FBI’s Porn Sting Draws Comparison to ‘Fast and Furious’

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For two weeks in 2015, the FBI was one of the largest purveyors of child pornography on the internet, reports the Seattle Times. After arresting the North Carolina administrator of The Playpen, a “dark web” child-pornography internet bulletin board, agents seized the site’s server and moved it to an FBI warehouse in Virginia. They then initiated “Operation Pacifier,” a sting and computer-hacking operation of unparalleled scope that has thus far led to criminal charges against 186 people. During the two weeks the FBI operated The Playpen, the bureau says 100,000 people logged onto the site, posting or trading at least 48,000 images, 200 videos and 13,000 links to child pornography.

The investigation has sparked a growing social and legal controversy over the FBI’s tactics and the impact on internet privacy. Some critics have compared the sting to the notorious Operation Fast and Furious, in which the ATFE allowed the illegal sales of thousands of guns to drug smugglers, who later used them in crimes. Defense attorneys and some legal scholars suggest the FBI committed more serious crimes than those they’ve arrested — distributing pornography, compared with viewing or receiving it. The FBI’s refusal to discuss Operation Pacifier and reveal exactly how it was conducted has threatened some of the resulting criminal prosecutions.

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