Operation Pacifier, being one of the largest action targeting the dark web by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had resulted in the arrests of more than 135 people in 18 states in child pornography cases. The operation included both the bust of the child porn website Playpen and placing a malware on the website that tracked and logged the users who were using the domain while the federal agency was running it.
Many of the arrested people in the Playpen case were white-collar professionals, including a pediatrician, a math teacher, a professor, a public school administrator, a preschool teacher, a former bank executive and a federal drug enforcement agent.
The most recent arrests took place in Houston, including the busts of Gregg Carl Baird, Dennis Patrick Meehan Hughes, Matthew Kirk Irwin, Louis Clifford Smith, Jacob Riley Garner and John Christopher Ferguson who are now facing child pornography charges in a Houston federal court.
An official from the Department of Justice (DOJ) made this statement in a briefing on the government’s anti-pornography efforts:
“The perception of a safe haven for individuals that seek to exploit children is not something that we can tolerate, not something that this society can tolerate so we have to pursue it, and we are, and have, and will continue to do so.”
Many of the arrested had already pleaded guilty to the charges against them, however, some of the defendants state that the FBI had violated their civil rights by operating the website for two weeks after seizing the server in North Carolina. Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C., made this statement in the defense of one the accused persons:
“Certainly, it’s the first time that they’ve run a website of this magnitude. It’s also the first time they’ve hacked this number of users successfully. The FBI facilitated the wholesale distribution of child porn for several weeks last year. It’s truly sickening.”
135 arrested persons are not the end of the case, officials anticipate more indictments as the Playpen investigation continues.