Remember, they are always saying that any time a child abuse image is shared a child is being re-victimized. So, why is the FBI abusing children and not being arrested for it? Don't forget, many of their own were found to have child porn on their computers, but it was swept under the rug! It's good the site was shut down, but this is insane!
By LEVI PULKKINEN
The FBI seized and ran a child pornography service late last year as investigators worked to identify its customers, one Western Washington man allegedly among them.
Following a lengthy investigation, Nebraska-based agents raided the large child pornography service in November hoping to catch users who shared thousands of images showing children being raped, displayed and abused.
The Bureau ran the service for two weeks while attempting to identify more than 5,000 customers, according to a Seattle FBI agent's statements to the court. Court records indicate the site continued to distribute child pornography online while under FBI control; the Seattle-based special agent, a specialist in online crimes against children, detailed the investigation earlier this month in a statement to the court.
The investigation appears to mark a departure for the Bureau and other federal law enforcement agencies aiming to root out child porn purveyors.
Historically, child pornography investigations stem from tips made to law enforcement, interactions with undercover officers posing as customers or reviews of documentation seized during searches of child porn clearinghouses like the one recently raided in Nebraska. While investigators are known to have posed as child porn dealers – a 2011 effort involved targeted emails to suspected pedophiles – it is not apparent that the FBI previously dealt child porn as part of a sting.
The Nebraska investigation is still in its early stages, and, while charges appear to be forthcoming, no one being prosecuted has been publicly tied to the site thus far. Information obtained during the investigation resulted in a search of one Western Washington home, and investigators are presently reviewing computers seized during that April search.
The FBI declined requests to discuss the investigation or investigators’ motivations to continue operating the site. Court records indicate investigators hoped to trace customers and were unable to do so through traditional means.
“This remains an ongoing investigation, and local court rules and Department of Justice policy prohibit me from providing more information at this time,” said Sandy Breault, spokeswoman for the FBI Omaha Division. “As in any given matter, if charges are filed, they will eventually become a matter of public record.”
Named only as “Website A” in an April 10 search warrant affidavit filed by the Seattle-based agent, the child pornography service was described as an online bulletin board with the primary business of advertising and sharing child pornography.
The affidavit was obtained by seattlepi.com earlier in May through a publicly accessible court records system. It has since been sealed.
Agents in the Omaha area seized “Website A” on Nov. 16 and continued to operate it until Dec. 2, monitoring messages from users of the website, the Seattle special agent told the court. The site was shut down Dec. 2.
At the time the service was shuttered it had more than 5,600 users and 24,000 posts, nearly all of which related to child pornography. At least 10,000 photos of children being posed nude, raped or otherwise abused were broadcast through the site.
Writing the court, the special agent recounted the site users’ discussions on how to avoid detection by police. One went so far as to publish a lengthy guide on encryption, and protections placed on the service impeded investigators’ work.
Most often, though, “Website A” users chatted about their shared interests – the rape and molestation of children. Message threads on the site included “How to lure a child in my car,” “Meeting other pedos in real life,” and “Do kids LIKE anal sex?”
On Nov. 9, a U.S. District Court judge in Nebraska approved a request by law enforcement agents to track down the website’s users.
According to the agent’s statement, investigators were unable to identify “Website A” users through the service’s records. Allowing the site to continue to operate – allowing pedophiles to continue swapping photos and accessing images stored on the site – was necessary to identify the customers.
Court records do not note how many images of raped and abused children were shared or accessed while the FBI was operating “Website A.” Investigators also do not indicate whether known victims of child pornography – abused children pictured in widely distributed pornographic series – have been notified photos of their abuse were again shared as part of the investigation.
In what has become a disturbing legal cliché, federal prosecutors often assert that each time an image of rape or molestation is shared, the child is abused again.
That was among the arguments offered by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Marci Ellsworth last year when she sent a Seattle child molester to federal prison for child pornography crimes unrelated to the Nebraska investigation.
Ellsworth opined that Pinson’s crimes were not, as the child pornography consumers sometimes argue, “victimless.”
“Distributing of child pornography – images and videos of real children experiencing the worst moments of their young lives – is not a ‘victimless’ crime, and the heinous nature of this offense should never be diminished by referring to it as ‘just pictures,’” Ellsworth told the court. “The children portrayed … suffer real and permanent damage, for the rest of their lives, each and every time their exploitation is shared over the Internet.”
One of those children – a girl whose father shared images of her being abused that has since become widely shared online – put it more bluntly in a statement to the court filed last year.
“I wish I could feel completely safe, but as long as these images are out there, I never will,” she said in a victim impact statement.
“Every time they are downloaded, I am exploited again, my privacy is breached, and my life feels less and less safe,” she continued. “I will never be able to have control over who sees me raped as a child. It’s all out there for the world to see and it can never be removed from the internet.”
Efforts to interview a Seattle attorney representing her were unsuccessful prior to the holiday weekend. Staff at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children was also unavailable to discuss the issues surrounding the investigation.
The Seattle-area man targeted in the investigation is alleged to have accessed a “jailbait” girls section of “Website A” 10 days after investigators took control of it. Specifically, he’s alleged to have accessed photos showing two men raping a 10 to 12 year old girl.
Seattlepi.com does not generally identify suspects prior to charges being filed. Charges have not yet been filed in the case.
According to the Seattle agent’s statement, the site's users expounded on their interest in watching children be sexually assaulted by several men at the same time, and bragged about a collection of photos on the topic.
“There have been over 7,850 views of this thread in less than a week, which is a great compliment to the girls!” one user said in a post, according to a search warrant affidavit. “However, I find it hard to believe than(sic) in the last century and a half since photography was invented, it hasn’t occurred to more people that to photograph a cute little girl being hard (expletive) by two men is a fine and arousing thing to do.”
Users went on to discuss in graphic detail the practicalities of a small girl being gang raped, according to the agent’s statement.
In a separate thread, users discussed their desire to rape children pictured in a series of pornographic photos. One man remarked that he would gag and chain one girl and leave another “swollen from all the abuse,” and then days later expressed similar sentiments toward yet another nude pre-teen girl.
“Jesus I would enjoy hurting that child,” a user said in the chat thread, according to the search warrant affidavit.
Agents began watching the Seattle-area home thought to be associated with one user in late-March and seized computers from it on April 10. Charges had not yet been filed in the case, and court records do not indicate whether child pornography was recovered in the search.