Innocent Images, the only FBI undercover operation allowed to speak openly with media, is the FBI's answer to the explosion of Internet child pornography and "traveler" cases. The unit's caseload doubled last year to 1,580 active investigations of suspected "travelers" and child pornographers.
"We have agents that go into what we call predicated chat rooms...meaning rooms where we have reason to believe based upon referrals from other law enforcement...from victims or sometimes from names of the chat rooms themselves."
"For example, the name of a chat room 'Older Men for Younger Boys'...would lead any intelligent person to believe that the type of individual that was in that chat room would be an individual interested in younger children."
"Our agents go online into predicated chat rooms...using the identity of a young boy or a young girl,...and in a very, very short period of time they are contacted by an adult, generally an adult male who thinks that we are children, who in a short period of time will express an interest (in) either traveling to have sex with whom they perceive to be a minor or in many instances will transmit images of child pornography."
"Our undercover operation, which has been ongoing since 1994, has been extremely successful.
"We've had over 500 arrests nationwide, and we run about a 99 percent conviction rate."
"Our agents go into these predicated chat rooms and in a very short period of time, often in a matter of minutes, they're contacted by somebody who thinks we're a child...who gets very explicit about what they would like to do."
"It varies. Sometimes it's very quickly; somebody will get online and get right into the (thick) of things of what they would like to do."
"They'll ask about a child's sexual preference, whether they are sexually active."
"Other times they will nurture a child over a longer period of time."
"They're very manipulative (people). One thing that is particularly alarming to us is that the vast majority of the (people) that have been caught in this operation, are individuals who have never even convicted before or even suspected of crimes against children."
"We're going into chat rooms that are here today and they're gone tomorrow."
"The Internet providers (do) a very good job monitoring their own chat rooms but they can't be everywhere all of the time."
"When we learn that there's a chat room where predators might be hanging out, we go there."
"But oftentimes within a matter of days the chat room has been closed down."
"Sometimes in these chat rooms that we'll go into, we'll have to wait in line in order to get into the chat rooms because the chat rooms only have certain capacity."
"We actually have to wait our turn to get into the chat room in order to make contact."
"That would lead us to believe one of two things that these (people) were either the most unlucky bunch of individuals that God ever put on this earth...in the sense that they committed a crime and got caught the first time."
"Or in all likelihood these individuals have been doing this and heretofore have been getting away with it."
"There are many (people) out there....As I mentioned before...they're predicated chat rooms; we're not going into cooking chat rooms asking (people) to have sex with us."
"The caseload will continue to go up,...as we add more resources to the investigation."
"We cannot do this alone. It's absolutely imperative that parents take an interest in what their children do and that they take steps to minimize the risk to their children."
"My gut tells me the problem is going to continue to get worse with the fact that we have more children that are potential victims."
"Prior to this time, ironically we had (people) who were probably doing this and getting away with it....Unfortunately for us, while the internet might have created the opportunity for these (people) to do something that they might not have done before."
"It's also given law enforcement to get at these people who we believe were truly getting away with this."
"They are pedophiles. These are (people) we call the travelers,...the ones that will travel interstate with intention of having sex with a minor."
"If they don't travel interstate but travel within the state, that's still a violation of local law."
"Travelers will spend a great deal of money and a great deal of time going with the expectation that they are going to have sexual encounter with a young boy or a young girl."
"The average person doing this is a white male between 25 and 45 years of age and they're individuals who are often times professionals."
"You can't stereotype these individuals as being, you know, the creepy guy who goes around with the raincoat."
"These are (people) that live next to you and I. We have arrested law enforcement officers....We had a pediatrician in northern Virginia that was convicted....We've had a Broadway musical producer...who helped run a musical program for young boys at a summer camp....We've had an elementary school principal."
"Frequently an individual can get online and contact who they think is a child and in a matter of minutes they are into the question of 'Are you wearing any underwear right now?...Have you ever had sex with a man before?'"
"And of course, if they get a positive response to those questions...of course these things are all done in a separate area and not in that chat room....Cases can go on for a matter of months."
"The chldren that we find who've been victimized by these predators are children that are troubled....They're looking for attention."
"They might come from broken homes...They might not...But generally speaking they are looking for some type of attention and these predators are smart enough...when they find a child and they feel that this child is vulnerable that they can tailor their conversations with the child to win their friendship...and to prey upon their vulnerability."