The Politics of Entrapment II: Ambiguities and “Ado71”

entrapmentWe briefly looked at the United Kingdom’s imbedded Establishment abuse within Westminster and Whitehall and the idea of blackmail and entrapment operating within paedophilia networks. In order to gain a bigger picture of the patterns of abuse and how entrapment and child rape networks operate we need to go slightly further afield and cast our (somewhat jaundiced) eye back to what’s been happening in the last two decades.

1996 was the year that saw a veritable explosion of abuse cases at local, national and international levels. One of the fall-out investigations during the Dutroux-Nihoul case was “Operation Ado71” launched in 1997 by French law enforcement authorities in the Department of Saone-et-Loire, Burgundy in the town of Macon. After one of the biggest crackdowns on organised child abuse seen in France, over sixty men were detained, five of whom subsequently committed suicide, some say due to the “name and shame” policy so favoured in much of Europe and America. Others mention the possibility of a high level mopping up of loose ends leading to members of the French Establishment. Whether these men were driven to take their own lives due to the shame of being caught while also guilty, the shame of being caught while innocent or that they were dispatched for harbouring secrets, can only be speculation. More often than not, it is a mixture of all three.

The accused were brought to court in March 2000, one of whom was Bernard Alapetite the chief executive of “Platypus”, a Paris publishing company, and was found guilty of copying and supplying foreign, child porn videos. He received three years, while suspended jail terms ranging from two to six months were given to more than 50 others. Some of the videos consisted of the rapes of boys under 15 and “young children having sex with animals” which made Alapetite a tidy profit “selling them for between £80 and £100 each…” [1] Meantime, those that were scooped up in the paedophilia trawl had allegedly all bought child porn videos from Alapetite’s mail order company as well as sex shop outlets.

What was disturbing about these suspects was the lack of discrimination as to what constituted “just cause” not least, the process by which the suspects were rounded up:

For example:

“One was a retired schools inspector who had bought his sole cassette 25 years ago ‘because morals were degenerating and I wanted to find out how and why.’

Several others produced medical evidence showing that they had long recognised their ‘deviant tastes’ and ‘attraction for young boys,’ but had never molested anyone and had been undergoing psychiatric treatment.

‘I have never molested a child in my life,’ sobbed one retired office worker during the trial. ‘I am on medication. I bought two cassettes from a catalogue. And now my children and my grandchildren will not speak to me.’

Almost half the suspects claimed they were not guilty of any crime. Some pointed out that their tapes had been seized during a previous operation by the Paris vice squad, and subsequently returned to them as perfectly legal.” [2]

To some this may appear a minor irrelevance and indicative of manipulative behaviour from those whose predispositions to abuse must be given no quarter. Nonetheless, one has to question the after effects of an operation that required more than 2,500 police who searched 800 homes, questioned 700 men and detained 300 suspects leading to the jailing of one supplier and distributor. Most of the men in the Macon case were also homosexual and the “children” in the videos looked between sixteen and eighteen years old. Pederasty over paedophilia maybe. And further, as Le Monde Journalist Jean-Michael Dumay stated during the trial:

“… Why should anybody be criminally liable for their failure to correctly determine the precise age of somebody appearing in a video cassette, as about a third of the defendants were accused of? […] ‘…the only criterion is their subjective appearance.’ Once again the experts in the case were not medically qualified but photography technicians and further: “A significant proportion of the defendants claimed they had acquired the cassettes in good faith not through Alapetite’s network but from sex shops that had them on sale openly and guaranteed that the performers were not underage; indeed some of them had been deposited in the National Library as required by law.” [3]

As stated in the above report concerning evidence presented in court at the time, not only did one of the producers offer affidavits to the police from the performers themselves but evidence from a previous case which collected so called child porn cassettes were, in fact, nothing of the kind and were included in the present case as admissible. None of this was taken up by the prosecution. Dumay makes a strong case that this was closer to religious persecution of homosexuals than a real clampdown on child abuse. He illustrates this by highlighting the knee-jerk nature of our society when a collection of photographs showing mutilated children’s genitals turned up on the list of customers for cassettes where the original uncovered network was elevated to a much more serious and urgent criminal status. In actual fact: “… the photographs had been collected by an association campaigning against the circumcision of children that had nothing to do with the video cassettes.” [4] Much of the guilt then rests on one of voyeurism and rather than paedophilia. Though it may yet arrive, as far as I know, pornography is not illegal.

The internet does provide an outlet to those individuals that are paedophiles and child molesters. Nonetheless, what someone does on-line does not necessarily mean that this is what they desire in the real world. This is the point of fantasy:  to escape. Sexual discussions carried out online do not always come from those with a pre-disposition for sexual deviancy. As we explored in previous posts, human beings are psychologically complex, yet police operations do not reflect this complexity and are confusing the whole idea of predatory sexual behaviour. France’s judicial system appears to be exhibiting the same symptoms currently being expressed in police state America.

computercufflinks© infrakshun

Author and attorney Andrew Vachss has discussed the issue of homosexuality and predatory paedophilia when he said: “The existence of NAMBLA helped perspectify some of the insane lies that the media perpetrated. So, for example, a male kindergarten teacher has sex with a little boy—the newspapers would report this as “homosexual” child abuse. If his target was a little girl, they wouldn’t call it ‘heterosexual’ child abuse.”  Vachess also mentioned the lack of any evidence that homosexuals are naturally paedophiles. Pederasty might blur the line, but paedophilia and homosexuality are not synonymous much as many anti-gay conservatives would like to believe. Once again, the issue here is moral panic, politicisation and psychopathy which traverses all sexual preferences.

Vachss observes:

“There are too many Americans who believe that homosexuals are potential pedophiles, and, indeed, that pedophiles are homosexuals run amok. Not only is that not true, but the only way to combat it is to have the evidence to actually place before a court or a committee or an organization.

The myth that a male who has sex with a male child is a homosexual—as opposed to a predatory pedophile—is endemic. I think that myth is all over the place. And I would say that that’s actually the average person’s perception of it. More common than not.” [5]

Press coverage of innocent persons accused of viewing child porn have been high. Pop band Massive Attack’s Robert del Naja was “caught in the sweep” of Operation Ore, where his number was found on a list of 7,300 UK-based credit card numbers passed on to the national crime squad by the FBI. He was subsequently vilified through the UK tabloids before all charges were dropped and found entirely innocent. [6] UK Actor and chat show host Matthew Kelly was also accused. He consistently denied everything and was similarly found innocent with all charges dropped. Unsurprisingly, high level prosecutions remain elusive.

Questions regarding police investigation methods and serious corruption continue to haunt the successes. There have been many operations to clamp down on the increase in child pornography. What is immediately noticeable from the reviewing the past and on-going operations is the lack of convictions, though there are plenty listed as “suspects” and on-going “searches” and “leads.” 8951 people were suspected of committing a crime with an arrest rate that totalled 6,477 persons world-wide and climbing. The figures for suspects, arrests and convictions feature overwhelmingly under the initially much vaunted Operation Ore, which was the UK arm of a global push against internet-based child pornography and given much publicity during the late eighties and early nineties.

Is it because there is a cover-up of those involved in real abuse or is there actually much less abuse of this nature present? Perhaps it is a bit of both? A closer look at the Landslide case may offer some clues.

Armed with a search warrant and an $800,000 grant, the Landslide Inc. a credit clearance intermediary based in Fort Worth, Texas was raided by the FBI, USPIS officers, US customs, Microsoft, Dallas Police, and other contractors. It was closed in April 1999. Operation Avalanche was the result which oversaw investigations and arrests in the US of 100 individuals whose credit card details were found on the Landslide database. This was followed with international operations such as Snowball, Amethyst and Auxin and the aforementioned Operation Ore in the UK. As a result of the Landslide/Avalanche operations a list of over 7,000 credit card holders and their transactions were culled from the Landslide database and given to the UK police.

The Landslide investigations were initially focused around a website that was alleged to have had graphic thumbnails and banners advertising child pornography. Proprietor Thomas Reedy’s home was raided in September 1999 and his office in December of the same year. Assets and bank accounts were frozen while the servers which had been left to run during this time yielded further credit card details from subscribers which then produced a huge database of suspects.

Although Reedy and his wife were offered a 20 year sentence in return for cooperation in trapping webmasters he chose to mount a defence, claiming he was not responsible for the content on third party websites. This led to his indictment in May of 2000 and a life sentence for his troubles in August 2001. His conviction included 89 counts of conspiracy, possession and distribution of illegal images of minors while his wife Janice Reedy received 14 years due to her relatively minor role in the affair.

_64116585_reedys304gettyThomas and Janice Reedy

The severity of Thomas Reedy’s sentence has since been questioned by many more than his attorney: “the Reedys are victims … to lose 10 years of a person’s life in prison is a helluva lot for a crime that doesn’t involve death …” This is due to the fact that Reedy was not a webmaster nor had he created the sexual images. It was also true that the credit card verification for sites did not involve child pornography. Yet, according to Robert Adams, a US Postal Service inspector, who began investigating the couple in May, they had “helped three foreign Webmasters provide ‘hundreds of thousands of images’ as well as movies depicting children in violent sex acts …” which extended to children of only four years of age. [7] Adams made no bones about the fact after his investigations this was, in his opinion “a global operation” [8] involving webmasters from Indonesia to Russia, where he saw the Reedy’s business as actively providing the means for webmasters to share files and download photos.

The joint US/UK entrapment scheme called Operation Avalanche became embroiled in a breathless media fanfare and alleged help from the FBI to streamline the subsequent arrests that were made in August 2001, just as Reedy began his life sentence. From 35,000 US Landslide subscribers email invitations were sent to all with the offer to purchase child pornography by post. “Members of the Internet Crimes against Children (ICAC) Task Forces and US Postal Inspectors have conducted 144 searches in 37 states with 100 arrests to date for trafficking child pornography through the mail and via the Internet,” [9]

The huge scale of Operation Ore was primarily due to a list of 7,200 names supplied to British police forces by none other than the FBI, (entrapment specialists!) and ICAC, Task Forces. The angle given to the media was that this was a clear-cut case of paedophilia in society where rings were being rounded up and highly professional undercover operations were in action intended to spring the networks of child rapists.

According to respected investigative journalist Duncan Campbell and his research into Operation Ore cases, the evidence was “exaggerated” and “used unacceptably.” Actually, this is being a little kind. American police testimony was wholly discredited and forensic methods deemed questionable at best. Critical evidence provided by US investigators which initially formed the foundation of Ore itself, were proven to be false. Ministers were not informed of this salient fact and it was buried while convictions continued and costs skyrocketed.

Interpol received sworn statements submitted to UK courts in 2002 that Dallas detective Steven Nelson and US postal inspector Michael Mead had explained that all those who visited Landslide were always presented with a front page screen button which offered a “click Here (for) Child Porn” and thus all those who accessed Landslide and paid with their credit card were assumed to be paedophiles.  Campbell informs us, by the time: “British police and computer investigators had finally examined American files, they found that the ‘child porn’ button was not on the front page of Landslide at all, but was an advertisement for another site appearing elsewhere: thus the crucial “child porn” button was a myth. Landslide certainly gave access to thousands of adult sex sites. But accessing such material, which is now freely broadcast and sold in high street grocers’, is not a crime.” [10]

How could such a serious and high profile investigation miss something so terribly obvious?

More importantly, when it was evident to any adequate investigator that: “The real front page of Landslide was an innocuous image of a mountain, carrying no links to child porn. There was ‘no way’ a visitor to Landslide could link from there to child porn sites,” according to Sam Type, a British forensic computer consultant who was asked by the National Crime Squad (NCS) to rebuild the Landslide website. She dismissed the idea that Landslide had created a service devoted to child porn, describing its only difference as a “pay-per-view” service.”

So, what were the authorities playing at? Was it a case of systematic errors or systematic fraud?

Jim Bates, a computer expert with forensic knowledge served as a witness for the prosecution and defence in more than 100 child porn cases. He is convinced that: “… a massive fraud has been perpetrated at Landslide [where] an unknown number of subscriptions are fake …” [11]  US investigators believed that those who accessed Landslide – by the mere act of paying – were paedophiles. Worse still, from the thousands of pay-to-view access channels provided by Landslide’s two services, US investigators had copied the contents of 12 sites out of a possible 400 accessible through one of the Landslide services called Keyz. Although these sites did contain child pornography and around 25 percent or more, about 180 Keyz sites were either standard pornography or unknown. With the Landslide closure over three years before, evidence of incriminating images in many cases were absent, only address and card details remained:

Here, the American evidence that having paid to get into Landslide meant having paid to access child porn has become crucial. Many of the accused argue that their card details could have been stolen and used without their knowledge, or admit that they used Landslide, but for adult material.

The NCS detective who found the real, innocuous Landslide front page in the American police files acted quickly to make it available to police forces and prosecutors. But nobody seems to have paid attention to the contradiction this created in the Operation Ore evidence. Nor did they apparently notice that there were now two, utterly different “Landslide front pages” presented in Operation Ore prosecutions — one totally incriminating, the other (and accurate) page quite innocuous.  [12]

There were many police in the UK who expressed disquiet at the way Operation Ore was conducted. Some became so disillusioned that they resigned from their jobs. One of them was Merseyside police officer Peter Johnston, who described his lack of faith in a letter to The Sunday Times: “I began to doubt the validity of the evidence surrounding the circumstances of the initial investigation in America … I found it difficult to rationalise how offenders had been identified solely on a credit card number.” [13] All of which means that it is very likely that many cases will be overturned or sent to the Court of Appeal. This comes too late for the 33 men who committed suicide and the lives of other individuals and their families shattered.

One of many victims who had been under the Ore investigation since December 2004 was that of Commodore David White, 50, commander of British forces in Gibraltar. Despite a lack of evidence against him, he was instructed to give up his position in January of 2005 after news of the investigations began to spread. Twenty-four hours later he was found dead at the bottom of his pool after taking a dose of sleeping tablets washed down with whiskey. There was said to be insufficient evidence as to whether the Commodore’s death was accidental or suicide, though the latter appears probable. A statement from his brother, showed that his mental state had collapsed after his dismissal and that he was in a “catatonic state of shock.” [14]  The inquest into the circumstances surrounding his death have since confirmed that investigations: “… yielded no evidence that he downloaded child pornography, and a letter was written by ministry of defence police to naval command on January 5 this year indicating that there were ‘no substantive criminal offences’ to warrant pressing charges.” [15] 

The Scottish arm of the Operation was completed in August 2003 after investigating 350 people north of the Border, about 200 of who were in Strathclyde and 70 in Lothian and the Borders. After millions of pounds of expenditure no arrests were made due to a failure “to gather the necessary evidence” though “grave doubts” about suspects remained.[16]

Despite the disastrously flawed evidence from the US, it was the UK contingent of police, lawyers and a frothing media who transformed the possibility of a genuine investigation of child pornography into a verifiable witch-hunt by using emotive catch lines and the reliance of sensation over facts. The very nature of paedophile images already predisposes the media and juries to convict based on the instinct to make it disappear. Therefore, most defence solicitors suggested pleading guilty if any images were found on computers regardless of whether they were guilty or not. Reconciling this with the persistent evidence of high level paedophilia and other deviant activities is not easy.

Once again we have evidence that crimes continue undeterred and with Establishment protection while the public carries the can.

 


Notes
[1]  ‘Dozens convicted in child sex video trial’ by John Henley, The Guardian, May 11, 2000.
[2] Ibid.
[3] ‘The ambiguities in the campaign against paedophilia’ by Jean Michael-Dumay, Le Monde, March 25 2000.
[4] Ibid.
[5] op. cit. Vachss, (Case Magazine)
[6] ‘I’ve always been open about porn’ Friday April 11, 2003, by Alexis Petridis, The Guardian. “He claims that despite the fact that no charges had been brought against him, the police informed the Sun newspaper about his arrest. “The whole thing became this kind of publicity joke. Someone in the police force called The Sun directly, said we’ve arrested so and so, we haven’t charged him. The police shouldn’t be giving that information to newspapers.”
[7] ‘Couple in child porn trial planned to flee to Mexico, witness testifies Defense counters that pair has No criminal history, passports’ – dallasmorningnews.com/ By Debra Dennis Fort Worth Bureau of The Dallas Morning News, April 19, 2000.
[8] Ibid.
[9] ‘Attorney General Ashcroft Announces the Successful Conclusion of Operation Avalanche’ Press Release, US Depart. Of Justice August 8 2001, http://www.usdoj.gov.
[10] ‘A flaw in the child porn witch-hunt’ By Duncan Campbell, The Sunday Times, June 26, 2005.
[11] ‘Operation Ore Exposed’ by Jim Bates,  computerinvestigations.com
[12] ‘A flaw in the child porn witch-hunt’ By Duncan Campbell, The Sunday Times, June 26, 2005.
[13] Child porn suspects set to be cleared in evidence ‘shambles’ by David Leppard, The Sunday Times July 03, 2005.
[14] ‘Military chief killed himself over child porn allegations’ by Caroline Gammell, The Scotsman Fri 30 Sep 2005.
[15] ‘Dead officer absolved in porn probe’ By David Leppard, The Sunday Times, Sunday, 2 October, 2005.
[16] ‘Dismay as international paedophile probe fails’ by Marcello Mega, August 2003 The Scotsman.
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