WASHINGTON, D.C. - More than 60 Americans were among the 170 people fcaught in the U.S. Department of Justice's Operation Joint Hammer, a worldwide crackdown on kiddie porn.
Since its launch in 2006, Operation Joint Hammer has rescued 14 girls, some as young as 3, from abuse by creators of child pornography.
The genesis of the operation was the seizure, in Queensland, of a child porn video depicting what was believed to be a young Dutch girl with a Flemish accent. FBI officials then contacted Europol experts in Belgium, who were able to identify and arrest a suspect, who gave them the name and location of the Italian producer of the video.
When Italian police arrested the producer, who also ran a well-trafficked child porn website, they also obtained 50,000 emails - 11,000 of which had come from the U.S. - which had been received by the site. It was those emails which formed the basis for Operation Joint Hammer.
In all, 28 countries from which emails had been received were targeted, resulting in the dismantling of seven major child porn rings, according to the FBI.
About 700 "workable investigative leads" resulted from the U.S. emails, leading to a New Jersey man's guilty plea to having possessed nearly 130,000 child porn images; charges against a Philadelphia man for advertising, distributing, and receiving child porn - he is also suspected of running two major child porn BBSs - and the arrest of an Arizona fifth-grade teacher on multiple charges of sexual exploitation of children, some of whom may have been his students.
"Operation Joint Hammer illustrates the effectiveness of international cooperation and the speed with which we can move to protect children, identify those who prey on them and bring them to justice," said John P. Torres, Acting Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). "Those who produce, distribute and buy images of child pornography cause more children to be damaged. As a member of the Virtual Global Taskforce, ICE works globally every day to stop this from happening."