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Mulling Over the Implications of the Protect Act April 21, 2012

Posted by geoff in News.

I was reading a couple of articles about the Secret Service scandal in Colombia, and was surprised by this quote:

Issa stressed that it was a crime to sleep with minors abroad – although there is no suggestion that any of the men who have been named did.

‘U.S. laws passed in 2003 and 2006 were designed to prevent sex vacations causing harm to underage women,’ the Republican Representative added.

I had never heard that. So I looked up the legislation, and it turns out that the Protect Act of 2003 says exactly that:

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18.

This isn’t going to change my vacation plans or anything, but doesn’t this seem fundamentally wrong? First, commercial sex acts are legal in many places, including, obviously, some counties in Nevada. Second, the age of sexual consent varies from country to country: 18 is the highest anywhere, and is much higher than most countries. And finally, how does it work that the law is now derived from citizenship rather than the jurisdiction?

Am I misunderstanding the implications of this? Isn’t this a precedent for other federal laws following US citizen anywhere in the world? So there’s no escape from the long arm of the US government, and you’ll be subject to two sets of laws wherever you go?

I understand the motivation to try to eliminate the exploitation of minors abroad, but this seems like a dangerous way to do it.


1. geoff - April 21, 2012

Speaking of decaying civil liberties, you can be entertained by this whinefest from Salon:

Obama’s dismal civil liberties record

2. digitalbrownshirt - April 21, 2012

I remember when they passed the law. It would have been hard to find somebody to argue against making it at the time.

3. Pupster - April 21, 2012

Wait, is that dog years?

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