Criminal Justice

The Feds Are Dropping Child Porn Cases Instead of Revealing Info on Their Surveillance Systems

Human Rights Watch and other groups say these systems draw serious concerns.

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The Department of Justice has been dismissing child pornography cases in order to not reveal information about the software programs used as the basis for the charges.

An array of cases suggest serious problems with the tech tools used by federal authorities. But the private entities who developed these tools won't submit them for independent inspection or hand over hardly any information about how they work, their error rates, or other critical information. As a result, potentially innocent people are being smeared as pedophiles and prosecuted as child porn collectors, while potentially guilty people are going free so these companies can protect "trade secrets."

The situation suggests some of the many problems that can arise around public-private partnerships in catching criminals and the secretive digital surveillance software that it entails (software that's being employed for far more than catching child predators).

With the child pornography cases, "the defendants are hardly the most sympathetic," notes Tim Cushing at Techdirt. Yet that's all the more reason why the government's antics here are disturbing. Either the feds initially brought bad cases against people whom they just didn't think would fight back, or they're willing to let bad behavior go rather than face some public scrutiny.

An extensive investigation by ProPublica "found more than a dozen cases since 2011 that were dismissed either because of challenges to the software's findings, or the refusal by the government or the maker to share the computer programs with defense attorneys, or both," writes Jack Gillum. Many more cases raised issues with the software as a defense.

"Defense attorneys have long complained that the government's secrecy claims may hamstring suspects seeking to prove that the software wrongly identified them," notes Gillum. "But the growing success of their counterattack is also raising concerns that, by questioning the software used by investigators, some who trade in child pornography can avoid punishment."

Courts have sought to overcome concerns that scrutiny would diminish the effectiveness of the software for law enforcement or infringe on intellectual property rights by ordering only secret and monitored third-party review processes. But federal prosecutors have rejected even these compromises, drawing worry that it's not legitimate concerns driving their secrecy but a lack of confidence in the software's efficacy or some other more nefarious reason.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has raised questions about how much data (not just on defendants but on all Americans) these programs have been accessing and storing.

In February, HRW sent a letter to Justice Department officials expressing concerns about one such program, called the Child Protection System (CPS). TLO, the company behind the CPS system, has intervened in court cases to prevent disclosure of more information about the program or independent testing of it.

"Since the system is designed to flag people as suspected of having committed crimes, both its error rates and its potential to exceed constitutional bounds have implications for rights," HRW states. Yet "it is unclear what information the Justice Department has about CPS' potential for error (and on what basis)."

Prosecutors say they can't share any details about it "because it is proprietary and not in the government's possession," notes HRW, which since 2016 has been researching cases involving the CPS system. "We fear that the government may be shielding its methods from scrutiny by relying on its arrangements with the non-profit," states HRW. (Read more here.)

Another tool used in these cases, Torrential Downpour, was developed by the University of Massachusetts. The school has been fighting against the release of more information about Torrential Downpour, too. But defendants' lawyers say it's necessary after the program alerted authorities about alleged child porn on computers that couldn't actually be found  anywhere on the physical devices.

"An examination of the software being used to build cases should be allowed, but the entities behind the software won't allow it and the government is cutting defendants loose rather than giving them a chance to properly defend themselves against these very serious charges," writes Cushing. "I supposed it ultimately works out for defendants, but it only encourages the government to tip the scales in its favor again when the next prosecution rolls around with the hopes the next defender of the accused isn't quite as zealous"

Plus, if these defendants really are innocent, than the government has publicly and falsely smeared them as sickos and then balked at allowing them a true opportunity to clear their names.

"These defendants are not very popular, but a dangerous precedent is a dangerous precedent that affects everyone," HRW's Sarah St.Vincent told ProPublica. "And if the government drops cases or some charges to avoid scrutiny of the software, that could prevent victims from getting justice consistently. The government is effectively asserting sweeping surveillance powers but is then hiding from the courts what the software did and how it worked."

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148 responses to “The Feds Are Dropping Child Porn Cases Instead of Revealing Info on Their Surveillance Systems

  1. OT: Surely, I can’t be the only libertarian-leaning person who opposes giving felons *in prison* the right to vote. Right?

    (I haven’t been commenting since Reason’s terrible new layout went into effect.)

    1. I don’t know. This particular libertarian has no problem with it. I see it this way: the non-incarcerated public chose between a giant douchebag and a turd sandwich last time and did it joyfully. To this day, they swear either they turd sandwich was the most qualified ever or the giant douchebag is actually a deep thinker and tariffs work. Could prisoners actually choose any worse than the general public?

      If anything, I would that convicts tend to have a bit more natural resistance to authority, especially government authority, than the average sad sack citizen.

      1. Inmates in county jails might get treated better if they could vote in elections for sheriff.

        1. And in very rural counties with a large jail, the inmates could be a majority of the voting population so one of them could be the next sheriff.

          1. Nice point.
            Also, prison is an excellent setting for coerced voting.

            The rampant use of 3rd party absentee ballot campaigns is bad for free-choice voting (when absentee ballots required a reason this wouldn’t have been a big issue, but now?). Some activist from the Citizens for Democracy comes through the old folks home and signs takes ballots to a bunch of seniors and helps them fill them out… how difficult is it to coerce their votes. How tough would it be to simply lose a bunch of the votes for “the other party”, which ever way that happens to be.

            All of those issues are present with jail voting, with the added bonus of having complete physical control over every aspect of the voter’s life, right down to the ability to deny decent food or even access to a clean toilet. And even without coercion either overt or covert, you still have the problem of access to information. The jail can censor everything. They control all access. So it could be Fox News and Rush Limbaugh 24×7.

            Seems like a really big challenge for ensuring free elections.

            1. Australia was a Dickensian prison, and people there are forced to vote at gunpoint using gauntlet ballots so goofily complicated it takes a thick manual to pick one gang of looters over another.

      2. well put, Inigo.

    2. The state makes laws that can be immoral or unconstitutional, then put you in jail for violating them. And take away your ability to vote for change. That’s strikes me as decidedly nonlibertarian and certainly undemocratic.

      1. But that’s not an excuse to refuse to distinguish between somebody in prison for having pot, and somebody in prison for committing mass murder.

        Which is what Bernie did. (Refused to distinguish, I mean, he hasn’t had the mass murder opportunity yet…)

        1. The problem is how do you distinguish in the form of public policy?

          Do you let the government decide which crimes are the ones that are no big deal and you can still vote? You can see how THAT is problematic.

          It’s a tough one but sometimes you have to allow for certain negatives in order to avoid other bad outcomes. So some murderer gets to vote what’s he gonna do vote to legalize murder?

          1. You don’t. The current system works and is there for a reason. In most states felons can petition to have their voting rights restored.

        2. If there are enough mass murders to change the outcome of the election … you have a more serious problem than virtue signalling about how bad mass murder is.

          1. I think this is what really changed my mind on the issue. every government policy choice is a balance between individual liberty and a “common good” produced by some restriction to that liberty. libertarians simply believe that better outcomes result from emphasizing the individual liberty side, and that “common good” needing to be a very high bar. removing the right to vote would need to have a rather large “common good” produced in balance – since even those whose civic judgement you might question (sociopathic serial killers) are so rare, the “good” is pretty darn limited. the question of where to draw that line or distinguish between the “minor” or “major” crime becomes irrelevant once you realize that there is no substantive “common good” produced by removing that right, irrespective of the seriousness of the crime.

      2. ^ Basically this.

        I don’t see a compelling argument from the side that doesn’t want felons to vote. How is one vote a threat to democracy, even if it is coming from the most vile felon?

        1. Well, for starters, prisons are usually located in underpopulated areas. NIMBI, after all. And the prisoners are often treated as having their residence at the prison.

          So, give felons the vote in prison, and a fair number of underpopulated rural communities will suddenly find themselves politically controlled by felons.

          Who are usually Democrats, while underpopulated rural communities are usually populated by Republicans, and now, as Paul Harvey used to say, you know the rest of the story.

          It’s a stealth move to take Democratic control over Republican rural communities.

          1. How do we know the political allegiances of felons? And do we really know? I would think that most are probably not terribly politically engaged and probably aren’t registered with any party.
            Maybe they should vote absentee in the jurisdiction they were convicted in.

            1. Who are usually Democrats, while underpopulated rural communities are usually populated by Republicans, and now, as Paul Harvey used to say, you know the rest of the story.

              Additionally to Zeb’s comments, I’ll add that we don’t base qualifications for any voters in the way that you’re describing, nor would we ever accept that they shouldn’t vote because we might not like the outcome. That’s not a compelling, or even legal argument based on our laws.

              1. Look, it’s one thing to say, “We might as well give prisoners the vote, it’s not like they’re going to swing elections.” and quite another to say, “We might as well give prisoners the vote, and let them take political control of towns and whole counties they only technically live because that’s where the prisons are located. But where they don’t live under the local laws or taxes they’d be voting on.”

                Try to be vaguely serious, it’s a very compelling argument.

                1. Your assumption that they (prisoners) are highly different than the local population is just that, an assumption. But I’ll grant you that for the sake of argument.

                  My point is that disenfranchisement is a very serious limitation on rights. You better have very good reasons to even suggest disenfranchisement as a policy in a supposed free society. My opinion is that because we might not like the political outcome of allowing felons to vote is not a sufficient argument to justify mass disenfranchisement in the same way that we wouldn’t disenfranchise the homeless or some other class of people just because they might vote differently than the “native” population.

                  Several people here have offered a solution to the problem that you bring up that doesn’t involve mass disenfranchisement of people. As libertarians we should welcome solutions that offer us the ability to increase freedom, not simply accepting that we must by default limit freedom for some perceived greater good.

                  1. “My point is that disenfranchisement is a very serious limitation on rights”

                    So is imprisonment.

                    If you want to reform laws so that less people end up in prison, go for it. I’ll join you.
                    Why in the hell anyone would buy the “let inmates vote” slop is beyond me, but it’s a progressive scheme so I shouldn’t be surprised some here would find it attractive.
                    Abstract policy is all about the feelz, after all.

                    1. If you want to reform laws so that less people end up in prison, go for it

                      What better way to accomplish this than to let those in prison vote? The current voters certainly aren’t in favor of this.

                    2. Dude, there are numerous studies that show most criminals vote left… I would imagine felons are the same as the general criminal population.

                      And fuck letting criminals vote. Losing your right to vote while in prison is fine by me. Letting them get their right back after they’re done in prison and with probation is also fine.

                      If anything we should be working on getting rid of victimless crimes, not letting shitty criminals vote.

                  2. “Your assumption that they (prisoners) are highly different than the local population is just that, an assumption. But I’ll grant you that for the sake of argument.”

                    I would hope you’d concede that felons in prison are highly different from the general population. It would be lunacy to assert the contrary.

                    I don’t support a solution to this that wouldn’t involve mass disenfranchisement, because there are some people who SHOULD be disenfranchised.

                    The real complaint is that too many things are felonies, not that felons in prison don’t get to vote.

                  3. “My point is that disenfranchisement is a very serious limitation on rights.”

                    This is true, but the first problem you have to overcome is that it’s a limitation that is expressly listed as permissible in the constitution.

                    From 14A section 2:

                    But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime,…
                    </blockquote

              2. What of those in prison for burglary, armed robbery, kidnapping, etc?
                You think they have any ethical qualms about voting for policies/politicians who will take property from others, and otherwise reduce individual freedom?
                What crimes don’t show a disregard for the rights of others?
                .
                .
                .
                Drugs. That’s pretty much it (and it’s not like 100% of people in prison for drugs are innocent of violating others’ rights – sometimes, it’s just the drug charges that stick or are pleaded to).
                And if we’re just concerned with nonviolent drug offenders being disenfranchised, it seems a waste of energy, and foolish, to deal with that by pushing to give all inmates voting rights back.

                1. You think they have any ethical qualms about voting for policies/politicians who will take property from others, and otherwise reduce individual freedom?

                  Those criteria would eliminate about 90% of current voters.

                  1. And universal suffrage was a HORRIBLE idea from the get go… Which is they the Founders, being smarter than you, smarter than progtards, and smarter than most current day libertarians DID NOT grant universal suffrage.

                    They were smart enough to limit who could vote to those they thought would be most likely to vote correctly… And strangely enough, the country only started going to shit after universal white male suffrage, and got drastically worse after women got the vote, because women vote with their feelings.

                    Voting is NOT a good unto itself. Think that through. Liberty is more important than letting morons vote. The Founders understood this, ultraegalitarian morons do not. I side with the Founders.

                    1. By your logic you must certainly support prisoner voting. The federal government, at its founding, did not have nearly the powers and broad authority it wields over individual liberty today. To believe that those most aggrieved by loss of liberty and those actually convicted of victimless crimes should have the opportunity to oppose it with a simple vote. No imprisonment without representation.

                      “Voting is NOT a good unto itself but sure as fuck beats the alternative.” FTFY

                      “They were smart enough to limit who could vote to those they thought would be most likely to vote correctly… Think that through.” Please do.

                      Your betters like the penned sheep being silenced and forever disenfranchised. That’s why they keep making excuses, I mean laws, to do so.

                      Perhaps it would incentivize the 2 major parties to compete for their vote and/or stop creating more of them through decriminalization. Either way it should increase liberty.

                      Look, we are either a moral nation and prisoner votes should not be a threat or we are not. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” John Adams

                    2. LOL, wut?

                      Look, pay attention here: I don’t believe it is a matter of morality to let people vote. Voting is a means to an end. If letting certain types of people vote destroys liberty, I do not think it is a moral imperative to let that category of people vote.

                      I am 110% in favor of greatly restricting who is allowed to vote. Just to be nice to the less intellectually inclined sex (women), I would propose all net tax payers who can pass a thorough history/civics test can vote. I’d be fine with carte blanche banning women too though.

                      Why? Because women vote badly. And dumb people vote badly. Weed them both out and we’d have freedom getting restored, balanced budgets, and all the shit libertarians and real conservatives want ASAP.

                      The Founders did not believe in true equality of people, because that is a lie… People are NOT all equal. They just thought people should be more or less equal under the law. That’s all they believed in. That concept has been distorted into the idea that we actually all are equal and have equally worthwhile opinions… But we don’t. Low IQ welfare case commies are NOT my equal. Thomas Jefferson knew he was superior to illiterate field hands, hence did not believe they should vote. I agree with Thomas Jefferson, not you.

                      As for prisoners… The Founders said “Fuck ’em!” just like I do. I am all in favor of ending the drug war, etc, but that doesn’t mean we should let violent felons vote. If you want to end the mistreatment of drug offenders, fight that directly, not through some bullshit indirect means.

                    3. Yup! People always use the excuse “This good idea will be abused! It will have these problems!” Which is true… But that doesn’t mean you throw out a good idea. You try to minimize the problems with things like you suggest.

                      The real reason people wouldn’t like a FAIR test to allow people to vote is that with any reasonable bar certain types of people would be disqualified at far higher rates.

                      People claim the SATs are rigged and racially biased… When they’re not. It’s just that whites, Asians, and Jews have higher IQs and hence do better academically. Whatever the cause of the IQ gap, environmental or genetic, this leaves others doing less well.

                      Women are known to have far less knowledge of history, politics, economics, etc on average. They just tend to not be as interested as men. Likewise other than Asians all non whites tend to be poor performers academically, and would also fail at higher rates.

                      The truth is though whatever the reason for gaps, disproportionately cutting out a certain sex, or color of skin, weeding out idiots would be a great help to LIBERTY, which is far more important than DEMOCRACY.

            2. “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” — Will Rogers

          2. That should be easy to solve. Give them the right to vote but maintain their pre-incarceration registration. The analogy would be the way active military are allowed to vote. I stayed registered in Delaware even though I was stationed many places around the US and even overseas.

            1. This was going to be my reply as well. Make it an absentee ballot from their last residence.

            2. That could work, but I don’t believe it’s what the Democrats intend. Because doing it that way wouldn’t change any ‘red’ areas to ‘blue’, and this policy proposal is 110% about political gain, not the rights of the prisoners.

            3. If you know anything about the workings of the prison systems, they can’t even keep track of how many days they’ve been in versus how many days they’re required to serve. I don’t think this is practicable.

              1. Just use the current absentee ballot system.

        2. “How is one vote a threat to democracy…”

          Then how is the denial of it to those that have committed violent crimes equally a threat to democracy?

      3. The case can be made convincingly that we all commit federal felonies every day. That puts a tool in the hands of the government that can potentially be used to disenfranchise large numbers of people. Seems like enough right there.

      4. Stephanie needs to produce an article defending Holy Roman Apostolic Sanctuary for pederasts.

    3. I go back and forth. With so many of these things the devils in the details. Like which felons, do states have to do this, what if con lived in CA but was being imprisoned out of state, how do ensure free and fair elections in a system where people have very little free will over their lives …So I am against for now but could be swayed because I really don’t like the state taking away rights. Proponents of this need to do alot of work to change my mind though.

      1. Or, stop putting people in prison unless they pose a clear danger to others. If only violent sociopaths were locked up for extended periods, it would be a lot easier to accept their disenfranchisement. I think most felonies as they exist today could be adequately punished with fines and restitution.

        1. Ok, now that’s just crazy talk.

          1. Your right, a significant number of “felonies” under currently law would be adequately punished by a stern lecture.

    4. If the government can give you the right to vote they can damn well take it away if they feel you committed a serious crime, like buying, selling, and/or smoking the marijuanas.

    5. Step one: Make it illegal for men to wear ponytails.

      Step two: Arrest all the Chinese immigrant men wearing ponytails.

      Step three: Take the right to vote away from convicted felons.

      Step four: Demand federal subsidies because you can’t figure out how to build California’s preferred transportation infrastructure on budget.

      History has shown that we need to preserve the right to vote even for convicted people.

    6. The new site format is absolute shit. On a touchscreen the page will jump to another article unless I’m very careful.

      Absolute worthless garbage.

  2. Here you have the real reasons why the government feels it is so important to make an example of people like Assange, Manning, and (if they ever catch him) Snowden.

    Crapper, I mean Clapper swore surveillance was over. But it’s only getting started. Not worried because you’re not attracted to kids? It’s okay, soon enough wrongthink will be considered even worse.

  3. “”These defendants are not very popular, but a dangerous precedent is a dangerous precedent that affects everyone,””

    This is nearly impossible for the average person to understand. And they vote.

    1. And I don’t understand why it’s so hard to grasp. It’s like the line from Woody Harrellson in that movie about Larry Flynt: “If the right to free speech is there even for a scumbag like me, it will be there for when it’s really important.” Dumbasses don’t understand that when government takes away the rights of “scumbags” they take away rights from everyone, virtuous and vile alike.

      1. The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
        H. L. Mencken

      2. You’re context dropping.

        Larry Flynt did nothing wrong, as opposed to merely breaking the law.

        A murderer is in prison because they did do something wrong, even by the narrow standards of libertarianism.

        Are you pretending you can’t see the difference between someone being in prison for breaking an unjust law and one in prison for breaking a just law?

  4. The link to the Tim Cushing Tech Dirt article is an older article about the Stingray which is a physical hardware device (IIRC a phony cell site for phone tracking / monitoring) not the Child Protection System software this article is about. Nor does that article contain the quote attributed to it.

    1. I noticed that too. Although the article about the Stingray is really interesting.

      1. LEO was after some dude near my kid’s preschool a few years back. Every time I was stuck in line waiting for my kid the cell phone would start acting up, dropping connections, going from full bars to 1 bar back to full bars. It was just a small area, a couple of blocks.

        I never found out what the investigation was about, but the stupid phone-tap thing was a pain in the rear. Plus, I didn’t like the notion of an unauthorized man-in-the-middle on my internet enabled device.

        1. Yeah Stingrays are absolutely fucked from the sounds of it. Total violation of the 4th amendment if a search warrant is not obtained first (which, according the article, most police don’t bother with).

        2. Near my home, there is occasionally a WiFi connection that lists as FBI Surveillance Van. Either someone in my neighborhood is a joker, or the FBI sucks at covert surveillance.

          1. Someone in my apartement building named their Wifi “FBI” too. It’s a over-used joke.

            My buddy’s wifi is named “ithurtswhenIP” That made me laugh.

            1. Yeah, I’ve seen “NSA Surveillance Van” a couple of times too. Kinda worn-out joke.

              BSSID seen on an Amtrack train: “Yell ‘Penis’ for Free Wifi”. Given the state of Amtrack’s government-issued wifi, I was tempted.

              (For Tony: you think the government can run every minutiae of our lives when they can’t even set up a damn wifi hotspot?)

              1. Uh, I should have said ESSID. I will return my MCS posthaste.

  5. “This is nearly impossible for the average person to understand. And they vote.”

    And that is just one issue: C-SPAN/PBS survey, which questioned 1,000 likely voters between Aug. 13-15, found that 52 percent of Americans were unfamiliar with the current eight members of the court. this is actually an improvement over the same survey a year ago when 53% could not name a single justice.

    No, they’ll vote for Harris because she is black [+ atractive], for Butt Pigg because he’s gay, for Bernie because they are gimmedats.

    I looked up quote “democracy cannot survive without and educated populace” but there are too many to list.

    1. Butt Pigg? Harris and Sanders get their names used, and the gay guy doesn’t rate the courtesy? FFS.

      1. He shoulda gone with ‘Grandpa Gulag’ with Sanders. And he obviously needs glasses.

      2. Biden is now ‘Uncle Badtouch’.

  6. Editor’s Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Remember, we doxxed and dimed out our comment content contributors to the USAO-SDNY before and we can do the same thing to you too. Report abuses.

    1. So I always wondered, and still do: is it the “we do not moderate” or the “We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time.”?

      1. Well, it’s both: They very seldom exert themselves to clean up the threads, leaving obvious spam in place. But they still demand to be free to arbitrarily delete stuff.

        Well, fine, their playground, their rules. The moderation here is still far better than a lot of sites, just exactly because it’s usually nonexistent.

        1. Well, it’s both: They very seldom exert themselves to clean up the threads, leaving obvious spam in place.

          Yeah, seems like you have to post links to actual kiddie-porn to get scrubbed from here. Although I doubt that’s what Hihn did…anyone know why he was un-personed? Given his obvious unhinged nature, I wonder if he up and threatened one of his more obnoxious trollers.

  7. It seems to me the worry about true pedarasts going free is rather overblown in this case. Due to the nature of the surveillance, these people may have “child porn” on their electronic devices, but I am guessing none of these folks actually traffic in children. If somehow this surveillance revealed actual video evidence that the person in question participated in creating, the nature of the software itself could be discussed with the judge in chambers without revealing any proprietary or confidential information. And if it is truly just some pictures (that may or not may be actual children being exploited), then whether or not they are prosecuted will have absolutely no effect on children actually being harmed.

    Or at least, whether or not the software is openly discussed has nothing to do with it.

    1. They’re worried about “the fruit of the poisonous tree”, because the software and the people running it for them are probably criminally violating people’s constitutional rights.

      Heck, for all we know this amazing software is just a script searching the records generated by the NSA’s illegal surveillance of Americans.

    2. You should have a right to see all evidence against you and the ability to challenge the validity of that evidence. Regarding the Stingray, and similar devices, when they say you were at X location, you can ask them to prove how they know it. This shouldn’t be something that only a judge and prosecutor can see.

      The defense having a right to review all evidence and its source is very important in an honest judicial system.

    3. I once inadvertently downloaded some kiddy porn to my computer. And only by chance, did I find out that I had. One of a number of reasons to do all of your computer repairs yourself if you can. Or pull the hard drive before taking it to a repair shop.

      1. A wise policy I follow myself.

    4. And if it is truly just some pictures (that may or not may be actual children being exploited), then whether or not they are prosecuted will have absolutely no effect on children actually being harmed.

      Without demand, there is no supply.

  8. Either the feds initially brought bad cases against people whom they just didn’t think would fight back, or they’re willing to let bad behavior go rather than face some public scrutiny.

    I’ve said it before and I will say it again: kiddie porn isn’t that bad.

    1. Eh, depends, because the nature of it varies dramatically from one case to another. “Kiddie porn” sweeps in a vast range of stuff.

      On one end of the spectrum you’ve got soft porn where the voluntary subject of it just happens to be below the local age of consent, but was legal where it was produced. Pretty common, actually. Or Japanese cartoons, where anything goes because there are no actual humans involved, but the fictional person depicted is supposedly underaged.

      At the other end of the spectrum you’ve got snuff flicks filmed with toddlers too young to consent even if they’d known what was going on.

      And everything in between, of course.

      1. Local age of consent is irrelevant to child pornography. The age cut-off for child pornography is set in federal law at 18. At the state level, the most popular “age of Consent” is actually 17 with 16 being a close second and 18 a distant third (only 14 states).

        1. Got a clue for you: The US is a “locale”, and this stuff is frequently produced abroad.

          1. Even if it was produced in the Mexican state where the age of consent is “puberty” that would be irrelevant to a child porn prosecution in the US the way the federal law is written.

        2. I think the point is that in saaay France, a French person may be able to watch a 16 year old get banged legally, while that makes you a criminal in the USA.

          France may not be accurate, I’m just using a random example. Also, in the USA before that law was passed there was porn being made with actresses that were within the local age of consent laws. IIRC Marilyn Chambers, or some other big 70s porn star, did a ton of movies below 18 that are now all illegal in the USA, but were legal at the time.

          So depending on where you are, shit can change, and since the internet is global that could get messy. I heard of the feds trying to prosecute people for child porn because the actresses LOOKED too young, and since the person couldn’t prove the source cuz they just found it online, they were being prosecuted. I hope they got off, but just sayin’ it’s a fuct thing.

          1. In at least a third of US states, you can legally bang a 16 year old, but watching a video of it will land you in prison.

            1. Yup. It’s 16 where I live. I could go trawling for sophomore girls at the pizza place during lunch time near the local high school! But god forbid she send me a picture of her nipple or whatever…

              Honestly, I think somewhere in that range is a reasonable age of consent… I think there should be stepping at lower ages (IE at 14-15 here there is a 4-5 year age gap where it is legal, so a 19 year old wouldn’t be prosecuted), and 16 or so being the be all end all. A 40 year old banging a 16 year old is skeezy… But I don’t think a long prison term is the right course of action either.

              The weird thing with porn is that it will NEVER go away… A 16 year old getting nailed is one thing, but it following them for the rest of their life because of one bad choice is also a bit rough… I dunno. It’s a fucked thing really. I feel like something along the lines of what we have now is within reason, but perhaps with some carve outs for sanity, like a chick sending a nip shot to her boyfriend who is 3 years older than her etc.

              1. “I think there should be stepping at lower ages (IE at 14-15 here there is a 4-5 year age gap where it is legal, so a 19 year old wouldn’t be prosecuted)”

                My $0.02

                Prepubescent > Capital crime
                Post pubescent under 14 > non-capital felony
                14-15 misdemeanor

                “A 40 year old banging a 16 year old is skeezy”

                Skeezy does not equal ought to be illegal.

                1. With some age stepping in there, I’m roughly okay with that. I just don’t think a 19 year old banging a 13 year old, who looks like she’s 17, and told the guy she’s 17, should be a crime either.

          2. There was a case a while back where a man was being prosecuted for possession of child porn, because he had a movie whose star was a legitimate adult, but a charter member of the itty bitty tittie committee. She heard of the prosecution and sent a copy of her birth certificate to the defense attorney.

      2. IIRC, there have been Kiddie Porn prosecutions over naked baby on bear skin rug photos that were quite popular decades ago and were totally non sexual.

        1. They’ve prosecuted high school teenagers for sending pictures of themselves to their boyfriend/girlfriend/otherkinfriend.

          Prosecutors are out of control in this country.

          1. The Law is an Ass.

        2. Weird thing is that “non sexual” pictures of underaged nude people is still actually legal. Once many years ago (when I was a teen myself!) I found some creepy ass websites that were almost certainly designed to appeal to pedos that had under 18 year old chicks naked, but not trying to look sexy to stay within the law… Maybe the feds have cracked down on that sort of thing now, but like 10+ years ago one could easily find that stuff online, and it was totally legal.

      3. The moment government/courts declared animated child porn – where no actual child is injured, period – as just as illegal as the stuff that does, the government lost all credibility in the mission of actually caring about kids. Just think of how much fewer kids would be harmed if demand were met with animation. They don’t care about protecting kids – and this should be clear with the numerous reporting here on “trafficing” raids that actually capture and punish adult prostitutes – they care about punishing people with a disposition they find abhorrent.

        1. Yup. And the thing that’s extra stupid about it all is that finding a POST pubescent teenage girl attractive is totally natural. Nobody can say with true honesty that they don’t find saaay smokin’ hot 17 year olds smokin’ hot. THEY ARE. They’re baby making machines in their prime, they’re supposed to be appealing to men… And they are.

          Where it gets sick to me is pre pubescent. I just cannot see what anybody would find attractive about some 10 year old or whatever… That’s just fucking weird. It’s a brain anomaly of some sort which some people are likely born with.

          Any which way, it’s retarded to not be able to make animations of fake 16 year olds for normally wired people, OR (gross) fake 10 year olds for the weirdos… It may well let them spank it and not actually rape real kids or whatever. I don’t see that it would do harm any which way.

          1. It’s actually an understandable mating strategy from an evolutionary standpoint: You nail down the potential mate BEFORE the competition has a chance. Sure, you have years of investment, but the payoff throughout most of history would have been reliable.

            Obviously a poor mating strategy for those who have a good chance in the competition for the post-pubescent, but evolution cares about ugly stupid people, too, if they can find a way to reproduce.

            1. You know what, I never thought about it like that… It’s skeezy still… But that actually makes sense from an evolutionary biology perspective. I wonder if any serious scientists have ever looked into that angle.

              Could explain why almost all pedos always look super sketchy and gross. LOL

          2. What’s scary is that one of those (an unfrocked priest that got caught diddling prepubescent girls) now works for TSA at Philadelphia International Airport.

        2. “The moment government/courts declared animated child porn – where no actual child is injured, period – as just as illegal as the stuff that does”

          This is not the case in US law. Congress attempted to outlaw virtual child porn in the late 90s (1999 IIRC) which included static drawings, animations, and videos with young looking adult actors. However that law was overturned by the US Supreme Court in 2002 or 2003 on one of the first prosecutions under the law.

  9. “the defendants are hardly the most sympathetic,”

    Even the innocent ones?

    1. It’s 2019 – no one is innocent.

    2. No.

      /Janet Reno

  10. Here’s a thought – if you don’t want your sources and methods exposed to scrutiny, DON’T BRING THE CASE TO TRIAL.

    1. Prosecutors never WANT to bring any case to Trial. They want you to plead guilty. Combining both state and federal cases, more than 90% of all criminal cases in the US end in plea bargains.

      The US Attorneys and Local DAs wouldn’t have the resources to take even half those cases to trial.

  11. “The government is effectively asserting sweeping surveillance powers but is then hiding from the courts what the software did and how it worked.”
    See this? This is my shocked face. Shocking, isn’t it?

    1. My money is on the fact that some Justice Department goon’s cousin holds the patent on the software. Just a hunch.

  12. This is EXACTLY what the business model for Porn Copyright Trolling is. Verbatim.

    Want to know how to fight it? Want to see exactly how to win every case against the government? You could template this.

    Follow this case: https://torrentfreak.com/malibu-media-wants-to-dismiss-piracy-case-against-it-experts-says-they-can-hide-infringing-activity-190423/

  13. If Democrats really cared about the rights of defendants and prisoners than they would vote to repeal the controlled substances Act. Most prisoners would be free and that would leave hundreds of thousands less people in prison to vote.

    This would not be enought to turn red rural areas blue. Democrats would move on to the next topic.

  14. […] shares a report from Reason: The Department of Justice has been dismissing child pornography cases in order to not reveal information about the software programs us…. An array of cases suggest serious problems with the tech tools used by federal authorities. But […]

  15. […] stocks a document from Reason: The Department of Justice has been disregarding kid pornography circumstances with the intention to no longer expose details about the …. An array of circumstances counsel critical issues of the tech equipment utilized by federal […]

  16. Seriously, unless you’re a super freak who is into 8 year olds, why would you bother with kiddie porn??? Regular “teen” porn with 18+ chicks have tons of girls who look like they’re like 16 or even younger anyway, so why take the risk of going to jail? Dumbasses.

    1. That reminds me:

      Meanwhile, for the Lowther’s 7-year-old son, Charlie, protective custody was anything but. After all, he too stood accused of sexual abuse. The police took both children to All Faiths, a private organization that acts as a safehouse for local law enforcement. Detectives interviewed Becca for over an hour. They also interviewed Charlie for 45 minutes about abuse he may have either suffered or perpetrated. Note that at this point, Charlie was in state custody—the very authorities legally responsible for his well-being were also interrogating him about whether he should be considered a suspect in a criminal investigation.

      Cops start dreaming about a 7 year old boy having sex after his sister asks a classmate an anatomical question to see if that classmate is a cis-gender boy or a trans-gender boy. Those overtime requests won’t write themselves.

    2. Keep in mind that kiddie porn is illegal even if you don’t know it’s kiddie porn, and that a lot of 16 year olds look like they might be older.

      It’s quite easy to inadvertently violate these laws unless you’re into middle aged women.

      1. True. But if you’re just cruising Ye Olde Tyme Pornhub or whatever, you should be able to use police records of whatever they’re claiming to be kiddie porn to find the source there and then verify it is not.

        I guess some kiddie porn may get uploaded to such places? But probably not much. And really I can’t see that the cops are going after people cruising Pornhub. They’re probably tracking people doing hard core google fu searches for fucked up shit, “12 year old sucking off horse” or some such. LOL

        This reminds me though… Better throw out all your Girls Gone Wild DVDs! I had some chick friends in high school who were under 18 (and kinda skanky)… And ended up flashing and ending up in one of that companies videos. They were like 15/16 at the time. Everybody at our school found out about this. A few years later the guys that ran the company finally got prosecuted for doing just that sort of thing. Every video they ever did probably has segments of “kiddie porn” in them!

  17. Sex offenses policy in “Land of the free” reminds me that people are same imbeciles as they were in the time of witch-hunts, it is now more religion than science.
    Somehow I worry that, this is not about protecting anybody, but new version of “war on….” Problem is that not many people dare to oppose this plethora of absurd and harmful measures, because they will be ostracized.(for heresy)
    1, Why should I care if someone is downloading nasty things, if he is not distributing or financially supporting it ?
    Why computer generated CAI is illegal?
    It seems to me that this is more about lynching people with deviant sexual preferences than actually protecting someone.
    2, Formerly natural things starts to being considered as harmful or even illegal.
    In my country (in Europe) probably half population will be incarcerated for their family albums if we have USA laws.
    And I am not even mentioning arresting and punishing teenagers or even prepubescent kids for behaviour that is absolutely natural to them, or many other harmful and counter-productive measures.

    I am not saying that sexual violence or abuse should be ignored, but policy today (in USA especially) seems to me,that your bloodthirsty society wants substitute for homos,niggers,commies, rather than protect somebody.

  18. Haven’t visited this site in years, but still recognize a few of the posters. Hoping all are well. Am a Glibertarian now, instead.

  19. Sounds like the government’s software isn’t as bullet-proof as they claim . . .

    1. The only bullet-proof soft ware is the command/control systems for an M1 Abrams main battle tank. 🙂

    2. It’s the same code the Warmunists use to press for a Caron tax.

  20. […] Feds are dropping child porn cases rather than disclose how their surveillance works. Notice, keeping the ability to watch everyone is more important to them. […]

  21. […] The Feds Are Dropping Child Porn Cases Instead of Revealing Info on Their Surveillance Systems […]

  22. […] [reason.com – 4/24/19] The Department of Justice has been dismissing child pornography cases in order to not reveal information about the software programs used as the basis for the charges. An array of cases suggest serious problems with the tech tools used by federal authorities. But the private entities who developed these tools won’t submit […] [Read More] […]

  23. Anyone else notice how many convicted pedophiles and sex offenders are feds themselves?

    Coincidence???

  24. California Public Defender Mabel Walker Willebrandt got working girls out of the clutches of soft machine police by moving to subpoena customers. Charges were dropped faster’n you can say no-bill or nolo contendere!

  25. […] with itself * VIDEO: DC officials vow changes after video of 9-year-old being handcuffed surfaces * WHAT?! The Feds Are Dropping Child Porn Cases Instead of Revealing Info on Their Surveillance System… * New York City tickets 12 people for defying measles vaccination […]

  26. […] The Feds Are Dropping Child Porn Cases Instead of Revealing Info on Their Surveillance Systems – R… […]

  27. […] itself * VIDEO: DC officials vow changes after video of 9-year-old being handcuffed surfaces * WHAT?! The Feds Are Dropping Child Porn Cases Instead of Revealing Info on Their Surveillance […]

  28. […] The Feds Are Dropping Child Porn Cases Instead of Revealing Info on Their Surveillance Systems […]

  29. […] Feds Dropping Child Porn Cases to Avoid Revealing Surveillance Systems Info […]

  30. […] The feds are dropping child porn cases instead of revealing info on their surveillance systems […]

  31. […] The Feds Are Dropping Child Porn Cases Instead of Revealing Info on Their Surveillance Systems […]

  32. There is no Law for Rich People

  33. […] Les fédéraux préfèrent abandonner des cas de pornographie juvénile plutôt que de révéler com… (reason.com – en anglais) […]

  34. […] (in this case murder), and how the legal uncertainties surrounding the failing federal “crackdowns” against child pornographers must be replaced by simple solutions that […]

  35. […] The Feds Are Dropping Child Porn Cases Instead of Revealing Info on Their Surveillance Systems […]

  36. […] Remember this the next time politicians tell you that the point of anti-porn laws is to “protect c…: […]

  37. […] The Department of Justice has been dismissing child pornography cases in order to not reveal information about the software programs used as the basis for the charges. An array of cases suggest serious problems with the tech tools used by federal authorities. But the private entities who developed these tools won’t submit them for independent inspection or hand over hardly any information about how they work, their error rates, or other critical information. As a result, potentially innocent people are being smeared as pedophiles and prosecuted as child porn collectors, while potentially guilty people are going free so these companies can protect “trade secrets.” (READ MORE) […]

  38. […] An array of cases suggest serious problems with the tech tools used by federal authorities. But the private entities who developed these tools won’t submit them for independent inspection or hand over hardly any information about how they work, their error rates, or other critical information. As a result, potentially innocent people are being smeared as pedophiles and prosecuted as child porn collectors, while potentially guilty people are going free so these companies can protect “trade secrets.”MORE […]

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