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New tools in use for investigating, prosecuting child pornography

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A few years ago, individuals who viewed and downloaded child pornography were rarely discovered. However, with new technology and assistance from the Department of Justice, law enforcement agencies within the Department of Defense are successfully detecting and prosecuting more offenders.

These efforts are conducted in cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Defense Criminal Forensic Lab, and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The production, viewing, downloading, or dissemination of images of child pornography on computers, smartphones or in any form is a violation of federal law under Title 18, United States Code, Section 2256.

Viewing child pornography is not a victimless crime. In some cases, it can involve infant rape and equally horrific acts. No matter the type, it is the demand for the material that drives its production. Child victims suffer life-long psychological harm, being victimized each time an image is viewed.

One victim recounts:

"I want you to know ... the effects of random men looking at pictures of my sex abuse as a child ... I still have nightmares that come from knowing that pictures of me are spread around the Internet by people with perverted interests in my pain."

Service members, who download, receive or view pornographic images of persons under the age of 18, face significant sanctions: a dishonorable discharge and 10 years confinement for each violation. Offenders are registered felons subject to sexual offender registration requirements and face other sanctions, including limited employment opportunities, the loss of VA benefits, the ability to vote and the ability to possess firearms.

Because of these severe sanctions, adult pornography sites usually exercise great caution in the materials they post online, making accidental child porn downloads unlikely. Child pornography is often disseminated illicitly from third-world countries, using multiple servers to try to disguise the source. Multi-national law enforcement authorities are cooperating in cracking down on those sites. Similarly, federal and military law enforcement authorities have developed new tools to track individuals who access child pornography.

According to Special Agent Michael Saenz, Air Force Office of Special Investigations Det. 621 at Yokota Air Base, every internet hit on a child porn site is quickly traced to the individual IP address of the user.

"We can see the HTML address, file names, dates, user names, and more. It doesn't take very long before we seize the media," Saenz said. "If an offender deletes the files, we're still able to recover information, even if its several years old."

Across the Air Force, the results of the new tools have been immediate. Prosecutions have resulted in more convictions and sentences with lengthy confinement and punitive discharges.

"The sexual exploitation of children is a terrible crime and remains a global problem, but with increased vigilance and reporting, and these new tools, we can better track and prosecute offenders," Saenz said. "In the long run, hopefully, we'll have fewer offenders and cases."

Article by Air Force News Service