I’m sure a few eyebrows were raised when the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) took over, upgraded, operated a major child pornography distribution site. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. The FBI wasn’t running just one child pornography site, it was running 23:
The FBI has a controversial new method of fighting child pornography: distributing child pornography. As part of “Operation Pacifier,” the federal law-enforcement agency ran a dark-web child porn clearinghouse called The Playpen for two weeks, delivering malware to any site visitors, in a scheme that was revealed last summer. But it turns out that site may not have been the only dark-web site that the FBI maintained. According to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the agency was actually authorized to takeover 23 child-pornography websites in addition to The Playpen.
According to a recently unsealed FBI affidavit, the 23 Tor-hidden sites were run on one computer server and the FBI requested authority to seize this server and deploy its “network investigative technique” on these sites.
Generally people view distributing child pornography as an especially heinous crime and are very supportive of laws that prohibit it. But like so many other laws, having a badge seems to make it acceptable for a government agent to ignore the prohibition against distributing child pornography. As what point do people decide that this apparent exception to the law is acceptable? And can you really claim to be fighting crime when you’re perpetrating it?
One may also wonder where the FBI finds people that are willing to operate 23 child pornography sites. Anybody operating these sites knows that they are directly involved in both providing a venue for child pornography producers and distributing their content. I can’t think of anybody I know who would be willing to involve themselves in such a thing and I’m guessing many of you can’t either.
The United States has reached the point where the government can no longer pretend that there’s a difference between its law enforcers and the criminals it has tasked them with hunting.