Criminal Justice News

Thursday, January 10, 2013

New tools in use for investigating, prosecuting child pornography

1/10/2013 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan  -- A few years ago, individuals who viewed and downloaded child pornography were rarely discovered. However, with new technology and assistance from the Department of Justice, law enforcement agencies within the Department of Defense are successfully detecting and prosecuting more offenders, in cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Defense Criminal Forensic Lab, and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The production, viewing, downloading, or dissemination of images of child pornography on computers, smartphones, or in any form is a violation of federal law under Title 18, United States Code, Section 2256. Viewing child pornography is not a "victimless crime." In some cases, it can involve infant rape and equally horrific acts. No matter the type, it is the demand for child porn that drives its production. Child victims suffer life-long psychological harm, being "re-victimized" each time the images are viewed. One of the victims recounted:

"I want you to know...the effects of random men looking at pictures of my sex abuse as a child ... I still have nightmares that come from knowing that pictures of me are spread around the Internet by people with perverted interests in my pain."

Servicemembers who download, receive, or view pornographic images of minors (under the age of 18) face significant sanctions, including a dishonorable discharge and ten years confinement for each violation. Civilian employees and dependents may be transferred to U.S. jurisdiction for prosecution, or prosecuted under Japanese law. Offenders are registered felons subject to sexual offender registration requirements and face other sanctions, including limited employment opportunities, the loss of VA benefits, the ability to vote, and the ability to possess firearms.

Because of these severe sanctions, adult pornography sites usually exercise great caution in the materials they post on-line, making "accidental" child porn downloads unlikely. Child pornography is often disseminated illicitly from third countries, using multiple servers to try to disguise the source. Multi-national law enforcement authorities are cooperating in cracking down on those sites. Similarly, federal and military law enforcement authorities have developed new tools to track individuals who access child pornography.

According to Special Agent (SA) Michael Saenz, Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) Detachment 621, Yokota AB, "Every internet 'hit' on a child porn site is quickly traced to the individual IP address of the user. We can see the html address, file names, dates, user names, and more. It doesn't take very long before we seize the media. And even if an offender deletes the files, we're still able to recover information--even if several years old."

Across the Air Force, the results of the new tools have been immediate. Prosecutions have resulted in more convictions and sentences with lengthy confinement and punitive discharges. SA Saenz added, "The sexual exploitation of children is a terrible crime and remains a global problem, but with increased vigilance and reporting, and these new tools, we can better track and prosecute offenders. In the long run, hopefully, we'll have fewer offenders and cases."

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