It establishes no laws and binds no one to anything. Typically these kids of resolutions are presented by members of Congress for entirely political reasons. No one in their right mind (no politician, that is) would oppose such a resolution on the basis of statistical imprecision in its purported motivation.

    Moreover, whether the Center is commended for "saving" just one child or one billion children makes no difference in H.R. 454. Many people have been commended in a similar way for single acts of bravery or public service.

    You would have done better to have focused your analysis on the congressional legislation that has funded the Center to the tune of $40 Million annually. For example, in 42 U.S.C. § 5771 Congress finds that "each year thousands of children are abducted or removed from the control of a parent having legal custody without such parent's consent, under circumstances which immediately place the child in grave danger". As you correctly point out in your analysis the actual number of American children placed in grave danger by purported abductions each year hovers at around 100. There is no conclusive evidence at the present time that this number is increasing and, in fact, it too may overestimate the problem.

    Second, under the aforesaid federal legislation the term "missing child" is in fact defined to mean "any individual less than 18 years of age whose whereabouts are unknown to such individual's legal custodian". 42 U.S.C. § 5772. There are certainly not 800,000 such cases annually in the United States, unless we count the everyday temporary circumstances where younger children get lost for a few minutes here or there, or the slightly longer and usually intentional wanderings of teens outside the boundaries set by their parents. Arguing about the inclusion or exclusion of such cases in prevalence estimates is nearly pointless.

    A more serious statistical transgression was recently admitted to by Mr. Ernie Allen, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (USA) and its wholly owned affiliate, the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the United States Congress in written testimony dated December 2, 2009. His official testimony appears to contain the first ever admission by any representative of the American center that a full one-third of its current international cases are probable if not certain cases of missing child fraud.

  2. (continued from previous comment...)

    That is four hundred (400) children being falsely advertised by the American center, right now, as though they were "missing" when in fact even federal law recognizes that they are not missing at all.

    So, essentially, my second objection to your analysis is that you are taking H.R. 454 out of its context. Your argument would be strengthened considerably if you would consider H.R. 454 within its legislative history.

    Along those lines, you will kindly note that between 2003 and 2008, 42 U.S.C. § 5771 included a finding that the Center had "worked with law enforcement on the cases of 59,481 missing children, resulting in the recovery of 40,180 children". This was removed in the 2008 amending legislation and I propose to you that the reason it was stricken is precisely the one you repeatedly discuss in your article: imprecise attribution of credit.

    Finally I would like to point out that the biggest scandal of all is in Mr. Ernie Allen's pocketbook. Thanks to the misleading statistics fed to the U.S. Congress, Mr. Allen rakes in a cool $1 Million in taxpayer money every year. That is 2% of his Center's entire federal budget. Nice, huh?

    Only when enough taxpayers join together and take a stand against this kind of fraud will the Center stop being a "sacred cow" and start being held accountable for its gorging at the public trough.

    Emmanuel Lazaridis, Ph.D., Statistics
    Heraklion, Crete, Greece
    tel: +30 693.902.7351

  3. I am happy to receive these comments. First, it stimulates comment-response and further thought that will not only help me, but any readers. Second it puts both fresh content and fresh perspective and possibly different ways of viewing the subject before the SO community.

    As to the first point Dr. Lazaridis makes, I am aware that it is not legislation as such. And he is correct that as a Resolution it makes no laws and that no legislator in his/her right mind would risk anything to oppose so functionally toothless and – they might think – harmless an exercise of Congressional responsiveness.

    But my intention was rather to elucidate what is for many concerned persons the assorted manipulations of seemingly impressive statistics which have helped and continue to help the sex-offense mania continue. In that regard, the rather amazing numbers involved seemed to me too good an educational opportunity – however slight – to pass up.

    Similarly, the ‘if even only one’ type of justification seemed clearly in evidence here, in this single-page official document – and again, it is not often that one is presented with the opportunity of dissecting for readers so short and clear a document that is gravid with so many points of relevance to the readership.

    I agree that the enabling legislation for this Center would be worthwhile, and I will make it a point to dig it up. I have no doubt that, as the Doctor says, there are even more evidences of this sort.

    And I also agree as to the value of legislative history and context: piece by piece the legislative history and context, say, of the 1994 New Jersey Megan’s Law shed powerful light on what has far-too-quickly-and-easily been granted the status of a PC icon; and the same goes for the 1995 New Jersey 'Poritz' decision. The parents not quite telling the truth about a point of utterly crucial relevance, a senior legislator eager to pander for votes, and the rules-violations by which the Law was rammed through while precluding deliberation and objections … this alarming tale of the slide toward police-state legislation is tremendously important for the readers to know and understand.

    The Doctor has devoted a great deal of his time and advanced skills to the purpose of examining the Center critically. My own interest is to help sex-offense-community readers expand their comprehension of the several aspects of the sex-offense mania. Our purposes are congruent, but not identical.

    In making his points, all worthwhile and useful, he also raises on the basis of his research and knowledge a clear instance of one aspect of the sex-offense mania that I have not often raised: a number of persons and entities are now drawing significant gain from their support of this thing. He refers to the financial gain of Mr. Allen, and such individual financial gain, since it is at the expense of the taxpayers, is of even more acute significance than the gain in ‘status’ or ‘personal meaning and fulfillment’ or ‘closure’ that many of these persons as individuals or as members of an organizational group derive from the continuation of the mania.

    The Megan’s Law group in New York has induced their Senator (Shumer) and a Representative (King) to sponsor a Bill that would grant their organization a million a year for five years a-n-d access to the NCIC. I Posted on that on this site in June and as of today that Bill is still languishing in committee, for which we can all give thanks and take heart that Congress may be re-considering this whole SO matrix.

    My thanks to Dr. Lazaridis. May we all continue on this vital task.