Operation Avalanche (child pornography crackdown)

Operation Avalanche (child pornography crackdown)

Operation Avalanche was a major U.S. investigation of child pornography on the Internet." [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/2445065.stm Operation Avalanche: Tracking child porn] ", BBC News, November 11 2002. URL accessed on June 14 2006.] Launched in 1999, it was made public in early August 2001 at the end of Operation Avalanche, that one hundred arrests were made out of 144 suspects. It was followed in the United Kingdom by Operation Ore and other operations worldwide.

Although U.S. prosecutions were made on the basis of other evidence, later reconstruction of the Landslide site in the U.K. identified flaws in the police forensic procedures used. Specifically, investigation of the Landslide user database indicated many names listed were victims of credit card fraud. [http://www.inquisition21.com Flaws in the Landslide Trial]

Landslide Investigation

Landslide, Inc., was an online Internet gateway site and credit clearance company based in Fort Worth, Texas. In April 1999, Postal Inspector Robert Adams received a tip from Postal Inspector Ronny Miller of St. Paul, Minnesota, who said he had stumbled on a website advertising child pornography. Robert Adams contacted the Dallas police department asking for an investigation, and Dallas police officer Steve Nelson investigated the complaint, accessing various child pornography sites using a credit card with assistance from Michael Marshall of Microsoft. An adult classified section of the Landslide website allegedly included postings offering to trade Keyz passwords, and a number of illegal child pornography sites were found to be using the Landslide Keyz payment system. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and Dallas Police presented their findings to Terri Moore, an assistant district attorney in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, and received a warrant to search the Landslide business offices. In August 1999, forty-five to fifty U.S. law enforcement officials from a number of agencies conducted a raid on the Landslide business offices.

Police seized the assets and records of Landslide, and arrested Thomas and Janice Reedy, owners and operators of the company. Prosecutors offered Thomas Reedy a 20 year prison term and Janice Reedy a five year term if they would plead guilty, but the Reedys refused the plea deal, believing they could not be held legally responsible for the content of third party websites. Reedy claimed he had attempted to run a legitimate business, writing software to reduce fraud and reporting illegal sites to the FBI. FBI Director Louis Freeh had started a program called 'Innocent Images', and Thomas Reedy was told by Special Agent Frank Super to leave the sites in his index for later investigation. [ [http://www.xuk.biz/UKLR/Landslide/thestory.htm Operation Ore ] ]

In January 2000 Thomas Reedy was convicted of trafficking in child pornography through testimony from witnesses including Sharon Girling, a UK police officer at SOCA/NCS. Based on a prior police investigation in the U.K., Sharon Girling was able to identify actual victims in the pictures from a website which used the Landslide payment system. Thomas Reedy was sentenced to 1,335 years in prison, a sentence which was reduced to 180 years on appeal.

Operation Avalanche

In August 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft and Chief Postal Inspector Kenneth Weaver announced the launch of Operation Avalanche, a police operation which used an entrapment sting to gather evidence against users of the Landslide gateway and payment system. The seized database records included 35,000 U.S. subscribers, some of whom were targeted with invitations to purchase child pornography by mail. As a result of this sting, one hundred suspects were arrested following 144 searches in 37 states.

The FBI then passed identities from the database to the police organizations of other countries, including 7,272 names to the U.K. and 2,329 names to Canada. Initial results of the operation seemed positive, as the gateway site and payment system were closed down and thousands of possible users of child pornography websites were identified for later investigation. However, later events somewhat diminished the luster.

Police conducting Operation Ore in the U.K. targeted all names for investigation due to the difference in laws in between the U.S. and the U.K., which allowed for arrest on a charge of incitement to distribute child pornography based solely on the presence of a name in the database. In all, 3,744 people were investigated and arrested; however, a subsequent challenge by those targeted led to an independent reconstruction of the Landslide site and a closer inspection of the database and the payment transactions.

In 2005 and 2007, U.K investigative journalist Duncan Campbell wrote a series of articles criticizing police forensic procedures and trial evidence. After obtaining copies of the Landslide hard drives, Campbell publicly identified evidence of massive credit card fraud, including thousands of charges where there was no access to any porn site at all. Campbell stated, "independent computer expert Jim Bates of Computer Investigations (www. computer-investigations.com), said 'the scale of the fraud, especially hacking, just leapt off the screen'." [http://ore-exposed.obu-investigators.com/PC_PRO_Operation_Ore_Exposed_2.html Campbell, Duncan. "Sex, Lies and the Missing Videotape", PCPro, April 2007. Retrieved on 2007-04-23.]


ee also

*Operation Ore
*Duncan Campbell

External links

* [http://www.xuk.biz/UKLR/Landslide/ Operation Ore]
* [http://www.ore-exposed.co.uk/ Operation Ore Exposed website]
* [http://www.computer-investigations.com/index2.html Operation Ore & Landslide The Forensic Facts]
* [http://www.xuk.biz/UKLR/Landslide/thomas/Texas%20news/texas1/Dallas%20Fort%20Worth%20News.htm By Debra Dennis Fort Worth Bureau of The Dallas Morning News ]
* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article539974.ece "Child porn suspects set to be cleared in evidence shambles"] "Sunday Times" 3 July 2005
*" [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/2445065.stm Operation Avalanche: Tracking child porn] ", BBC News, November 11 2002.
*" [http://www.cbc.ca/story/world/national/2006/03/14/landslide-porn060314.html CBC Radio - Kellie Hudson] " Worldwide Operations 14/03/2006
* [http://www.computer-investigations.com/index2.html Jim Bates Forensic Review]
* [http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1362272006/ Accused In Child Porn Enquiry To Sue Police] "The Scotsman" 15 September 2006
* [http://technology.guardian.co.uk/weekly/story/0,,2059832,00.html "Operation Ore flawed by fraud"] "The Guardian" 19 April 2007

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