Home News Testimony Fighting Internet-based Obscenity and Child Pornography
  • James H. Burrus
  • Deputy Assistant Director, Criminal Investigative Division
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
  • Washington, DC
  • January 19, 2006

Good afternoon Chairman Stevens, ranking member Inouye, and members of the committee. I appreciate the opportunity to appear and provide testimony about the FBI and its work on Internet-based obscenity and child pornography.

The FBI is taking an aggressive course of action in the area of obscenity. The FBI formed an adult obscenity squad, which is located in the Washington, D.C. Field Office. Agents assigned to the squad have both the legal expertise and Internet training to conduct these investigations.

The squad works closely with the Department of Justice's Obscenity Prosecution Task Force to initially determine if allegations meet the legal definition of obscenity prior to conducting investigations. Since 2001, the FBI has opened 79 Interstate Transportation of Obscene Material (ITOM) cases. Of these cases, 52 were opened since the beginning of FY 2004, the start of the initiative.

The exact volume of pornographic material available through the Internet is difficult to determine. A "Google" search of the word "pornography" results in approximately 19 million hits. A "Google" search of the word "obscenity" results in over 3 million hits. An online search for website names with the words "porn" or "sex" in the .com, .net, and .org domains shows more than 200,000 titles.

The Internet is a new tool for all types of commerce, including obscenity and child pornography. In the past, sexually explicit material was available through direct purchase or the mail. Direct purchase required the purchaser to actually go to a merchant—a face-to-face transaction. Mail purchase was more discreet. It required a purchaser to use a credit card and the product was then mailed to the address of the person ordering the product. While this eliminated the need to conduct a face-to-face transaction, an actual videotape or DVD had to be purchased.

Technological advances have eliminated the need for an individual to purchase or obtain an actual DVD or videotape. A person seeking such materials can now go online, order nearly any media, and have that product downloaded instantly onto the purchaser's computer. The purchaser can create their own DVD using the downloaded material.

Additionally, the live-feed capabilities of the Internet allow viewing of live sex acts online with interactive direction. Sexually explicit materials can be downloaded directly onto pocket-size portable devices such as cell phones and digital music players. More than ever, sexually explicit materials are cheap and distribution channels widespread. With that comes the proliferation of obscene material and child pornography.

The FBI's lead role in the fight against child pornography is well known. By teaming up with other law enforcement agencies, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the public, we have successfully established "Innocent Images" task forces throughout the country and arrested thousands of predators who would use the Internet to entice children into exploitive sexual situations.

As an example, in January of 2002 the FBI led an investigation which resulted in the rescue of a 13-year-old girl who had been taken to Northern Virginia from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by an individual she met on the Internet. The girl was transported across state lines and held in a residence where she was repeatedly sexually assaulted.

When the girl was rescued, she was found restrained to a bed post with a dog collar and a chain. The subject was identified after bragging in an Internet chat room and sending photographs of the victim whom he identified as his "sex slave". The subject was prosecuted in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania and sentenced to 17 years in prison.

In the past year, we have increased the number of these task forces from 28 to 32. Since the inception of the "Innocent Images" initiative in 1996, we have seen a 2,000 percent increase in the number of cases and a similarly significant increase in the number of arrests. Across the country more than 240 agents are working child pornography cases day and night with our state and local partners. We have trained these partners in digital evidence collection so they have the tools to fight this crime problem. And it is a big problem.

We have also established working groups outside our borders with countries around the world to combat the sexual exploitation of children. To demonstrate the importance of our international partnerships, let me discuss an investigation which recently resulted in a North Carolina man being sentenced to 100 years in federal prison.

In late 2003, a detective in Denmark was conducting an undercover, online investigation when he came upon extremely disturbing and violent images of a young girl being molested and abused by an adult male. The Danish detective posted the images on an Internet site maintained by Interpol, where a detective in Toronto, Canada recognized something familiar in the images and contacted the FBI's Innocent Images Unit.

An FBI agent assigned to the Innocent Images Unit was able to identify several numbers on a youth organization uniform worn by the victim in one of the images. This identification was made despite efforts made by the subject to blur the numbers and other potential identifiers in the photographs. Through the numbers on the uniform, the victim was identified as a member of a youth organization in the Charlotte, North Carolina area.

The adult male in the photographs was identified as her father. A search warrant was executed at the family's residence and over 400 photographs of what has been described as some of the most violent and disturbing images ever documented by the FBI were recovered. It was also determined that the subject had been molesting his 8-week-old nephew and had devised a plot to kill his wife if she ever discovered the abuse.

The FBI and the Department of Justice are committed to curbing the production and distribution of obscene materials and child pornography. We look forward to working with this committee to accomplish this worthwhile goal. I would be happy to answer any questions.

 
Recent Testimonies
07.16.14
FBI Efforts to Combat Elder Fraud Joseph S. Campbell, Deputy Assistant Director, Criminal Investigative Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Statement Before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Washington, D.C.
07.15.14
Taking Down Botnets Joseph Demarest, Assistant Director, Cyber Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Statement Before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, Washington, D.C.
06.11.14
Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation James B. Comey, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Statement Before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, Headquarters
05.21.14
Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation James B. Comey, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Statement Before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Headquarters
05.13.14
Combating Economic Espionage and Trade Secret Theft Randall C. Coleman, Assistant Director, Counterintelligence Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Statement Before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, Washington, D.C.
04.16.14
The FBI’s Role in Cyber Security Richard P. Quinn, National Security Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Philadelphia Field Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Statement Before the House Homeland Security Committee, Subcommittee on Cyber Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies, Washington, D.C.
03.27.14
FBI Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2015 James B. Comey, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Statement Before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, Washington, D.C.
03.26.14
FBI Budget Request for Fiscal Year 2015 James B. Comey, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Statement Before the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, Washington, D.C.
03.26.14
Innocence for Sale: Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Michael T. Harpster, Acting Deputy Assistant Director, Criminal Investigative Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Statement Before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, Washington, D.C.
11.14.13
Cartel Prosecution: Stopping Price Fixers and Protecting Consumers Ronald T. Hosko, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigative Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Joint Statement with Antitrust Division Assistant Attorney General William J. Baer Before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights, Washington, D.C.
More