Department of Justice Seal

Attorney General Prepared Remarks

Operation Avalanche Press Conference
August 8, 2001

Today, we are announcing the results of Operation Avalanche -- a major initiative that combines the investigative resources of the Department of Justice, the Dallas Police Department and U.S. Postal Inspection Service. More than merely another successfully prosecuted case, Operation Avalanche stands as a model of federal, state and local cooperation in the investigation, prosecution and most importantly prevention of the sexual exploitation of children.

Regrettably, the work of the Department of Justice to provide a safe America for children now extends well beyond the physical world into the electronic universe of cyberspace. Few would disagree that the world wide web offers unparalleled educational and recreational opportunities for our young people. But there are back alleys and dark corners of the internet where children can be exposed to inappropriate material or become susceptible to offenders who view them as sexual objects.

These offenders leverage the technology and anonymity of the internet to trade and produce child pornography, explore their sexual interest in children, and to identify youth susceptible to manipulation and exploitation. Large numbers of young people are encountering sexual solicitations they did not want, sexual material they did not seek, and in the most serious cases, are targeted by offenders seeking children for sex. Today's internet has also become the new marketplace for child pornography. In their efforts to stop the electronic proliferation of these obscene materials, our law enforcement officers are often "outgunned and out-teched" by the profit-driven purveyors of child pornography.

To help make the internet a safe place for children to play and learn, the Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has been working to build a national network of state and local law enforcement agencies to respond to child pornography and cyber-enticement offenses. The cornerstone of our efforts is the National Center's CyberTipline which encourages citizens to report suspicious online activity to law enforcement. Under the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program, we are providing training, equipment, and funding to nearly 60 city, county and state law enforcement agencies. These agencies coordinate the efforts of more than 140 law enforcement agencies in 35 States. In just over two years, they have arrested more than 500 offenders, seized more than 900 computers, and reached thousands of children, teenagers, and parents with information about safe internet practices.

This successful coordination of all levels of law enforcement builds on the ongoing work of the Department of Justice, in addition to other federal agencies, in battling child pornography. The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Innocent Images National Initiative is a nation-wide effort to investigate those who traffick in child pornography and those who travel to commit sexual offenses against children. The United States Customs Service battles international child pornography, much of which originates in the United States. In addition, the legal experts in the Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section provide innovative, technology-based training for investigators on the federal, state and local levels.

Today, we are announcing the results of Operation Avalanche -- a first of its kind initiative involving unprecedented cooperation between local, state and federal law enforcement. Operation Avalanche combined the investigative resources of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program and U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Co-managed by the Dallas Police Department and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and coordinated through the ICAC Task Force Program, this operation offers a blueprint of how federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies can work together to protect children in cyberspace. In a few minutes, Chief Inspector Ken Weaver will provide you with some specific details of this initiative but before he does, I would like to recognize the co-managers of this investigation, Lieutenant Bill Walsh of the Dallas Police Department, and Postal Inspector Ray Smith and thank them for their hard work and leadership. In addition, investigators worked closely with attorneys from the Department of Justice's Criminal Division Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, who provided critical legal guidance at the undercover design stage and throughout the operation. We thank them, as well, for their dedication and expertise.

Understandably, today's announcement may alarm some parents. But I want to caution those with children who use the internet not to immediately yank the cord from the family computer. The Department of Justice is not saying that you should deprive your children of the educational and recreational opportunities of the internet. In this, as in so many other areas, exercising caution is the best course. Parents may want to talk with their children about possible dangers online, set out rules for their online activities, and encourage them to tell you when they become alarmed or disturbed by something they see while online.

Today's announcement emphasizes the resolve of the Department of Justice to make sure that cyberspace does not become a free-fire zone to target children. It serves notice that there are no free-rides on the information highway for traffickers of child pornography. To those in the sex industry who illegally prey on America's innocence, the Department of Justice will use every resource available to identify, investigate and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law. With the help and cooperation of parents, we will not only identify and prosecute those who seek to victimize children in cyberspace, but we will prevent future children from becoming victims as well.

Thank you. And now it is my pleasure to introduce Chief Postal Inspector Kenneth Weaver to provide the details on Operation Avalanche. Chief Inspector Weaver ...