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U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation


Online Child Pornography/Child Sexual Exploitation

The Innocent Images National Initiative (IINI), a component of FBI's Cyber Crimes Program, is an intelligence driven, proactive, multi-agency investigative initiative to combat the proliferation of child pornography/child sexual exploitation (CP/CSE) facilitated by an online computer. The IINI provides centralized coordination and analysis of case information that by its very nature is national and international in scope, requiring unprecedented coordination with state, local, and international governments, and among FBI field offices and Legal Attachés.

Today computer telecommunications have become one of the most prevalent techniques used by pedophiles to share illegal photographic images of minors and to lure children into illicit sexual relationships. The Internet has dramatically increased the access of the preferential sex offenders to the population they seek to victimize and provides them greater access to a community of people who validate their sexual preferences.

The mission of the IINI is to:

  • Identify, investigate, and prosecute sexual predators who use the Internet and other online services to sexually exploit children.
  • Identify and rescue witting and unwitting child victims.
  • Establish a law enforcement presence on the Internet as a deterrent to subjects that exploit children.


While investigating the disappearance of a juvenile in May 1993, FBI Special Agents and Prince George’s County, Maryland, Police detectives identified two suspects who had sexually exploited numerous juveniles over a 25-year period. Investigation into these activities determined that adults were routinely utilizing computers to transmit sexually explicit images to minors, and in some instances to lure minors into engaging in illicit sexual activity. Further investigation and discussions with experts, both within the FBI and in the private sector, revealed that the utilization of computer telecommunications was rapidly becoming one of the most prevalent techniques by which some sex offenders shared pornographic images of minors and identified and recruited children into sexually illicit relationships. In 1995, based on information developed during this investigation, the Innocent Images National Initiative was started to address the illicit activities conducted by users of commercial and private online services and the Internet.

The central operation and case management system for all FBI online CP/CSE investigations is located at the Maryland Metropolitan Office at Calverton, Baltimore Division. The Innocent Images field supervisor and investigative personnel work closely with the Innocent Images National Initiative manager at FBI Headquarters in investigative, administrative and policy matters involving the initiative. All FBI field offices forward copies of text and images obtained in all online CP/CSE investigations to the Innocent Images National Initiative for incorporation into the Innocent Images case management system. The Innocent Images initiative provides for a coordinated FBI response to a nationwide problem by collating and analyzing information and images obtained from numerous sources and avoids duplication of effort by all FBI field offices.

Today the FBI’s Innocent Images National Initiative focuses on:

  • Individuals who indicate a willingness to travel interstate for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with a minor.
  • Online organizations, enterprises, and communities that exploit children.
  • Producers of child pornography.

Major distributors of child pornography, such as those who appear to have transmitted a large volume of child pornography via an online computer on several occasions to several other people.

The FBI and the Department of Justice review all files and select the most egregious subjects for prosecution. In addition, the IINI works to identify child victims and obtain appropriate services/assistance for them and to establish a law enforcement presence on the Internet that will act as a deterrent to those who seek to sexually exploit children.


Over the last several years, the FBI, local and state law enforcement, and the public has developed an increased awareness of the CP/CSE crime problem and more incidents of online CP/CSE are being identified for investigation than ever before. In fact, online CP/CSE is one of the most significant cyber crime problems confronting the FBI. Between fiscal years 1996 and 2002, there was a 1997% increase in the number of IINI cases opened (113 to 2370) throughout the FBI. It is anticipated that the number of cases opened and the resources utilized to address the crime problem will continue to rise.
The increase in Innocent Images investigations demonstrated the need for a mechanism to track subject transactions and to correlate the seemingly unrelated activities of thousands of subjects in a cyberspace environment. As a result, the Innocent Images case management system was developed and has proven to be an effective system to archive and retrieve the information necessary to identify and target priority subjects. All relevant data obtained during an undercover session is loaded into the Innocent Images case management system where it is updated, reviewed, and analyzed on a daily basis to identify priority subjects.


IINI undercover operations are being conducted in several FBI field offices by task forces that combine the resources of the FBI with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. Each of the FBI's 56 field offices has worked investigations developed by the IINI. International investigations are coordinated through the FBI's Legal Attaché program, which coordinates investigations with the appropriate foreign law enforcement. IINI investigations are also coordinated with Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces, which are funded by the Department of Justice. Furthermore, IINI training is provided to all law enforcement involved in these investigations, including federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement agencies.

During the early stages of Innocent Images, a substantial amount of time was spent conducting investigations on commercial online service providers that provide numerous easily accessible “chat rooms” in which teenagers and pre-teens can meet and converse with each other. By using chat rooms, children can chat for hours with unknown individuals, often without the knowledge or approval of their parents. Investigation revealed that computer-sex offenders utilized the chat rooms to contact children as a child does not know whether he or she is chatting with a 14-year-old or a 40-year-old. Chat rooms offer the advantage of immediate communication around the world and provide the pedophile with an anonymous means of identifying and recruiting children into sexually illicit relationships.

  • Innocent Images has expanded to include investigations involving all areas of the Internet and online services including:
  • Internet websites that post child pornography
  • Internet News Groups
  • Internet Relay Chat (IRC) Channels
  • File Servers (“FServes”)
  • Bulletin Board Systems (BBBs)
  • Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file transfer programs

FBI Agents and task force officers go online undercover into predicated locations utilizing fictitious screen names and engaging in real-time chat or E-mail conversations with subjects to obtain evidence of criminal activity. Investigation of specific online locations can be initiated through:

-A citizen complaint
-A complaint by an online service provider
-A referral from a law enforcement agency

Crimes under the IINI may be in violation of Title 18 United States Code (USC):

§ 1462. Importation or Transportation of Obscene Matters
§ 1465. Transportation of Obscene Matters for Sale or Distribution
§ 1466. Engaging in the Business of Selling or Transferring Obscene Matter
§ 1467. Criminal Forfeiture
§ 1470. Transfer of Obscene Material to Minors
§ 2241(a)(b)(c). Aggravated Sexual Abuse
§ 2251(a)(b)(c). Sexual Exploitation of Children
§ 2251A(a)(b). Selling or Buying of Children
§ 2252. Certain Activities Relating to Material Involving the Sexual Exploitation of Minors
§ 2252A. Certain Activities Relating to Material Constituting or Containing Child Pornography
§ 2253. Criminal Forfeiture
§ 2254. Civil Forfeiture
§ 2257. Record Keeping Requirements
§ 2260(a)(b). Production of Sexually Explicit Depictions of a Minor for Importation into the US
§ 2421. Transportation Generally
§ 2422. Coercion and Enticement
§ 2423(a). Transportation of Minors with Intent to Engage in Criminal Sexual Activity
§ 2423(b). Interstate or Foreign Travel with Intent to Engage in a Sexual Act with a Juvenile
§ 2425. Use of Interstate Facilities to Transmit Information About a Minor
§ 13032. Reporting of Child Pornography by Electronic Communication Service Providers

The FBI has taken the necessary steps to ensure that the Innocent Images National Initiative remains viable and productive through the use of new technology and sophisticated investigative techniques, coordination of the national investigative strategy and a national liaison initiative with a significant number of commercial and independent online service providers. The Innocent Images National Initiative has been highly successful. It has proven to be a logical, efficient and effective method to identify and investigate individuals who are using the Internet for the sole purpose of sexually exploiting children.


To date there have been 3 Innocent Images subjects placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list:

  • On 12/27/2000, Eric Franklin Rosser became the first child predator to be placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. Rosser was charged with the production, distribution, receipt, and transportation of child pornography, as well as conspiracy to do the same. His offenses included the production of a videotape in Thailand that allegedly depicts sexually explicit conduct between himself and an eleven-year-old female child. On 08/21/2001, Rosser was captured in Thailand and served a 2-year sentence there. He has since been extradited to the U.S. and is expected to stand trial in early 2004. Rosser could face up to 70 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

  • On 01/31/2002, Michael Scott Bliss became the second child predator to be placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. Bliss was being sought by the FBI for the repeated molestation of a nine-year-old female victim in Vermont. Bliss videotaped these molestations and the videos were converted to computer files for possible placement on the Internet. Bliss has a violent criminal history towards children and served 9 years in state prison for committing aggravated assault against his girlfriend's minor children. During that incident, Bliss repeatedly struck 3 of his girlfriend's children with an aluminum baseball bat, rendering two of them unconscious. Bliss was released from prison just two months before the alleged molestations of the 9 year-old began. Bliss was arrested in Los Angeles, California, on 04/23/2002, and was charged in the state of Vermont with 11 federal counts of various statutes related to sexual exploitation of children. Bliss pled guilty to all 11 counts on 06/02/2003, and is expected to be sentenced later this year.

  • On 06/14/2002, Richard Steve Goldberg became the third child predator to be placed on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List. Goldberg is being sought for allegedly engaging in lewd acts in Long Beach, California, with several girls under ten years old. He also allegedly produced and possessed child pornography images of these sex acts, which were found on his computer. Goldberg gained the trust of his victims’s parents and then befriended their children. He entertained the girls by allowing them to play with his pets, watch television, and use his computer to play games. Some of these girls also took short trips with him. In July 2001, a state arrest warrant was issued in California charging Goldberg with six counts of lewd acts upon a child and two counts of possession of child pornography. On 11/25/2002, a federal arrest warrant was issued by the United States District Court for the Central District of California charging Goldberg with the production of child pornography and the unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Goldberg's whereabouts are currently unknown. Goldberg has ties to, or may have traveled to, New Jersey, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona, and Georgia. Goldberg was the president of a gun club in Long Beach, California, and should be considered armed and dangerous. A reward of up to $50,000 is being offered for any information leading directly to the arrest of Richard Steve Goldberg.


The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) operates a CyberTipline at that allows parents and children to report child pornography and other incidents of sexual exploitation of children by submitting an online form. The NCMEC also maintains a 24-hour multilingual hotline at telephone number 1-800-THE-LOST and a website at Complaints received by the NCMEC that indicate a violation of federal law are referred to the FBI for appropriate action. A FBI Supervisory Special Agent and three Investigative Analysts are assigned full-time at the NCMEC to coordinate the cross utilization of FBI and NCMEC resources and to facilitate the most effective FBI response to these CyberTipline reports.


Between fiscal year 1996 and fiscal year FY 2003 (2nd Quarter), the Innocent Images National Initiative has recorded the following statistical accomplishments:

Number of Cases Opened: 9,366
Number of Informations/Indictments: 2,520
Number of Arrests/Locates/Summons: 2,608
Number of Convictions/Pretrial Diversions: 2,569

For additional information on the FBI’s Innocent Images National Initiative and Internet safety, please read the FBI brochure titled 'A Parent's Guide to Internet Safety'. This brochure, as well as other information about crimes against children, is available on the official FBI website A hard copy of the brochure may be obtained by contacting a Crimes Against Children Coordinator at your local FBI field office. Individual FBI field offices serve as primary points of contact for persons requesting FBI assistance. For further information about FBI services or to request assistance, please contact a Crimes Against Children Coordinator at your local FBI field office.

Innocent Images National Initiative Unit
FBI Headquarters Room 5842
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20535

Revised 09/24/2003

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