Home News Testimony Combating the Exploitation of Children Through Peer-to-Peer Network
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  • Keith Lourdeau
  • Deputy Assistant Director
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumber Protection
  • Washington DC
  • May 06, 2004


The Innocent Images National Initiative (IINI), a component of FBI's Cyber Crimes Program, is an intelligence driven, proactive, multi-agency investigative initiative to combat the proliferation of child pornography/child sexual exploitation (CP/CSE) facilitated by an online computer. The IINI provides centralized coordination and analysis of case information that by its very nature is national and international in scope, requiring unprecedented coordination with state, local, and international governments, and among FBI field offices and Legal Attachés.

Today computer telecommunications have become one of the most prevalent techniques used by pedophiles to share illegal photographic images of minors and to lure children into illicit sexual relationships. The Internet has dramatically increased the access of the preferential sex offenders to the population they seek to victimize and provides them greater access to a community of people who validate their sexual preferences.

The mission of the IINI is to reduce the vulnerability of children to acts of sexual exploitation and abuse which are facilitated through the use of computers; to identify and rescue witting and unwitting child victims; to investigate and prosecute sexual predators who use the Internet and other online services to sexually exploit children for personal or financial gain; and to strengthen the capabilities of federal, state, local, and international law enforcement through training programs and investigative assistance.


While investigating the disappearance of a juvenile in May 1993, FBI Special Agents and Prince George's County, Maryland, Police detectives identified two suspects who had sexually exploited numerous juveniles over a 25-year period. Investigation into these activities determined that adults were routinely utilizing computers to transmit sexually explicit images to minors, and in some instances to lure minors into engaging in illicit sexual activity. Further investigation and discussions with experts, both within the FBI and in the private sector, revealed that the utilization of computer telecommunications was rapidly becoming one of the most prevalent techniques by which some sex offenders shared pornographic images of minors and identified and recruited children into sexually illicit relationships. In 1995, based on information developed during this investigation, the Innocent Images National Initiative was started to address the illicit activities conducted by users of commercial and private online services and the Internet.

The IINI is managed by the Innocent Images Unit within the FBI's Cyber Division at FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC. Innocent Images field supervisors and investigative personnel work closely with the Innocent Images Unit regarding all IINI investigative, administrative, policy, and training matters. The IINI provides a coordinated FBI response to this nationwide crime problem by collating and analyzing information obtained from all available sources.

Today the FBI's Innocent Images National Initiative focuses on:


    • Online organizations, enterprises, and communities that exploit children for profit or personal gain.
    • Individuals who travel, or indicate a willingness to travel, for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with a minor.
    • Producers of child pornography.
    • Major distributors of child pornography, such as those who appear to have transmitted a large volume of child pornography via an online computer on several occasions to several other people.
    • Possessors of child pornography.


The FBI and the Department of Justice review all files and select the most egregious subjects for prosecution. In addition, the IINI works to identify child victims and obtain appropriate services/assistance for them and to establish a law enforcement presence on the Internet that will act as a deterrent to those who seek to sexually exploit children.


Over the last several years, the FBI, local and state law enforcement, and the public has developed an increased awareness of the CP/CSE crime problem and more incidents of online CP/CSE are being identified for investigation than ever before. In fact, currently more personnel resources are expended towards violations worked under the IINI than any other program within the FBI's Cyber Division. Between fiscal years 1996 and 2003, there was a 2050% increase in the number of IINI cases opened (113 to 2430) throughout the FBI. It is anticipated that the number of cases opened and the resources utilized to address the crime problem will continue to rise.

The increase in Innocent Images investigations demonstrated the need for a mechanism to track subject transactions and to correlate the seemingly unrelated activities of thousands of subjects in a cyberspace environment. As a result, the Innocent Images case management system was developed and has proven to be an effective system to archive and retrieve the information necessary to identify and target priority subjects. All relevant data obtained during an undercover session is loaded into the Innocent Images case management system where it is updated, reviewed, and analyzed on a daily basis to identify priority subjects.


IINI undercover operations are being conducted in several FBI field offices by task forces that combine the resources of the FBI with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Each of the FBI's 56 field offices has worked investigations developed by the IINI. International investigations are coordinated through the FBI's Legal Attaché program, which coordinates investigations with the appropriate foreign law enforcement. IINI investigations are also coordinated with Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces, which are funded by the Department of Justice. Furthermore, IINI training is provided to all law enforcement involved in these investigations, including federal, state, local, and foreign law enforcement agencies.

During the early stages of Innocent Images, a substantial amount of time was spent conducting investigations on commercial online service providers that provide numerous easily accessible "chat rooms" in which teenagers and pre-teens can meet and converse with each other. By using chat rooms, children can chat for hours with unknown individuals, often without the knowledge or approval of their parents. Investigation revealed that computer-sex offenders utilized the chat rooms to contact children as a child does not know whether he or she is chatting with a 14-year-old or a 40-year-old. Chat rooms offer the advantage of immediate communication around the world and provide the pedophile with an anonymous means of identifying and recruiting children into sexually illicit relationships.

Innocent Images has expanded to include investigations involving all areas of the Internet and online services including:


    • Internet websites that post child pornography
    • Internet News Groups
    • Internet Relay Chat (IRC) Channels
    • File Servers ("FServes")
    • Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs)
    • Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing programs


FBI Agents and task force officers go online undercover into predicated locations utilizing fictitious screen names and engaging in real-time chat or E-mail conversations with subjects to obtain evidence of criminal activity. Investigation of specific online locations can be initiated through:


_ A citizen complaint
_ A complaint by an online service provider
_ A referral from a law enforcement agency
_ The name of the online location (such as a chat room) can suggest illicit activity


The FBI has taken the necessary steps to ensure that the Innocent Images National Initiative remains viable and productive through the use of new technology and sophisticated investigative techniques, coordination of the national investigative strategy and a national liaison initiative with a significant number of commercial and independent online service providers. The Innocent Images National Initiative has been highly successful. It has proven to be a logical, efficient and effective method to identify and investigate individuals who are using the Internet for the sole purpose of sexually exploiting children.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) operates a CyberTipline at www.cybertipline.com that allows parents and children to report child pornography and other incidents of sexual exploitation of children by submitting an online form. The NCMEC also maintains a 24-hour hotline of 1-800-THE-LOST and a website at www.missingkids.com.

Complaints received by the NCMEC that indicate a violation of federal law are referred to the FBI for appropriate action. A FBI Supervisory Special Agent and four Investigative Analysts (IA) are assigned full-time at the NCMEC to assist with these complaints. The IAs review and analyze information received by the NCMEC's CyberTipline. The IAs conduct research and analysis in order to identify individuals suspected of any of the following: possession, manufacture and/or distribution of child pornography; online enticement of children for sexual acts; child sexual tourism; and/or other sexual exploitation of children. The IAs utilize various Internet tools and Administrative Subpoenas in their efforts to identify individuals who prey on children. Once a potential suspect has been identified, the IAs compile an investigative packet that includes the applicable CyberTipline reports, subpoena results, public records search results, the illegal images associated with the suspect, and a myriad of other information that is forwarded to the appropriate FBI field office.


Between fiscal years 1996 - 2004 (2nd Quarter), the Innocent Images National Initiative has recorded the following statistical accomplishments:

Number of Cases Opened............... 11,855
Number of Informations/Indictments...........3,358

Number of Arrests/Locates/Summons.......3,682
Number of Convictions/Pretrial Diversions......3,316

The FBI's Innocent Images National Initiative is comprised of twenty-eight Under -Cover Operations . These operations involve FBI Agents on-line in an undercover capacity to seek child predators and individuals responsible for the production, dissemination, and possession of child pornography. This is accomplished by using a variety of techniques, to include purchasing child pornography from commercial web sites, creating on-line personas to chat in predicated chat rooms, and co-opting predators' e-mail accounts. Innocent Images has grown exponentially between fiscal year 1996 and 2003 with a 2050% increase in cases opened (113 to 2430). Between fiscal year 1996 and 2003, Innocent Images has recorded over 10,510 cases opened.

Recently, Peer-to-Peer networks were identified as a growing problem in the dissemination of child pornography. A GAO report published in September of 2003 indicated a four-fold increase in reports complaining of child pornography in Peer-to-Peer networks. In 2001, the FBI received 156 complaints about child pornography in Peer-to-Peer networks. By 2002, the number of complaints had risen to 757. This increase may be attributable to, among other things, the popularity of Peer-to-Peer networks, as well as the overall increase in child pornography available on the Intenet. These programs are free and are easy to install. In May of 2003, Sharman Networks, the developer of a very popular file sharing program, reported that their software had been downloaded more than 230 million times. This software and other file sharing programs like it, allow users to share files with anyone on the network. This creates an environment of relative anonymity amongst users however, this anonymity is only perceived, users are not truly anonymous.

Using Peer-to-Peer software, users' computers connect directly to one another to share files, without going through a central server. Nevertheless, each time a computer accesses the Internet, it is associated with an internet protocol, or "IP" address. Therefore, despite the fact that a Peer-to-Peer connection is not facilitated by a central server, users can still be identified in real time by the IP addresses associated with their computers.

IP addresses are the only way to definitively identify a particular user on a Peer-to-Peer network. In this environment, users of Peer-to-Peer often believe they are anonymous. There is some degree of truth in this assertion as peers in these networks are anonymous to each other. That being said, they are NOT anonymous to law enforcement. Through the use of covert investigative techniques and administrative subpoenas, Agents can determine which individual users possess and distribute child pornography over these networks. Utilizing search warrants, interviews, and computer forensic tools, Agents can strengthen their cases and these individuals are eventually indicted and prosecuted.

Agents have determined Peer-to Peer networks are one of many Internet havens for the open distribution of child pornography. Several of the individuals using Peer-to-Peer networks to distribute child pornography openly describe the content of the material they share as "illegal". This further contributes to the feeling of anonymity in these networks and leads users to become even more brazen in their conduct.

To combat this, the FBI has created an investigative protocol for Peer-to-Peer investigations to begin aggressively apprehending offenders. After developing a Peer-to-Peer investigative protocol with the Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section , a number of cases were initiated to determine the techniques viability. Detailed discussion of these cases could possible jeopardize ongoing investigations, however, I would like to assure this subcommittee that the FBI is aggressively pursuing the trading of child pornography on Peer-to-Peer networks.

In these investigations, Agents have found child pornography to be readily available using the most basic of search terms. Often, child pornography was easily available when innocuous search terms were used, such as 'Brittney Spears' or the word 'young'.

Additionally, the FBI is exploring the possibility of working with Peer-to-Peer software clients to allow them to more effectively warn users against the possession, distribution, or production of child pornography. These industry members may also be interested in placing icons or a pop-up link from their home page regarding subjects wanted by the FBI for exploitation of children by use of the Internet.

While these efforts may not prevent someone from downloading the material in question, it will put the user on notice that they are, more than likely, violating the law. These efforts will also assist investigations as it will eliminate the ability of the subject to claim ignorance of the law.

n closing, the FBI looks forward to working with other Law Enforcement agencies, private industry, and the Department of Justice in continuing to combat this major crime problem. The protection of our children requires the combined efforts of all sectors of our society. I would like to thank Chairman Stearns and the committee for the privilege to appear before you and for your interest in this major crime problem.

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