Good afternoon. Joining me today are:
The Internet is now the marketplace for child pornography. The Department of Justice is acting to ensure that cyberspace is not a free-trafficking zone for purveyors of child pornography and predators of children.
Today I am announcing the results of a national law enforcement initiative that is combating the growing volume of illegal child pornography trafficked through peer-to-peer (P2P) computer networks.
Individuals are trolling the back alleys and dark corners of the Internet. They are leveraging its technology and anonymity to abuse and exploit the most innocent in our society. This law enforcement operation launched in the fall of 2003, is an aggressive, coordinated initiative, combining the resources of federal, state and local law enforcement. It is part of an ongoing effort to keep pace with emerging technologies used to commit, facilitate and hide heinous crimes.
To date, the coordinated efforts of The Justice Department, the FBI, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the 39 local Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces have resulted in the execution of hundreds of searches nationwide. At last count, we have identified three thousand three hundred and seventy one (3,371) suspect computers distributing child pornography through the use of peer-to-peer software over the Internet.
To date, this law-enforcement operation, for which I am providing an update, has:
This investigation remains active and ongoing.
These cases have charged not only offenses related to the possession and distribution of child pornography, but also sexual abuse of children. Further, the investigations have identified several individuals who have been convicted of sex offenses previously, as well as several registered sex offenders.
Investigators and agents from the participating agencies used several techniques - including undercover work - to infiltrate the P2P networks and identify those who distributed and took possession of child pornography images.
Two cases illustrate the scope of this P2P law enforcement operation:
Individuals arrested and charged in this investigation are, of course, presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. The maximum federal sentence for the distribution of child pornography is 20 years in prison. The PROTECT Act, signed by President Bush last spring, also created a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for this crime. If an individual committed a prior sex abuse offense, the mandatory minimum is 15 years in prison and the statutory maximum is 40 years.
Peer-to-peer is unlike ordinary use of the Internet, where thousands of users' computers link to a main Internet server. Peer-to-peer networks allow users, through installation of peer-to-peer software, to go online and connect their computers directly to one another. Peer-to-peer network members can access and download files designated for distribution directly on any of the computers that are part of the network.
Peer-to-peer networks are vehicles for a great deal of illegal activity, including the theft and trafficking of music, films and computer game software, as well as the illegal trafficking of child pornography. Combating this criminal activity is a focus of the Justice Department's Intellectual Property Task Force.
The Justice Department's coordinated efforts to combat the illegal proliferation of child pornography through peer-to-peer trafficking is ongoing. There are no free rides on the information highway for traffickers of child pornography. To those who prey on America's young and innocent, the Department of Justice will use every resource available to identify, investigate and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.
Many agencies and individuals played key roles in this initiative. First, I thank Assistant Attorney General Christopher Wray of the Criminal Division, for the leadership shown on this issue by the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.
I thank Assistant Attorney General Deborah Daniels of the Office of Justice Programs and Administrator Bob Flores of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, who provided support to the many Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces that participated in this effort.
The Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement played a key role in this operation, and I thank Assistant Secretary Michael J. Garcia, who is here with us today. I commend the outstanding work of the FBI on this critical issue, particularly Deputy Assistant Director Keith Lordeau of the Bureau's Cyber Crime Division. And joining us all the way from Nebraska is the Chairman of the Board of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces, Sgt. Scott Christensen of the Nebraska State Patrol. These task forces play vital roles in helping us combat this horrific problem at all levels - federal, state and local - and I thank them.
I now turn to Assistant Secretary Garcia for comments.
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