By: The Anti-Media |
According to statements from both the FBI and Europol, a wide-ranging investigation into a “darknet” pedophile ring has been highly successful — even as their methods are harshly criticized as government overreach.
From an Agence France-Presse (AFP) article on Friday:
“Nearly 900 suspected pedophiles have been arrested and almost 300 children identified or rescued from their abusers following the massive takedown of an underground online pedophile network, US and European police said Friday.
“A more than two-year investigation into the notorious Playpen network and its members led to the arrests, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Europol said, an announcement that came just days after a US court sentenced Playpen founder and administrator Steven Chase to 30 years in prison.”
Chase’s 2014 arrest was the catalyst for the coordinated global hunt, which, according to Europol, has thus far led to arrests in countries including Spain, Italy, Ireland, Croatia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Colombia, France, the United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic.
But it’s the methods used that have many concerned, as Anti-Media highlighted back in March. From that article:
“In a case that’s drawn criticism from multiple angles, last week federal prosecutors in Washington state dropped all charges against a man who allegedly downloaded child pornography from a website that was infiltrated, taken over, and allegedly even improved by the F.B.I.”
In that case, United States v. Jay Michaud, the government chose to let a suspected child predator back on the streets rather than reveal its methods of investigation. Incidentally, the method was to seize control of the Playpen server and then hack and track site users by sending malware to their computers.
This baiting-style tactic, while clearly highly effective, nevertheless raises civil liberties concerns in more than a few legal minds. One of the attorneys in the Michaud case, for instance, pointed out that cops “wouldn’t mail out drugs to hundreds of people” in a narcotics investigation.
Worse, an assistant defender connected to a Playpen case claims the pedophile site actually grew in membership by 30 percent for the two weeks the FBI operated it, and average weekly visits rose from around 11,000 to somewhere closer to 50,000.
But Special Investigator for the FBI, Dan Alfin, is unapologetic regarding his tactics, stating the investigation — dubbed “Operation Pacifier” — is ongoing:
“As they get smarter, we adapt, we find them. It’s a cat-and-mouse game, except it’s not a game. Kids are being abused, and it’s our job to stop that.”