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While serving as chief of the Criminal Investigative Liaison Branch of the State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) in 2018, Supervisory Special Agent Steven May was alerted by interagency partners to a significant gap in the implementation of a law designed to protect children from sex offenders. Alarmed, he got to work and tirelessly advocated to amend department policies.
International Megan’s Law to Prevent Child Exploitation and Other Sexual Crimes Through Advanced Notification of Traveling Sex Offenders, known as IML, requires the State Department to include a unique identifier in the passports of registered sex offenders covered under the law based on their conviction for a sex offense against a minor. When an offender travels internationally, this identifier enables the U.S. Marshals Service National Sex Offender Targeting Center (NSOTC) to inform destination countries, and DSS to notify regional security officers.
Although IML specifically authorizes the department to ask passport applicants their sex offender registration status to identify who is covered by the law, Mr. May learned that application forms currently do not include this question. Further, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not have the capacity to preemptively check the estimated 900,000 registered sex offenders in the U.S. to determine who is covered by IML. Counterparts in DHS’ Angel Watch Center (AWC) indicated to Mr. May that, if checked, as many as 500,000 of those individuals have convictions against children and would therefore require a unique passport identifier. By asking the question of applicants, AWC could focus on offenders most likely to travel.