'Operation Joint Hammer' Targeting Child Pornographers Worldwide

Tod Hunter
WASHINGTON — United States and European Union authorities' "Operation Joint Hammer" — an ongoing global enforcement operation targeting transnational rings of child pornographers — has led to the arrest of more than 60 people in the United States involved in the trade of child pornography.

"It should come as news to no one that crimes against children have been an area of special focus for the Department of Justice, and an area of great success," U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said. "Through cooperation with other law enforcement agencies such as our partners in the European Union, we have identified — and in many cases, saved — hundreds of children depicted in images and videos of sexual abuse."

Operation Joint Hammer was initiated through evidence developed by European law enforcement and shared with U.S. counterparts by Europol and Interpol. The European portion of this global enforcement effort, "Operation Koala," was launched after the discovery of a handful of people in Europe who were producing child pornography. Further investigation unveiled a number of online child pornography rings, some of which were operated by people who traded child pornography and also sexually abused children themselves.

European law enforcement officials reported that one father was raping his young daughters and offering a photographer across the continent the opportunity to photograph the attacks. Identification of the father led to the discovery of a commercial website maintained by the photographer, which was used to sell the images. Customers of the website were located in some 30 countries around the world, including the U.S.

EU international law enforcement coordination agencies Eurojust and Europol brought together law enforcement officers from many of the affected countries, including the U.S., to share information about possible website customers located in their countries and to coordinate enforcement actions against the site operators. With assistance from European law enforcement, U.S. law enforcement has been able to identify a number of the U.S.-based customers of the website. Further investigation resulted in the identification of a number of Internet-based child porn trading sites. A number of the U.S. targets belonged to more than one site, revealing an interconnected web of underground child pornography trading.

"This case is an extraordinary example of the good and important cooperation between U.S. and EU law enforcement," said Max-Peter Ratzel, director of Europol. "Together we have made results to the disadvantage of evil child molesters and to the benefit of a large number of innocent victims."

Operation Joint Hammer is the result of close coordination between the FBI, DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Department of Justice’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, along with European law enforcement, including Europol and Eurojust.