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  • Thomas J. Harrington
  • Executive Asst. Director - Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention & Interdiction, National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
  • Alexandria, Virginia
  • August 02, 2010

The FBI remains committed to fighting child exploitation. We use a three-pronged approach to direct our efforts to have the greatest impact on the child exploitation threat. I’d like to briefly highlight for you the FBI’s specialized teams that investigate child abductions, child pornography, and child prostitution.

First, in cases where children are abducted and murdered, research shows that 74 percent are killed within the first three hours of being abducted. The Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team—or CARD Team, as it’s known at the FBI—provides investigative, technical, and resource assistance to our network of FBI field offices and their local law enforcement community partners during the most critical time after a child is abducted or reported missing.

CARD teams have deployed 59 times since in the past four years; 62 children have been taken during the same period. Of those 62 children, 25 have been recovered alive, and six remain missing. In the balance of those cases, the CARD Team and our Evidence Response Team have provided forensic evidence and support for our local law enforcement partners and their prosecutors.

Second, the average age of a child targeted for prostitution is between 12 to 14 for girls and 11 to 13 for boys. These kids are dependent on their pimps for everything; everything they earn goes to the pimps’ coffers. Should they try to escape, they are often subject to brutal beatings or even killed. The FBI launched the Innocence Lost National Initiative to address the growing problem of children recruited for prostitution.

We have 38 Innocence Lost task forces and working groups in cities throughout the United States. To date, the initiative has located and recovered more than 1,100 children. And prosecutors have earned nearly 600 convictions as a result.

Third, the Internet is the number one destination for pedophiles because they believe that technology grants these criminals anonymity. Children are sexually assaulted to produce photos and videos, and then repeatedly re-victimized as images are traded via the Internet by like-minded people. The Innocent Images National Initiative program targets enterprises and networks of the most egregious offenders who produce and distribute sexually explicit images.

Our Innocent Images National Initiative currently has over 6,000 open child pornography cases. And the past 20 months, we have made more than 1,800 arrests and achieved over 2,100 convictions. In the past 10 months, the FBI has identified and rescued 95 children featured in child pornography.

Our Innocent Images International Task Force, with 90 officers from 42 countries, allows for information to be exchanged and cases to be jointly initiated and coordinated. This is the type of collaboration that Deputy Assistant Attorney General Grindler talked about with Operation Achilles, a three-year investigation which involved the Queensland Police Department in Australia and authorities in Canada, New Zealand, Belgium, Italy, and Britain. Suspects used technology, such as encryption, to hide their identities. As mentioned, they traded more than 400,000 images of children, from infants to adolescents, many depicting acts of violence and torture.

Fourteen were prosecuted using new statutes provided by our Congress. The courts provided strong sentences in this case and in others. And in fact, of all the criminal programs that the FBI investigates, on average, the longest sentences are granted in child pornography and exploitation cases. In the past few years, we’ve accumulated at least four life sentences, and others ranging from 30 to 40 years in prison.

It is important to recognize that we are not alone in our efforts to identify the victims and their abusers. Our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners stand shoulder to shoulder with us to help locate children and build cases against their offenders. Any success that we have achieved has been through those partnerships and relationships we continue to develop with our law enforcement partners and one of our greatest allies, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

FBI personnel work here at NCMEC and have access to the Cyber Tip Line, the “9-1-1 for the Internet.” The public and electronic service providers use that line to report Internet child sexual exploitation. In fiscal year 2010, the FBI personnel here at the center have reviewed more than 75,500 tips—a 100 percent increase from 2009’s activity.

At the FBI, we also seek to educate young people through a program we refer to as the Safe Online Surfing Challenge, an interactive online quiz that teaches middle school students about Internet safety. Since 2006, nearly 60,000 students from almost 400 schools in 39 states have participated.

The FBI will remain vigilant and continue our active role in the national strategy to ensure that children are protected. We reaffirm our commitment to removing sexual predators from kids’ lives and doing it through the justice system.

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