America

Justice Department Charges 72 In Connection With Major Child Porn Ring

The Justice Department announced today that it had made 52 people and charged 72 in connection with an international child pornography ring with members in countries from the United States to Serbia.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the operation was the largest of its kind and took almost two years to complete.

NPR's Carrie Johnson reports:

Federal investigators started looking into the online bulletin board in December 2009, and officials say they were disgusted by what they found: Images of children under age 12 being abused by adults.

Leaders of the service called Dreamboard allegedly encrypted the images to avoid detection by law enforcement. And users got to the bulletin board by using proxy servers to disguise their location.

Authorities say they got search warrants on some of those servers and were able to find insiders to crack the case.

Authorities say they have identified some but not all of the children depicted in the images.

During a speech about the investigation dubbed Operation Delego, Holder said the conduct alleged was "unconscionable." Holder said many of the children in the images and video were infants.

"In many cases, the children being victimized were in obvious, and intentional, pain – even in 'distress and crying' just as the rules for one area of the bulletin board mandated," Holder said.

Holder said Dreamboard was a private, members-only online bulletin board and members had to post child pornography in order to gain access to more of it. If members posted videos of their own, they "received elevated status."

Back in March, the European Union police arrested 184 suspects running another online child porn ring.

Update at 2:29 p.m. ET. 16,000 DVDs:

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano added that the amount of child porn traded on the forum was equal to 16,000 DVDs.

The AP adds:

Of the 72 charged in the United States, 43 have been arrested in this country and nine abroad. Another 20 are known to authorities only by their Internet names and remain at large.

Authorities have arrested people in 13 other countries (Canada, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Hungary, Kenya, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Qatar, Serbia, Sweden and Switzerland) but some of those were arrested on local rather than the U.S. charges.

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