Kenneth Lanning

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Kenneth V. Lanning

Kenneth Lanning is a former FBI agent who is best known for his expertise in child sexual abuse. Over his career, Lanning spent more than 30 years with the FBI, where he was involved in the investigation, research, and education on these sensitive topics. He played a significant role in the Behavioral Science Unit and is recognized for his contributions to the understanding of child abuse dynamics, including the controversial area of satanic ritual abuse during the 1980s and 1990s.

Lanning has authored many influential reports and publications, such as the "Investigator's Guide to Allegations of 'Ritual' Child Abuse," which provides guidelines on how to critically assess reports of ritual abuse. His work has helped law enforcement officers, child protective services, and other professionals better understand cases of child abuse. After retiring from the FBI, Lanning continues to provide training and consultation in these areas. While Kenneth Lanning's contributions are viewed as fundamentally shaping modern approaches to investigating child abuse, his critical perspectives on certain types of allegations have been a source of ongoing debate among professionals in law enforcement and child protection services.

Below is a description of his contribution to the shaping of modern CSA discourse and MAP's image, published in Boychat.[1] Quoted in full with replacement of dead links.

Architects of Oppression: Hoover and the FBI, Pt 2

I'm including this second section on the FBI under the rubric of Hoover, because I want the historical development of the agency and its evolving role in the public discourse to be clear.

This section focuses mostly on the work of Kenneth Lanning. As with each of my subjects, Lanning's career and writings (as well as those of the FBI more broadly) deserve a closer look and a deeper analysis than I can give him in this brief sketch. But my aim is to highlight key points that should not be overlooked.

Post-Hoover: A New Era for the FBI

In 1981, Kenneth Lanning joined the Behavioral Science Unit at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. In Quantico, Lanning "specialized in studying all aspects of the sexual victimization of children."

The FBI Behavioral Science Unit provides assistance to criminal justice professionals in the United States and foreign countries. It attempts to develop practical applications of the behavioral sciences to the criminal justice system. As a result of training and research conducted by the Unit and its successes in analyzing violent crime, many professionals contact the Behavioral Science Unit for assistance and guidance in dealing with violent crime, especially those cases considered different, unusual, or bizarre. This service is provided at no cost and is not limited to crimes under the investigative jurisdiction of the FBI. [2][3]

(Re)Defining the Demon

For several years, Lanning was the key mouthpiece of the FBI on the subject of "sexual victimization of children." As such, he was often called upon by the media for quotes with which they could pepper their articles on the sensational subject. A near-classic example would be this quote from the LA Times, in a 1988 story on efforts by youth sports groups to avoid occurances of sexual abuse (actually, this journalist quotes from "the book," which Lanning wrote on the subject -- as in, "he wrote the book on that." If I had more time and a good library on hand, I would regale you with numerous earlier newspaper and magazine quotes directly from Lanning):

According to an FBI study published by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in Washington, pedophiles seek out youth organizations as a place to meet children. "Pedophiles are frequently 'nice guys' in the neighborhood who like to entertain the children after school or take them on day or weekend trips," said the FBI's Kenneth V. Lanning in his report, "Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis." Pedophiles often take jobs dealing with children and "may often become a Scout leader, Big Brother, foster parent (or) Little League coach," he said in his 58-page report. "Some pedophiles can watch a group of children for a brief period of time and then select a potential target," Lanning said. "More often than not, the selected child turns out to be from a broken home or the victim of emotional or physical neglect. This skill is developed through practice and experience."[4]

Notice the social role that this agent of the FBI is playing -- telling us what "pedophiles" are like, defining, for public consumption, this new form of demon. By this point, the FBI has shifted it's rhetorical approach away from Comstock's language of puritan judgement, and toward Krafft-Ebing's science-inspired medico-legal jargon (but still founded on the same set of moral values, translated into medical terms and subdivided into the taxonomy of perversion -- the 20th-century demonology).

The document quoted in the LA Times article above is worthy of special mention. It is titled "Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis For Professionals Investigating the Sexual Exploitation of Children." It was written for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, a private agency that works in close cooperation with the FBI and receives large grants from the Department of Justice (the FBI is a bureau within the Department of Justice). I will focus more on the NCMEC later. Lanning's "Behavioral Analysis" has been through five editions, with the latest published in 2010. It is widely cited and widely available on the internet. I haven't taken the time (yet) to compare the various editions, but I suspect it would be an interesting exercise. Here are links to the third and fifth editions:

Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis For Professionals Investigating the Sexual Exploitation of Children 2010, 5th Edition; and 1992, 3rd Edition.[5]

Strict and Unflinching Application of the Law

Lanning is a somewhat enigmantic figure. Despite working for an organization renowned for its use of sensational publicity, and despite specializing in the most sensational subject one could choose, he takes a very different approach from J. Edgar Hoover, in that he seems to eschew sensationalism. A stickler for unflinching accuracy, Lanning highlights facts that many in his field find too uncomfortable to mention, such as the fact that it is possible "for a 5-year-old child to be sexually promiscuous."

Indeed, Lanning "wrote the book" on this subject as well (also in multiple editions, each one funded by DOJ grants funneled through the NCMEC) -- he called such children "compliant victims."

In this discussion, the term compliant will be used to describe those children who cooperate in or “consent” to their sexual victimization. Because children cannot legally consent to having sex with adults, this compliance should not in any way alter the fact that they are victims of serious crimes. Some have suggested using terms such as statutory, complicit, consensual, voluntary, cooperating, or participatory to refer to such victims. Each of these terms may have perceptual advantages and disadvantages. The term compliant is being used, however, because at this time I cannot think of a better one. The term used is not as important as recognizing and understanding the reality of the behavioral dynamics involved. For the sake of child victims and professional interveners, it is important to bring out into the open possible reasons for and the complexity and significance of this compliance. [. . .]

Society seems to have a problem dealing with any sexual-victimization case in which the adult offender is not completely "bad" or the child victim is not completely "good." The idea that child victims could simply behave like human beings and respond to the attention and affection of offenders by voluntarily and repeatedly returning to an offender's home is a troubling one. For example, it confuses us to see the victims in child pornography giggling or laughing. [. . .]

Most acquaintance-exploitation cases, including those involving computers, involve these seduced or compliant victims. Although applicable statutes and investigative or prosecutive priorities may vary, individuals investigating sexual-exploitation cases must generally start from the premise that the sexual activity is not the fault of the victim even if the child:

* Did not say "no"

* Did not fight

* Actively cooperated

* Initiated the contact

* Did not tell

* Accepted gifts or money

* Enjoyed the sexual activity[6]

Since retiring from the FBI, Lanning has made quite a career out of speaking on the subject. It appears some of his presentations may be available online: [7]

In his quest for accuracy, Lanning went so far as to call into question the satanic panic of the late 1980s and 90s.[2] [3] He was even interviewed about it by CBS News' 48 Hours.[8]

Many here will appreciate Lanning's frankness in discussing the "needs, wants, and desires" of children and teens, his recognition that children are no innocent angels, and that 16yo adolescents are more like 26yo adults than 6yo children. But his point in highlighting these things is to ensure that "interveners" are prepared, so they won't allow them to affect the prosecution of a criminal case. Lanning insists that even though children do in fact "consent" to sex, "their frequent cooperation in their victimization must be viewed as an understandable human characteristic that should have little or no criminal-justice significance."

In this sense, he still has much in common with Puritans, who were not shy about noting the "willfulness" of children, and who would not allow the "needs, wants, and desires" of children to affect their moral condemnation of proscribed behaviors and the punishments they meted out.

Another thing that Lanning does not say much about is the notion of "harm" from sexual experience. What is important to Lanning is the law (concerns about harm may -- or may not -- have motivated the passage of the law, but once the law is passed, the presence or absence of harm in any given case is irrelevant to the prosecution). This is another thing that he and the "community" of law enforcers that he represents have in common with Puritans. In their case it is God's law, in his case it is man's law. But I suspect he fully understands the historical influence of the one upon the other.

See also

External links

Lanning's interviews, along with the interviews of Bob Hamer (an undercover agent who infiltrated an activist organization)[9] are considered entry-level studies for new members of Newgon Organization.


  1. Architects of Oppression: Hoover and the FBI, Pt 2 Posted by shy guy on 2013-April-13
  2. 2.0 2.1 1992 FBI Report. Satanic Ritual Abuse. By Kenneth V. Lanning
  3. 3.0 3.1 Kenneth V. Lanning(1992) Investigator's guide to allegations of "ritual" child abuse.
  4. Youth Groups Fear Specter of Sexual Abuse. By Barbara Baird, 1988. (archived copy)
  5. Kenneth V. Lanning. Child Molesters: A Behavioral Analysis For Professionals Investigating the Sexual Exploitation of Children. 2010, 5th Edition; 1992, 3rd Edition (archived copy)
  6. Compliant Child Victims: Confronting an Uncomfortable Reality by Kenneth V. Lanning
  7. Ask the Expert - Compliant Child Victims
  8. Web Extra: Interview with Ken Lanning (video not archived)
  9. See True Spies: Inside NAMBLA (Bob Hamer) and FBI Retired Case File: Bob Hamer – NAMBLA, Undercover Pedophile, and Sex Tourism