FBI Operated Child Porn Site to Nab Pedophiles

May 29, 2013 4:30 PM PST

OMAHA, Neb. — The FBI seized and ran an online child pornography service late last year in an attempt to identify and prosecute its customers, SFGate reported yesterday.

The website exhibited thousands of images showing children being raped, displayed and abused and hosted message threads like,  “How to lure a child in my car,” “Meeting other pedos in real life,” and “Do kids LIKE anal sex?” Upon closure, the site had 5,600 users and 24,000 posts.

Nebraska-based FBI agents seized the service, referred to only as “Website A” in a search warrant affidavit, on Nov. 16 and continued to operate it until Dec. 2, when it was shut down.  A Seattle special agent told the court that the Bureau kept the site open in order to monitor messages from users. A U.S. District Court judge in Nebraska authorized law enforcement agents to track down the site’s user on Nov. 9.   

“There have been past investigations that I am aware of where law enforcement has operated undercover, posed as members and even have become moderators of such boards allowing them to remain active while information and evidence is gathered,” Tim Henning, the executive director of the ASACP, told XBIZ. “This is the first time I am aware of that a federal law enforcement agency has actually taken complete control of such a board and allowed it to operate for the purpose of information gathering.”

Complicating the case is the fact that federal prosecutors often invoke the sentiment that every time child pornography is shared, the child is abused again. This line of reasoning has been used in court to refute the notion that the consumer’s role in child pornography is victimless.  

While Website A operated under the arm of federal agents, its users continued to swap illicit images of children and access similar images stored on its database.

“The question here is, do the ends justify the means?” Henning said. “Did investigators weigh the damage to child victims whose images were allowed to be disseminated amongst the board’s members, while the board was under the control of the FBI, against the need to identify those board members that may continue to harm children if left unidentified?”

Accoring to SFGate, the FBI declined to comment on the Omaha branch’s motivations to operate the site, but court records indicate that investigators were not able to trace Website A’s users using “traditional means.”

Because the investigation is ongoing, local court rules and Department of Justice policy restrict discussion or release of information about the case. No one has been publicly prosecuted in relation to the investigation as of yet.

If charges are filed, they will become a matter of public record.

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