Deputy Assistant Director, Cyber Division
“Operation Peer Pressure”
afternoon. For the past ten years the FBI’s
innocent images national initiative has led the
way in combating the proliferation of child pornography
and child exploitation facilitated online. Since
the inception of the program, over 3,000 subjects
have been convicted.
the FBI has initiated three new programs to enhance
its effort in protecting America’s children,
the endangered child alert program, ‘e’
groups, and peer pressure. The creation of these
three initiatives has led the FBI to identify and
rescue more than 50 victim children.
the past two years, we have identified a new and
vastly growing problem in the dissemination of child
pornography in peer-to-peer networks.
response to the problem, the FBI has worked aggressively
with the department of justice’s child exploitation
and obscenity section to develop protocols for investigating
the transmission of these materials over these networks.
November, 2003 the FBI initiated Phase I of what
we refer to as “Operation Peer Pressure.”
During this phase the FBI conducted 166 on-line
sessions in which undercover agents were able to
download child pornography from the offender’s
computer. It is important to note that anyone with
a computer, including children, could have had the
same access to the images that our undercover agents
did. The sessions resulted in the identification
of 106 subjects located throughout the U.S.
evidence gathered during the undercover operation,
agents obtained search warrants for subjects’
residences where computers and other contraband
were seized. To date, 103 searches have been executed
and 17 subjects have been arrested or indicted.
were two cases which exemplify the types of cases
generated by operation peer pressure:
a search conducted in the Houston division, agents
found a subject who was in possession of hundreds
of child pornographic images as well as several
violent movies depicting graphic sexual abuses of
children. The subject also confessed to molesting
his seven year old stepdaughter.
additional case in the Albany division lead agents
to question an individual who immediately confessed
to possessing hundreds of images and movies depicting
the sexual abuse of children. This individual then
told agents that he had molested two girls, ages
6 and 8.
41 of the FBI’s 56 field offices were involved
in this first phase of operation “Peer Pressure”.
is important for parents to be educated to the risks
associated with peer-to-peer networking. While not
all aspects of these networks are bad, like other
Internet services, they provide pedophiles with
a false sense of anonymity to collect and transmit
images. This sense of anonymity encourages pedophiles
to openly share as much of their child pornography
to as wide an audience as possible.
will often use innocuous or popular search terms
to expose innocent children and adults to graphic
child pornographic images. This creates a situation
in which children search peer-to-peer networks for
their favorite pop music artist only to find search
results which include child pornography. Parents
should be aware that access to these networks is
free and exposure to child pornography is not uncommon.
there be no doubt that peer-to-peer networks are
not, and will never be, sanctuaries for those who
engage in these most abhorrent crimes. We will continue
to be very aggressive in pursuing those who victimize
our nation’s children. The FBI continues to
work closely with our local, state, and federal
law enforcement partners, in addition to our international
counterparts, to address this egregious crime problem.