Should The FBI Be Paying Restitution?

In 2014 the FBI located an underground CP website known as The Playpen.  This was a website which was operating on what is know as “the dark web”, an encrypted network using hidden servers to block IP addresses.

The FBI then installed  a hacking tool called “the network investigative technique/NIT” which would install malware on the computers of those accessing the Playpen website.  This malware allowed the FBI access to identifying information about the Playpen users, including their IP addresses.  (Before  their installation of the hacking tool, the FBI did go to a federal judge in the Eastern District of Virginia to get legal permission to install the malware on the Playpen users’ computers. They also secured legal permission to receive the identities from internet providers of those users associated with IP addresses connected to the Playpen website. )

Unbeknownst to those accessing this website, for  2 weeks in 2015, in a government facility in Virginia, the FBI played the role of CP host by operating a sting they dubbed “Operation Pacifier”.   After receiving information regarding the websites users, FBI agents across the country secured search warrants and rounded up the identified website users.

Lawyers across the country are now challenging the FBI’s search warrant process, the problem being that federal rules of criminal procedure are no match for today’s fast paced technological and investigative advances and techniques.  It appears that while a federal magistrate judge issued a search warrant for the operation, that search warrant is only good in the jurisdiction that the judge is in, in this case, the Eastern District of Virginia.

How then was it legal for FBI agents across the country to search computers outside of the initial jurisdiction?

Nine courts have so far weighed in on this issue, three have sided with the FBI and the issue of NIT and how it’s used may be up for U.S. Supreme Court review.

Now that the initial stage is set and you have an idea of who the players are, let’s talk about the FBI’s role in restitution.

Almost every child pornography offense requires the offender to pay restitution, often many thousands of dollars, of which I’m certain a large portion ends up in the pocket of the victim’s attorney. What prosecuters  argue is that the victims of child porn are being “re-victimized” everytime one of their pictures is displayed on the internet and viewed by someone.

I agree that the producers of CP need to pay restitution for whatever mental health treatment or therapy a victim may need due to the psychological and or physical damage the  CP has caused them.  I don’t  necessarily agree that restitution from every person that came across  CP on the internet should be a lifetime “win-fall” for the victim or their attorney.

But now we have the FBI  taking over a CP website for 2 weeks where they “knowingly” made CP available for viewing.

Why isn’t that “re-victimization”?  Is the FBI paying restitution?

You can’t have it both ways.

If CP  websites cause harm to the victims, then how does the FBI justify keeping a CP website up and running , knowingly causing harm.?

And if offenders are made to pay restitution for harm incurred when they view pictures, then it seems that the FBI needs to  be forking over some big bucks to victims for “knowingly” keeping a CP website that had thousands of viewers, up and running for 2 weeks when it just should have been taken down.





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