Thank you all for joining us. As the Justice Department brings its fight against child exploitation to a new level today, I am honored to stand with so many incredible colleagues and public servants who have made it their life’s work to protect exploited children and seek justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.
As the Attorney General said the fight against child exploitation must be a top priority of the Department. That’s why my office is eager to spearhead these efforts, which will be overseen by the National Coordinator for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction.
The Attorney General outlined what we plan to do next to address this issue; however, I’d like to spend a few minutes telling you about what we’re doing now.
Today, we’re joined by the leaders – the agents, the prosecutors, the advocates – who fight child exploitation day in and day out. This includes many representatives from the Department’s components and agencies, including our Criminal Division, the FBI, Office of Justice Programs, the U.S. National Central Bureau, the U.S. Marshals Service, the NDIC, our ICAC Task Forces, and the U.S. Attorney community.
And we are also joined by our partners on Capitol Hill and at the Department of Homeland Security, including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Secret Service, NCIS, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the National Children’s Alliance, PROTECT, the Rebecca Project, HARPO, and even the UK’s CEOP center.
By acknowledging some of the individuals and organizations here today, I think it helps capture the extent to which the Department is engaged across agencies, jurisdictions, state lines, and national borders. And it’s not only investigations and prosecutions that these many public servants pursue. They also foster international cooperation, support victim services, and fund research
As we prepare to build on these ongoing efforts, I’m proud to report we continue to see success after success. There are, of course, many small victories, which add up and send strong messages to would-be exploiters. And there are major operations that reverberate for months and years to come. For example:
- Operation Nest Egg, which was launched two and a half years ago this month, and still ongoing today, has targeted more than 500 individuals worldwide for involvement in an online group for trading child pornography. Over 50 people have been arrested and a majority of them have already been convicted on child exploitation charges. The investigation’s success was directly tied to the coordination of many law enforcement agencies, including ICE, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Northern Virginia/Washington, D.C. Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Taskforce, the Indiana ICAC Taskforce, the Indiana State Police, and numerous local and international law enforcement agencies across the United States and Europe.
- In addition, in Operation Achilles, which was initiated by the FBI in June of 2006, the Bureau targeted a highly sophisticated group of Internet offenders who traded more than 400,000 images of child pornography over 15 years. The FBI, working closely with law enforcement as far away as Queensland, Australia, identified 14 members of this group in the U.S., at least five of whom were actively molesting children. Both American and foreign children were identified and rescued from their abusers. All of the U.S. members were convicted, and many received well-deserved life sentences.
Thanks to these and the numerous other law enforcement operations, the Department and our law enforcement partners have brought thousands of offenders to justice in the last year. But this progress is only a start. Tangible steps outlined in the National Strategy will bring our fight to the next level.
For one, the U.S. Marshals Service is launching a nationwide operation targeting the top 500 most dangerous, non-compliant offenders.
The Department also plans to develop a national database to empower federal, state, tribal, local and international law enforcement partners to deconflict their cases with each other, engage in undercover operations from a portal facilitated or hosted by the database, share information and intelligence, and conduct analysis on dangerous offenders and future threats and trends.
And the Department has already created 38 additional Assistant U.S. Attorney positions devoted exclusively to child exploitation cases. Over the coming months we will work to fill these vacancies – and build on the more than 2300 cases of child exploitation were filed by U.S. Attorneys across the country in Fiscal Year 2009.
Yet, every time I hear a statistic, I cannot help thinking of the individual cases I have read and the stories I have heard. They all remind me that these victims are individuals.
Today, we are joined by one such victim – Melissa – who has summoned the courage to speak up. As her story will remind us, someone can grow up and enjoy her life in spite of the trauma she has suffered. Her story is a reminder of the resiliency of the human spirit. It also reminds of the importance of continuing the Department’s mission and the mission of many of the agencies and organizations here today that are dedicated to helping individuals like Melissa.
The National Strategy champions and expands this effort. Thank you to all of you who are partners in this effort. Your vigilance and dedication will ensure that our shared aspiration – of a safer America for our children – becomes a reality.
Our next several speakers will be from our law enforcement partners, including the FBI, ICE, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, who will describe some of their recent investigations and anticipated undertakings in the future.
I’d like to now turn the microphone over to FBI Executive Assistant Director T.J. Harrington.