Press Release

For Immediate Release
May 14, 2004

Washington D.C.
FBI National Press Office
(202) 324-3691

Remarks of
Keith Lourdeau
Deputy Assistant Director, Cyber Division

“Operation Peer Pressure”
Washington, D.C.

Good 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.

Recently, 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.

During the past two years, we have identified a new and vastly growing problem in the dissemination of child pornography in peer-to-peer networks.

In 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.

In 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.

Using 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.

There were two cases which exemplify the types of cases generated by operation peer pressure:

After 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.

An 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.

Overall, 41 of the FBI’s 56 field offices were involved in this first phase of operation “Peer Pressure”.

It 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.

Pedophiles 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.

Let 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.

Thank you