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Child Pornography and Sexual Exploitation of Children

Child Pornography and Sexual Exploitation of Children

Statement of Louis J. Freeh, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and related Agencies, Washington, D.C., March 10, 1998.

Good morning, Chairman Gregg, Senator Hollings, and members of the Subcommittee. I am very pleased to appear before you today to discuss the problems of child pornography on the Internet and the sexual exploitation of children.

I would like to acknowledge the strong support of the Subcommittee for the FBI and other federal, state, and local law enforcement organizations and agencies working to protect children from computer sex offenders. Last April, this Subcommittee convened the first Congressional hearing during my tenure as Director that focused solely on this important issue. As I told the Subcommittee at that time, our children are our nation's most valuable resource. They represent the bright future of our country and hold our hopes for a better Nation. They are also among the most vulnerable members of society.

Your hearing last year was instrumental in raising public awareness to the seriousness of the problem of child pornography on the Internet. Your hearing also raised the recognition of this problem among law enforcement officers and prosecutors. Most importantly, you followed up your concern and commitment with action.

As a result of your efforts through the 1998 Justice Appropriations Act, the FBI, our state and local partners, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and others are taking positive actions to make our children's safety and future more secure by reducing their vulnerability to sexual predators using the Internet and commercial on-line services. Through your recognition of this issue, funding is available this year to improve the FBI's efforts to combat child pornography on the Internet, to enhance training and other related programs at the National Center for Missing and Exploited children, and to establish state and local law enforcement child sexual exploitation cyber-squads. This

Subcommittee is making a significant difference in providing law enforcement with the tools and capabilities they need to respond to this problem. On behalf of law enforcement, I thank you.

Yesterday, I had the honor to join Senators Gregg and Hollings and Ernie Allen, the President of the National Center, at the dedication of the Cyber TipLine. The Cyber TipLine is one example of the type of joint public-private sector partnerships that are mutually beneficial to law enforcement and the public, especially to our children. I hope that yesterday's events will bring to the public's attention the availability of the TipLine and that its use will assist in preventing innocent and unsuspecting children from being exploited and harmed.


I would like to start by bringing the Subcommittee up to date on how the FBI is using the additional staffing and funding provided for child pornography investigations that was included in the 1998 Justice Appropriations Act. The Act provided $10.0 million for enhancing our ongoing "Innocent Images" initiative which is a nationwide investigation coordinated in the FBI's Baltimore, Maryland, field office. This funding allows for 60 new positions, including 25 agents. As we allocated these additional resources, we considered and balanced the full range of requirements needed for the "Innocent Images" initiative, including additional investigators for Baltimore and other key locations, analysts, laboratory examiners and services, training and outreach, and case management automation. I believe the plan that we are implementing allows us to have the most impact with the additional resources the subcommittee provided us.

Baltimore. Most of the new positions -- 40 total, including 13 agents and 12 Intelligence Research Analysts -- are being assigned to our Baltimore Field Office. At Baltimore, we are creating a second "Innocent Images" squad to expand the scope of our current on-line undercover operation. Baltimore will also be able to provide 24-hour support to "Innocent Images" cases that involve suspects located in other FBI field offices. Currently, 95 percent of the "Innocent Images" cases generated by the Baltimore Field Office involve suspects who live in states other than Maryland.

The "Innocent Images" agents assigned to Baltimore will also use their expertise to provide training programs for state and local law enforcement and prosecutors, including those trained through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Two special agents from the Baltimore Division's "Innocent Images" staff will be assigned as instructors to teach law enforcement officers on-line child pornography/child sexual exploitation investigations. Since last April, FBI "Innocent Images" staff have made 54 presentations to approximately 2,100 state and local law enforcement officers and prosecutors.

We are also improving the "Innocent Images" case management system that supports on-line sessions conducted by undercover agents and which stores case and federal grand jury subpoena information. With the additional cases that will be generated by the increased number of agents added to the "Innocent Images" squads, an updated system is needed.

Los Angeles. The FBI's Los Angeles Field Office plays a significant role in support of the "Innocent Images" initiative, including the conducting of on-line undercover sessions. We are placing 4 agents and 1 intelligence research specialist in the Los Angeles Field Office where they will be dedicated to supporting the "Innocent Images" initiative. These agents will allow the Los Angeles Field Office to provide more timely follow up investigations regarding suspects identified and referred by the Baltimore Field Office, as well as initiate new Internet and on-line service child pornography investigations. Investigations by the Los Angeles Field Office are being fully coordinated with the national "Innocent Images" task force in Baltimore.

Forensic services. Child pornography investigations and prosecutions depend upon the identification and timely analysis of evidence from seized computers and media used to produce, store, and transmit illegal images and pictures. Individuals involved in the distribution and exchange of on-line child pornography and the recruitment of children for illicit sexual purposes are among the most sophisticated computer users the FBI is encountering. The additional cases that will be generated by the new squad being established in Baltimore will also increase the forensic workload of the FBI Laboratory. Consequently, improving FBI Laboratory capabilities to respond to the growing number of these cases is a high priority.

We are adding 6 positions, including 5 agents, to the FBI Laboratory to increase the number of examiners performing forensic examinations of computer-related evidence from "Innocent Images" cases. These agents will also travel to other field offices to assist in the execution of search warrants generated from cases developed by the "Innocent Images" squads.

Pocatello Information Technology Center. We are also adding 2 intelligence research specialists to the FBI Information Technology Center (ITC) located in Pocatello, Idaho. The Pocatello ITC provides a variety of overall case support services for "Innocent Images" investigations, including searches of commercial databases to locate and trace suspects and fugitives. During a court authorized wire interception in an on-line child pornography investigation, the very first of its kind, analysts at the Pocatello ITC directly assisted our investigators in the administration of this electronic surveillance.

Child Abduction and Serial Killer Unit. The FBI's Child Abduction and Serial Killer Unit provides critical behavioral profiling to FBI field offices, other federal agencies, and state and local law enforcement agencies working missing children cases and serial crimes, including cases involving sexual predators. Beginning in September 1997, the FBI began distribution of a "Child Abduction Response Plan" to over 17,000 federal, state, and local agencies to provide suggestions and guidance, based upon our experience, on dealing with these types of tragic incidents. This plan was prepared by the Child Abduction and Serial Killer Unit.

We are adding 2 additional agents and 1 Intelligence Research Specialist to ensure this Unit continues to provide timely and effective response to requests from law enforcement for assistance in missing children and child exploitation cases, especially those in which sexual predators use the Internet or on-line services to entice children to meet for illicit sexual purposes.

Liaison with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The FBI is in the process of assigning a Special Agent full-time to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to improve our liaison with the Center and to facilitate the timely referral of child sexual exploitation and missing children complaints and tips to FBI field offices.

Training. Just one and one half weeks ago, the FBI conducted the first of five regional On-line Child Pornography/Child Sexual Exploitation conferences in Atlanta, Georgia. Attending that conference were 30 FBI agents and 200 state and local law enforcement officers and officials from 7 Southeastern states: Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. Other regional conferences will be held this year in Dallas, Texas; Los Angeles, California; Chicago, Illinois; and Newark, New Jersey. These conferences are possible due to the additional funding provided in 1998.

Later this year, we are planning to convene a national-level symposium on Internet and on-line child pornography and child exploitation for all FBI field offices. Through this symposium, we hope to bring together FBI Special Agents who work on-line child pornography/child sexual exploitation investigations, prosecutors, Internet and on-line service providers, and others to exchange ideas and to build bridges between the various groups that will have a positive impact on reducing the vulnerability of children to these types of crimes.

Training law enforcement, prosecutors, and others is an important element of our effort to combat child pornography and child sexual exploitation on the Internet. We will continue our training efforts in 1999.

Increasing Public Awareness. One of the most effective ways to prevent children from becoming victims of on-line sexual predators is to educate them and their parents to follow safe Internet and on-line practices. Too often, unsuspecting children believe they are talking to a peer with similar interests and hobbies when, in fact, they are being recruited by a sexual predator who is exploiting the anonymity allowed by the Internet to hide his true intentions.

Thanks to your suggestion, Mr. Chairman, and that of Senator Hollings, we are incorporating Child Awareness of On-line Child Exploitation into the FBI Headquarters tour. Annually, more than 500,000 people take the FBI tour with the majority being school age children.

Among the ideas we are considering are short videos highlighting the issues of child abduction and child safety on the Internet that could be shown on televisions installed in the general waiting areas for tours. We are also considering locating two or three kiosks containing interactive computers along the tour route that would offer two different information programs, one for adults and one for children, relating to child safety on the Internet. Finally, we are considering a Crimes Against Children display that would be constructed and located outside the Firearms Range waiting area. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is working with us in developing these ideas and content.


The FBI initiated its "Innocent Images" investigation in 1995 as an outgrowth of the investigation into the disappearance of ten-year-old George Stanley Burdynski, Jr., in Prince George's County, Maryland. Investigation into the activities of two suspects determined that adults were routinely using computers to transmit images of minors showing frontal nudity or sexually explicit conduct, and to lure minors into illicit sexual activities.

"Innocent Images" focuses on individuals who indicate a willingness to travel for the purposes of engaging in sexual activity with a child; individuals who produce and/or distribute child pornography through the Internet and on-line services; and, individuals who post illegal images onto the Internet and on-line services. The FBI has investigated more than 70 cases involving pedophiles traveling interstate to meet minors for the purposes of engaging in illicit sexual relationships.

FBI Agents and other federal, state, and local investigators participating on the "Innocent Images" task force go on-line in an undercover capacity, posing as either young children or as sexual predators, to identify those individuals who are victimizing children. The coordinated effort has generated significant results: since 1995, the "Innocent Images" investigation has generated 328 search warrants, 62 consent searches, 162 indictments, 69 informations, 161 arrests, and 184 convictions.

I am particularly pleased to report that since March of 1997, the number of search warrants executed increased 62 percent; the number of indictments obtained increased 50 percent; the number of arrests increased 57 percent; and the number of convictions increased 45 percent.

As I mentioned earlier, we have started on-line "Innocent Images" investigations in our Los Angeles field office. We are also considering the need for on-line "Innocent Images" efforts in other field offices based upon workload and the identification of specialized user populations involved in on-line child pornography and related sexual offenses. All of these efforts will be coordinated with and through our Baltimore Field Office.

The "Innocent Images" initiative has expanded its investigative scope to include investigations involving news groups, Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and fileservers (also known as fserves).


I would like to comment briefly on several challenges that face not only the FBI, but all of law enforcement, as we move ahead in our efforts to combat Internet and on-line child pornography and sexual exploitation.

Encryption. When I testified last week before the Subcommittee on the FBI's 1999 budget request, I outlined for the Subcommittee a number of challenges facing the FBI as it moves toward the 21st century. One of these challenges is the growing use of encryption by criminals to conceal their illegal activities. The "Innocent Images" initiative has uncovered sexual predators who use encryption in their communication with each other and in the storage of their child pornography computer files. This encryption is extremely difficult, and often impossible, to defeat.

It is essential that law enforcement agencies at all levels of government maintain the ability, through court order, to access encrypted communications and data relating to illegal activity. National Coordination. The FBI has designated its Baltimore Field Office as the national coordinator for its "Innocent Images" initiative. Investigations of "Innocent Images" referrals conducted by other FBI Field Offices are coordinated through Baltimore.

Numerous other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies are initiating on-line undercover child exploitation investigations, some as part of task forces and others on an individual agency basis. As more law enforcement agencies begin to use this investigative technique, the likelihood that one agency will begin investigating another agency's undercover operation will increase. This is an obvious waste of very finite resources. On-line child exploitation investigations often cross jurisdictional lines and, in some instances, even national boundaries. Investigations that begin in one area may branch off to involve locations throughout the country and have links to other ongoing investigations. These types of cases must be coordinated among the various law enforcement agencies having jurisdiction. I believe the FBI is in a position to provide valuable and effective leadership to spearhead this national effort.

The 1998 Justice Appropriations Act provides $2.4 million to the Office of Justice Programs for grants to establish state and local law enforcement cyber-squads. This subcommittee also instructed that these cyber-squads follow the investigative protocols developed by the Department of Justice in the "Innocent Images" investigation. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Criminal Division, the FBI, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children are working closely together to develop a plan for the formation of eight regional state and local task forces using these funds.

I would like to see our "Innocent Images" initiative serve as a national clearinghouse, with links to a network of regional task forces staffed by federal, state, and local investigators. Such a clearinghouse and network would enhance support for, and coordination of, on-line child exploitation investigations and facilitate the sharing of intelligence information gathered through undercover sessions and cases.

DNA Profiles. Sexual predators have predictable behavior traits. Clinical research studies have found that the average child molester will have more than 70 victims throughout his lifetime. DNA profiles are one law enforcement tool that can be effective in quickly identifying suspects.

The FBI continues to work with states to establish the Combined DNA Information System (CODIS) that will allow state and local crime laboratories to exchange and compare DNA profiles electronically, thereby linking serial violent crimes and to identify suspects by matching DNA evidence to offender profiles. CODIS is operational in 86 crime laboratories in 36 states and the District of Columbia.

Currently, 48 of 50 states and all territories and possessions have enacted laws allowing the collection of DNA samples from convicted sex offenders and others convicted of violent crimes. We are working with the two states that do not have laws and expect those states to enact appropriate laws this year. At this time, there is no comparable effort to collect and maintain DNA samples from individuals convicted federally for sex crimes and other violent offenses. As a result of the "Innocent Images" initiative and other cases, more and more individuals are being convicted in Federal Court for sex offenses involving minors.

Steps need to be taken to close the gap between state and federal DNA profiling efforts so that a true nationwide database of DNA profiles for all convicted sex offenders is available.

Sex Offender Registry. The permanent national sex offender registry is scheduled to be implemented In July 1999 when the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) 2000 system becomes operational. This file will have the capability to retain an offender's current and previous registered addresses, dates of registration and conviction(s), photograph and fingerprints. Currently, an interim National Sex Offender Registry is operational which utilizes the FBI's Interstate Identification Index and the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System. The initiative became operational in February 1997. As of February 12, 1998, 23 states are participating in the Registry with 30,778 records flagged as sex offenders.

Industry Actions and Assistance. Over the past year, we have seen positive steps by the software and Internet Service Provider industries to reduce the availability of pornography to minors. Some Internet Service Providers are exploring different methods for protecting our children; to include blocking access to chat rooms and Internet news groups -- the places where Sexual Predators target and recruit minors. Some site providers are using proof of age and similar shielding systems to keep underage children from accessing sites containing adult-oriented materials.

Yet, more can and should be done to keep sexual predators from being able to reach our children through the Internet and commercial services. I urge the manufacturers of software products , those used for connecting to the Internet and also used in modems and computers, to include with their products a copy of the Internet safety publications prepared by either the FBI, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the Department of Education or a pamphlet of their own design. This simple action would help raise the awareness of parents and provide children with safety tips and practices to use while enjoying the Internet.

Another problem we encounter is access to subscriber information. When we identify an individual's screen name -- not their subscriber name -- through an on-line session, we must secure a Federal Grand Jury subpoena and then go to the Internet Service Provider to obtain subscriber and account information for that particular screen name. Oftentimes, sexual predators and others use multiple screen names or change screen names on a daily basis. Some Internet Service Providers retain screen name identifiers for such short periods of time -- in some instances less than two days -- that when law enforcement presents a subpoena, the Internet Service Provider is not able to retrieve from its archives the requested subscriber and account information.

The telephone industry is required by Federal Communications Commission regulation to maintain subscriber and call information for a fixed period of time. It would be beneficial for law enforcement if Internet Service Providers adopt a similar approach for retaining subscriber information and records for screen names and associated Internet Working Protocol numbers , or "IP addresses." Such information, when provided to law enforcement upon service of a subpoena, is critical to the timely identification of persons sending child pornography or trying to recruit a child for illicit sexual purposes.

Where possible, it would be beneficial for Internet service providers to capture and retain Caller ID data on persons accessing ISP lines. The capturing of Caller ID data will greatly assist law enforcement in child pornography/child sexual exploitation investigations.


Our efforts to combat child pornography on the Internet and commercial service providers is one element of the FBI's comprehensive Crimes Against Children Initiative. The FBI's overall goal for its Crimes Against Children initiative is to provide a quick and effective response to all reported incidents. Through a timely response, we believe the FBI can, in conjunction with its law enforcement partners, increase the number of incidents in which the victimization of children is stopped and increase the likelihood that abducted or missing children are safely recovered.

In each of our field offices, we are reaching out to our state and local law enforcement partners to encourage them to notify the FBI within that critical first hour of a reported child abduction or missing child. Once notified, our goal is to rapidly deploy those resources necessary to support or conduct an investigation.

I directed that two things be done to help ensure a timely notification is made in these cases. On February 2, 1997, the FBI added a new dimension to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) that allows law enforcement agencies to "flag" entries when there is a reasonable indication that a child is missing under suspicious circumstances or that the child is believed to be in a life-threatening situation. NCIC then notifies the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children and the FBI's Child Abduction and Serial Killer Unit. Special thanks go to Senator McConnell for his pioneering work that led to this new program.

Shortly after last year's hearing, in May 1997, I instructed each Special Agent in Charge to designate two FBI Agents to serve as Crimes Against Children Coordinators within their field office territories and to serve as field office points of contact for notifications.

No single law enforcement agency is equipped to handle the broad spectrum of issues that accompanies crimes against children. Working together, we can leverage our individual capabilities and expertise into an effective and comprehensive resource team. I have instructed each FBI field office to begin establishing multi-agency, multi-disciplinary resource teams consisting of federal, state and local law enforcement, prosecutors, victim/witness specialists, and health and social service professionals. These resource teams will facilitate interagency sharing of intelligence and information and enable effective investigation and prosecution of cases that transcend jurisdictional and geographical boundaries. 

The FBI's 1999 budget includes a request for 81 positions, including 30 agents and 31 victim/witness coordinators, and $8,009,000 to improve the delivery of law enforcement services to Indian Country. Between 1994 and 1997, 83 percent of the crimes on Indian reservations cases opened by the FBI involved either crimes of violence (47 percent) or the sexual or physical abuse of a minor child (36 percent). I urge your support for these additional resources that will allow us to investigate crimes against children living in Indian Country.


Mr. Chairman, I would like to again express my gratitude for the Subcommittee's strong support and confidence in the FBI. Both you and Senator Hollings can take pride in the leadership exerted by the Subcommittee in the area of protecting our children from sexual offenders and pedophiles. I believe your approach of balancing targeted increases in FBI investigative resources and capabilities in select areas with an emphasis on training for state and local law enforcement encourages partnerships and cooperation that are the keys to an effective response to the problem of Internet and on-line child pornography and child exploitation by sexual offenders and pedophiles.

This concludes my prepared remarks. I would like to respond to any questions that you may have.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).