Department of Justice Criticized for Dark Web Child Porn Site
Do law enforcement agencies ever go too far in their efforts to catch criminals? That’s the question being asked in a case involving the Department of Justice and its decision to operate a child pornography site on the dark web.
Recently, a federal judge stated that he has “ethical and legal” concerns regarding the Department of Justice’s decision to take over a bulletin board on the dark web that allowed users to post and distribute sexual images of children. Known as “The Playpen,” the bulletin board operated anonymously, requiring federal agents to hack into it to trace posts and images back to individual users.
The DOJ argued that its agents didn’t actually create or post the images and that the DOJ’s takeover of the site was necessary to further its investigations. However, during the two-week period in which the DOJ ran the site in 2015, as many as one million images were distributed.
The DOJ’s operation, which went by the code name Operation Pacifier, has resulted in 214 active criminal cases against individuals caught using the site. Now, those cases are in jeopardy, as the court’s criticism of the DOJ may result in evidence gathered by DOJ agents being suppressed.
According to the court, the agents in Operation Pacifier engaged in criminal activity just as reprehensible as the individuals they purported to catch. The court also said that the DOJ knowingly violated the Rules of Criminal Procedure by failing to obtain warrants in the jurisdictions in which the crimes were occurring—instead relying on just one warrant issued by a judge in Virginia. The court claims that DOJ agents used this sole warrant to hack into 100,000 computers across 120 countries.
What Is the Dark Web?
The internet used by everyday people to send email and browse websites exists on what is called the “surface web.” This level of the internet is traceable and easy to reach with regular search engines like Google.
By contrast, the “dark web” is a shadowy network of anonymous servers that communicate far below the surface level of the internet. By altering IP addresses and sending information through a series of complex paths, the dark web makes it much more difficult to trace the origin of a particular piece of data.
This anonymity makes the dark web a haven for people engaged in criminal activity over the internet, such as child pornography, terrorism, and data theft.
Help for Computer Crime Charges
The foregoing case demonstrates how far federal agents are willing to go to accuse someone of committing a crime online. If you have been charged with a computer or internet crime, you need the help of an experienced Dallas Child Pornography Criminal Defense Lawyers. If you’ve been charged with Child Pornography, contact Broden & Mickelsen, LLP to discuss your case in private.
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SOURCE: Broden & Mickelsen, LLP