Editor's note: Watch an update on the investigation into Craigslist's adult services section on AC360 tonight at 10 p.m. ET.
Steve Turnham and Amber Lyon
CNN Special Investigations Unit
On a late afternoon in early June, undercover police officers circled a one-story highway motel north of Washington. Inside was a 12-year-old girl who told her mother she was being forced to work as a prostitute.
According to her mother, the girl had started running away from home earlier this year. She found out her daughter was in the sex trade when she saw her in an adult online classified ad. The girl was advertising herself as a 24-year-old with a bogus name. The next time she ran away, her mother reported her missing.
According to police and anti-trafficking advocates, the internet has now become the preferred way to sell women for sex. It's fast and convenient for the pimps and relatively safe for the men who pay for sex. Instead of trolling the streets, they can now look through hundreds of girls from the safety of their homes or hotels.
This time, the girl was lucky. She called home, and the call was traced to a Knight's Inn in Laurel, Maryland, where police were quickly on the scene. They rescued the girl and arrested a 42-year-old man and charged him with human trafficking.
Of all the sites that offer "adult services," Craigslist is one of the most popular. The online classified ad site is used regularly by about 50 million Americans for everything from buying used lawn furniture to finding a job or a roommate.
It's also used to sell sex, making Craigslist a prime target of a nationwide campaign against internet prostitution.
"Most of the young women we've worked with who have been exploited online talk about Craigslist," said Andrea Powell of the anti-trafficking group The FAIR Fund. "Craigslist is like the Wal-Mart of online sex trafficking right now in this country."
According to police who investigated the case of the missing 12-year-old, she had previously advertised on Craigslist under a false name and age. Craigslist declined to provide copies of the ad, citing privacy concerns.
Craigslist founder Craig Newmark defended his site, saying it is doing more than any other site that hosts adult ads to help filter out underage prostitutes and report them to police.
Hard on the heels of President Barack Obama's fiscal responsibility summit, the House Appropriations Committee posted the text of all those spending bills for this year that Congress failed to pass last year, and they're jam packed with thousands of earmarks worth billions of dollars.
The overall cost of the FY 2009 Omnibus Spending Act tops $400 billion, but it'll take some time before we know how much of that has been set aside by members for their pet projects.
A preliminary run through the earmark requests reveals some familiar pork projects: countless bike paths, downtown improvement projects, and museums. Democrats get the lion's share according to the old tradition of the party in power taking 60% of the earmarks.
The first rule of booking guests for television: when you land a good guest in a competitive environment, stick to them like glue.
After a series of confusing text messages and an even more confusing phone call (the music was LOUD), I thought I'd landed Kid Rock for Gary Tuchman at Tuesday's MTV ball.
Dude, imagine my irritation when after fighting back through the star-struck crowd I saw Mr. Rock, or whatever you call him, mic'd up for a rival network just feet from Gary.
Sneaky rats snagged my guest.
First rule of producing, if you can't get it done, find someone who can. So I sent Gary to smooth talk him into doing us next. Rock's response: "I thought that was CNN."
Then he left.
Redemption came in the svelte form of Kanye West, the night's top draw. We got him first at ten minutes to midnight.
And by "we" I mean Gary, who simply walked up to Kanye, and stuck to him like glue.
Editor's Note: Check out the Beat 360° caption contest to see the winners for this photo.
See the report by AC360°'s Joe Johns and Steve Turnham on AIG tonight, the first in our new series "10 Most Wanted: Culprits of the Collapse."
Remember all those stories about welfare moms driving cadillacs? They were 99% myth. Here's one that isn't. The insurance giant AIG takes 85 billion in taxpayer money, throws a nice little 400,000 dollar pedicure party for it's top earners, then comes back for another 37 billion welfare check.
AIG has an explanation. And you'll hear it tonight on AC360° as we begin our countrywide hunt for the top ten most wanted culprits of the collapse.
The bailout legislation passed by Congress today added $100 billion in tax breaks to the Wall Street rescue bill, the so-called "sweeteners." The presumption was all that extra cash would tempt House members who voted against the first version to switch and pass the new version, and it did. But there was more to it than that.
The tax breaks were actually part of a prior bill that had support in the Senate, but was hung up in the House because budget hawks were insisting it be paid for without extra deficit spending.
In attaching the measure, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid basically dared the House to accept the tax breaks, or take the blame for bringing down the economic rescue package. It's a classic power play, and one that angered some House members.
Why would Senator Reid risk the economic rescue package by muddying it up with giveaways? The devil is in the details: the measure would give money to states with a lot of federal land - which doesn't bring states any tax dollars - to pay for schools and government. It also would allow people in states without income taxes to deduct what they pay in sales taxes from their federal taxes.
Reid's home state of Nevada will benefit from both – big time. It has a lot of federal land. It has no state income tax. Reid runs the Senate. Reid is up for reelection in 2010.
Some House members will benefit from the added $100 billion benefit; some are angry about it. And some fit both categories.
“I hate this like poison," conservative Democrat Shelley Berkeley told the Las Vegas Sun, "but I think relief is necessary.” Berkeley is from Nevada.
If you want to know whether a bailout deal is possible, watch this space: www.house.gov/hensarling/rsc/.
That's the URL for the House Republican Study Group, a group of 100 conservative House members leading the resistance to the Bush bailout. If they're not on board, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is unlikely to push a bailout through, even if she can muster enough democratic and moderate republican votes. After all, why give 100 House republicans a potent anti-Wall Street message to go home and beat you up over?
House conservatives are willing to do a deal, but only if it does not involve the actual government purchase of bad debt. Their spiritual leader, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, put out what at first glance seemed to be a ringing endorsement of John McCain's bailout plan bailout effort Wednedsay.
Gingrich called McCain's move “the greatest single act of responsibility ever taken by a presidential candidate and rivals President Eisenhower saying, ‘I will go to Korea.’” But read the fine print, because there were some big IFs. IF, wrote Gingrich, the bill includes an economic growth component (tax cuts?), and energy solution (drilling?), and a "work-out" not a bail out for the financial sector.
The first two are killers: democrats are not going to ram through a package that gives the GOP what it wants just to get a bill passed. And what does a "work out" mean? Well we know what it doesn't mean; it doesn't mean the US government lifting the burden of bad decisions off of Wall Street and putting it onto the taxpayer, even if the White House says the taxpayer could actually profit in the long run.
As Hensarling himself put it Wednesday:
"I can put a gun to my neighbors head, take his college fund for his children, lace a bet on a roulette table in Las Vegas, and maybe, maybe, I'll triple his money. But ... that is not a risk that my neighbor voluntarily undertook. This is not a risk that the taxpayer wishes to voluntarily undertake."
We are devoting many posts today to the anniversary of 9/11, with first-hand accounts, insight, and commentary dedicated to that day seven years ago that changed our world.
On 9/11 I was the Senate producer for CNN. By the time I got to work the House and Senate had already been evacuated. I ended up on the roof of the CNN bureau, with a veteran cameraman, pointing the lens at the sky, waiting for a plane to come barreling down the Mall and into the US Capitol.
By then the Pentagon had already been hit, and there was smoke drifting across the city. But no one was quite sure yet what had happened. Rumors were flying that a plane was heading into DC, to the White House maybe, or the Capitol. As it turned out that plane was the one that crashed in Pennsylvania, but in those early hours, nothing was certain.
Another network reported as fact that a plane was flying down the Potomac River towards us (CNN did not report this). We tried to get ready for anything. What if it hit the Capitol and the explosion reached us a quarter mile away? What if it missed, and hit closer to us? We decided if we did see a plane, we'd shoot as long as possible, then leave the live shot rolling, and duck behind a wall.