Hike in CP Cases Leads to FBI Backlog

WASHINGTON — Federal auditors say that the FBI's efforts to investigate and prosecute child online pornography cases has led to an evidence backlog in the bureau's computer labs.

In a report released Friday, the Justice Department's inspector general said the number of such cases handled by the FBI rose more than 20-fold between the 1996 and 2007 budget years. As a result, the heavy volume meant it took an average of about two months to examine such evidence in 2007 — and even as long as nine months.

The FBI said it plans to work with federal prosecutors to find ways to negotiate plea deals earlier in child pornography cases, so it would reduce lab work.

At the time the audit was conducted, there were 353 requests for processing digital evidence in computer crimes against children cases.

Tim Henning, ASACP’s technology and forensic research director, told XBIZ the FBI needs to focus on developing new efficiencies to handle the voluminous work in child porn cases.

“Developing more effective technology is the key because many images of sexual child abuse are the same, the use of ‘hashed’ values to automatically identify these images is important,” Henning said.

“This is why in 2004 ASACP, along with Cydata Services, offered to develop a centralized database of ‘hashed’ images that could be used by law enforcement and other reporting hotlines. This database is currently being developed by law enforcement and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.”

Henning also noted that commercial distribution of child pornography is still a big worry for U.S. authorities.

“ASACP validates that 90 percent of the commercial child pornography is from organized crime in the Eastern European bloc countries and five percent is from organized crime in Japan, so it was imperative that in March that the FBI decided to extend their efforts to a more international approach,” he said.

“If the dozen or so companies that have been responsible for 95 percent of this CP distribution for the last 10 years were stopped and if these criminals didn’t make money from this, the problem would be greatly reduced.”

The Justice Department report is available here