Here is a story about a Unit at ICE deep in the fight against Human Trafficking, Sexual Exploitation and Child Sexual Predators.
WASHINGTOB, DC Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano got a firsthand look Tuesday at how her agency, which defends the nation’s physical borders, also guards a volatile virtual frontier: cyberspace. Napolitano visited the Cyber Crimes Center operated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in a discreet office building in suburban Virginia. Known as C3, the 12-year-old unit has a staff of 35 who use computer expertise to assist investigations of complex, international crimes, especially those that victimize children. “Cyber can be awfully abstract, but the internet has become the new medium by which crimes are committed: child pornography, sex tourism, exploitation,” Napolitano said. The visit was part of Napolitano’s effort to promote her department’s designation of October as Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Homeland Security has made a concerted effort to ramp up resources and expertise in response to a surge in Internet crime. The department has recruited experts from the private sector and announced the hiring of 1,000 cyber-workers. Nonetheless, turnover has remained a problem. Some officials have returned to the private sector amid frustration with bureaucratic infighting among DHS and other law enforcement agencies over leadership of cyber-security efforts. On Tuesday, officials gave a stark demonstration of the supply side of the problem: rampant predatory activity on the Internet. Special Investigator Mike Jedrey of the Virginia State Police led the demonstration in a large room usually used for training. Posing as a 14-year-old girl in an on-line chat site, Jedrey was engaged in a real-time conversation with a suspect who seemed dangerously close to breaking the law. Unknown to the suspect, some of the top law enforcement officials in the nation were watching as he made inappropriate, sexually suggestive comments. The chat was projected on a large overhead screen. “This guy has a problem,” Jedrey told the visitors. “He knows I’m 14, but he’s trying to convince me of sexual things.” Although officials use undercover work to gather evidence against on-line predators, they also can intervene if they feel the situation requires urgent action in the United States or in foreign countries such as the United Kingdom. “If a child is in danger, we have the ability to call the UK and say we have something hot here,” said Claude Davenport, who works in a section that combats child exploitation. “We have been able to rescue a child in a day.” In fact, ICE deploys special teams overseas to track down Americans who are identified as sex tourists who prey on minors in nations including Cambodia and the Philippines, officials said. The flip side of globalized high-tech crime is that investigators also use technology to their advantage, said John Morton, an assistant secretary in charge of ICE. “The beauty of this center is that it is not limited by physical boundaries,” he said. The center also targets crimes including money laundering, arms trafficking and fraud. Its forensics laboratory dispatches experts around the country to testify in cases. In a visit to the lab, Napolitano saw piece of heavy artillery: a decryption silo. Used to break passwords and overcome encrypted defenses used by on-line criminals, the silo consists of state-of-the-art servers connected to a surprising ingredient: Play Station 3s. It turns out that the popular computer games have an impressive capacity for mathematical calculations and generating numbers, which makes them cost-efficient password-breakers. “So if Congress asks why we’re buying Play Stations…” Napolitano joked. “We had to convince them it wasn’t to play games,” responded Christopher Landi, the chief of the center’s forensics section.