CNET has uncovered an unusual and controversial investigative technique in which FBI agents post hyperlinks that purport to lead to illegal videos of minors having sex and then raid the homes of people who click on them.
The links directed users to a secret, government-controlled server that had no illegal images on them. But that hasn't stopped FBI agents from staging armed raids on the homes of at least three individuals alleged to have clicked on the links, according to the story.
"I thought it was scary that they could do this," Anna Durbin, an attorney representing one of the defendants, told the online rag. "The whole idea that the FBI can put a honeypot out there to attract people is kind of sad. It seems to me that they've brought a lot of cases without having to stoop to this."
Her client is Roderick Vosburgh, a doctoral student at Temple University who was raided last February after allegedly clicking on one of the links. A jury found him guilty of illegally attempting to download child pornography and a separate charge of possessing a hard drive containing a thumbnail image of two naked minors. He could receive three to five years in prison at sentencing, which is scheduled for April 22.
The sting involved FBI agents visiting online forums allegedly tied to underage images and posting links where people could view illegal images. "Here is one of my favs - 4yo he with dad (toddler, some oral, some anal) - supercute!" one of the agent's messages stated. "Havent' [sic] seen her on the board before - if anyone has anymore, PLEASE POST."
The FBI recorded the IP addresses of people who clicked on the links and obtained search warrants to raid their homes.
Despite critics' claims of entrapment, the practice has so far been upheld in court. US District Judge Roger Hunt in Nevada concluded the operation constituted the requisite probable cause needed to justify the raid of another man who allegedly clicked on a link.
That defendant, Travis Carter, had suggested that a neighbor within range of his Wi-Fi router could have clicked on the link, but the judges overseeing the case rejected that argument. ®