- Robert S. Mueller, III
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Project Safe Childhood Conference
- Washington, DC
- December 06, 2006
Good afternoon. It is an honor to be here with so many friends and colleagues. My thanks to the Attorney General for inviting me here today.
When you reach a certain age, you start to see the world in terms of "before" and "after." Certain historical or social events often serve as markers in our lives...as points after which things are never quite the same, for better or for worse. September 11, the assassination of President Kennedy, the fall of the Berlin Wall, even the Red Sox winning the World Series—moments that divide our lives into a "before" and an "after."
The creation and subsequent explosion of the Internet is one such marker, both for better and for worse. With more than one billion people around the world routinely online, the Internet has become an integral part of our daily lives. It has dramatically enhanced the way we communicate, the way we learn, and the way we work.
As New York Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote in his best-selling book "The World is Flat," the Internet has leveled the playing field, creating a convergence of people, places, knowledge, and information. We have gone global as individuals.
But there is a dark side to this globalization. Just as international travel has hastened the spread of disease, information technology has hastened the spread of crime and terrorism. Criminals are making ready use of the Internet, from computer intrusions to money laundering. Terrorists around the world are recruiting, training, and planning attacks, armed only with laptops and Internet access.
But one of the most insidious uses of the Internet is for child sexual exploitation. An increasing amount of this exploitation takes place in the dark shadows of the Internet—on websites and message boards, through file sharing and e-mail, and in real time with web cams and streaming video.
There is no justification for this crime, whether political, ideological, or financial. And there can be no tolerance and no retreat on our part. We cannot and will not rest until these predators are shut down and locked up. That is why coordinated efforts like Project Safe Childhood are so important.
Today I want to talk about what we in the FBI are doing to attack child exploitation on the Internet. I want to touch on what we must do to meet your needs in terms of evidence collection and prosecution. Lastly, I want to talk about the role of both parents and the private sector in addressing this scourge.
One of our most important programs is the Innocent Images National Initiative, which for 10 years has targeted sexual predators who use the Internet to exploit children. We have ongoing undercover operations across the country, with more than 240 agents who investigate cases with their state and local counterparts.
On any given day, these investigators may pose as children to lure online predators into the open. They may pose as collectors seeking to share images through peer-to-peer networks. They may coordinate with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to identify children and adults featured in child pornography. Or they may train police officers to investigate cases in their own jurisdictions.
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of work in this arena. Our case load has spiked from just 113 cases in 1996 to more than 2,100 this year.
With heightened scrutiny in the United States, child pornographers are going further underground, using file-sharing networks and encrypted websites. They are concealing their financial mechanisms through a maze of online payment services, using stolen credit cards. They are traveling to foreign countries to exploit minors. They are victimizing more children, in more ways, at younger and younger ages.
In one instance, agents in Chicago searched a predator's residence and found a customized computer with five hard drives and several external drives. They seized more than a terabyte of digital data-the equivalent of more than one million paperback books. This man has been sentenced to 20 years in prison not only for distributing pornography, but for manufacturing images of his own, including the victimization of a minor living with him.
In another such case, a cyber agent traced images downloaded from a file-sharing network to a man in the Pittsburgh area. Together, agents and members of the High Tech Crimes Task Force seized more than 2,500 images of highly graphic child pornography, housed everywhere from the subject's computer to DVDs to his Apple iPod.
These cases are significant not just because of the amount of material seized, but because of our collaboration with state and local counterparts.
This coordination is not limited to the national level. Police officers from Britain, Australia, Belarus, Thailand, and the Philippines, among others, work with agents and analysts on the Innocent Images International Task Force in Calverton, Maryland.
Our international partners know the language, the customs, and the cultures of their home countries. Today, information that once took weeks or even months to relay can be exchanged simply by walking across the room. Together, we have convicted a number of child predators around the world.
For example, in October, Ukrainian investigators arrested the father of a young girl featured on a pornographic website. The father had received money and gifts in exchange for allowing his daughter to be sexually abused on camera. This investigation started in Denmark, and spread to Ukraine and the United States. It was a Ukrainian police officer, a member of the task force, who played a key part in capturing this criminal and shutting down this website.
Child pornography is a global threat that requires a global response. We have no choice but to work together. It is not just a matter of preference, but of necessity.
But as these cases illustrate, identifying child predators is only part of the equation. We must also collect the evidence necessary to convict them. Our Regional Computer Forensics Labs and our Computer Analysis Response Teams work with federal, state, and local officials to find and preserve this vital evidence.
Earlier this year, RCFL examiners working with the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force targeted an international ring of child molesters, who distributed photos and videos over the Internet. These individuals victimized at least 45 children, including 37 children from the United States, ranging in age from 2 to 14. Twenty-five individuals in Europe and North America were arrested and tried for their involvement. Examiners spent more than 500 hours collecting the evidence necessary to put these men away.
Unfortunately, such cases are all too common. In the past five years, RCFL and CART examiners have conducted more than 28,000 examinations. As the number of computer crimes we investigate has increased, so has the need for computer forensics.
It is always a struggle to square priorities and improve services with limited resources. But we must find a way to balance our forensic needs in counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and computer intrusion cases with an ever-increasing need for such analysis in child exploitation cases. To meet that need, we have trained more than 10,000 law enforcement officers to handle digital forensic evidence.
Image Scan is one of our most sought-after training courses. This program enables investigators to identify, isolate, and store images from a suspect's computer on a thumb drive. We provided Image Scan training to more than 1,600 state and local task force officers this past year, enabling them to collect data necessary to obtain search warrants, or to detain subjects pending a more comprehensive analysis. Next year, with the DOJ's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, we will train our international partners in Brazil, Budapest, and Canada, to name just a few.
By giving cyber investigators the tools they need, we are reducing our backlog and leaving more complex matters for the CART teams and the RCFLs. We know there is a real need for additional training, faster services, and better coordination, and we will continue to expand these efforts in the years to come.
I want to talk for just a moment about the importance of community outreach and private sector partnerships.
Part of our job—and an integral part of Project Safe Childhood—is to educate the public about child exploitation. The Internet has provided child predators with a sense of anonymity and their products a worldwide portability. These are not mere pictures or posed shots, but live acts of molestation. And as predators become desensitized, those who once collected images may start to create images, seeking to harm younger children, in more terrifying ways.
Our cyber agents routinely meet with members of the community to talk about Internet safety. Parents may not understand the dangers lurking in cyber space, or what they are doing to put themselves and their children at risk. A parent may see a web cam as an easy and inexpensive way for a child to communicate with friends or relatives, but a predator sees it as an open window into a child's bedroom.
In field offices around the country, agents are teaching parents the tactics used by predators and the risks of peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, instant messaging, and social networking sites.
We are also working with the media to get the message out. Our Endangered Child Alert Program uses national and international media exposure to identify unknown predators and victims. Through publicity on the FBI website and the television show "America's Most Wanted," we have identified and arrested eight predators. More importantly, we have identified more than 30 child victims.
In another effort, just over one year ago, Oprah Winfrey began to feature known sexual predators on her television show and to post their faces and identifying information on her website. She is offering $100,000 out of her own pocket for each predator brought into custody. Within the first week, two fugitives were arrested. Since then, two more predators have been taken into custody.
We have also enlisted the help of our private sector partners. We have asked Internet service providers and search engine operators to monitor their websites, and to alert us when they discover illegal content.
We in law enforcement face another hurdle in purging predators from the Internet—and that hurdle is tracking both the criminal and the crime. As the Attorney General has said, data linking criminals to their crimes is absolutely essential in the fight against online child exploitation. We are working with Internet service providers to retain records of online activities so that we can identify predators and their activities and successfully prosecute them.
Everyone in this room has seen violence and injustice. But there are few things more difficult to bear than the victimization of a child. These cases are horrific, heartrending, and seemingly endless in number.
With this conference, we reaffirm our commitment to protecting the most vulnerable among us. We reaffirm our commitment to sweeping sexual predators off the street, off the Internet, and out of our children's lives.
In closing, I want to say a word about those of you who investigate and prosecute these cases. You deserve our respect, our admiration, and our gratitude. You have seen the darkest side of humanity. But this is some of the most important work we do.
My sincere thanks to all of you, to the special agents, police officers, forensic examiners, and prosecutors who are here today, and to Ernie Allen of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. You truly define advocacy, dedication, and diligence.
Thank you and God bless.