The External Effects of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Reprioritization Efforts
(Redacted for Public Release)
Audit Report 05-37
Office of the Inspector General
In addition to the traditional crime areas discussed in Chapters 5 through 10, law enforcement officials raised concerns related to other crime areas during our fieldwork. For example, FBI and non-FBI officials discussed problems in their investigative efforts to combat child pornography, human trafficking, and alien smuggling. The primary problem for federal agencies, according to these officials, including the FBI, was a lack of resources to adequately address these crimes. Moreover, state and local law enforcement agencies often lacked sufficient resources and the technical capability or jurisdictional authority that may be required for these investigations. In addition, we heard concerns about coordination issues arising between the FBI and ICE in each of these criminal areas.
According to FBI, ICE, and local law enforcement officials, online child pornography (or child sexual exploitation) is an escalating crime problem. Groups involved in child pornography are not necessarily located in the same geographic area, or even the same country. The FBI and ICE are the two primary federal law enforcement agencies that investigate child pornography matters. However, in pursuing these cases, each of these agencies has established its own approach: the FBI developed the Innocent Images National Initiative (Innocent Images) and ICE created the Operation Predator program.
FBI Investigative Efforts
The FBI implemented the Innocent Images initiative in 1995 to: (1) identify, investigate, and prosecute sexual predators who use the Internet and online services to exploit children sexually; (2) establish a law enforcement presence on the Internet as a deterrent to subjects that use it to exploit children; and (3) identify and rescue child victims. Through this initiative, the FBI focuses on individuals who indicate a willingness to travel across state lines for the purposes of engaging in sexual activity with a minor, as well as those who produce and distribute child pornography. The FBI’s Cyber Division oversees the FBI’s investigative efforts in child pornography matters.
Our analysis of FBI agent utilization data indicates that the FBI has enhanced its efforts in child pornography matters between FYs 2000 and 2004. Overall, the FBI used 110 agents in this area during FY 2000, which increased by over 100 percent to 242 agents in FY 2004. Similarly, the FBI significantly increased its child pornography investigations opened during the past 4 years, increasing from 60 cases in FY 2000 to 2,647 cases in FY 2004.
Despite the FBI’s increased efforts, officials at several FBI field offices stated that the volume of child pornography far outweighs the FBI’s available resources for investigating these matters, which officially fall under the FBI’s Cyber Crime Program. As a result, some field divisions often focus only on the most significant cyber crime incidents, which often pertain to non-child pornography issues, such as computer intrusions.
Some FBI field offices, including New Orleans, Phoenix, and San Francisco, are involved in task force operations that combine FBI resources with other agencies in combating child pornography. For example, the FBI San Francisco Division participates on two such task forces, one of which includes ICE.
In contrast, other FBI offices we visited did not coordinate their child pornography efforts with any other federal agencies. FBI managers in Chicago, Miami, and New York City each acknowledged that although ICE was involved in child pornography investigations, there has not been coordinated efforts between the two federal agencies.
Perspective from Other Law Enforcement Agencies
ICE officials in the field expressed similar sentiments on coordination between the FBI and ICE. Some ICE offices, such as New Orleans and Phoenix (which are involved in child pornography task forces with the FBI), did not report any friction between the two agencies on child pornography matters. In contrast, ICE managers in the Chicago and New York City offices commented that no coordination existed between the FBI and ICE on child pornography matters. For example, ICE managers in Chicago stated that the FBI has not been receptive to working with ICE in this area, nor has the FBI shared any investigative information with ICE. Consequently, ICE officials expressed concerns regarding duplication of investigative effort in this criminal area. The Special Agent in Charge at the FBI Chicago Division told us that he would discuss this matter with ICE officials.
Representatives from several state and local law enforcement agencies commented that they needed assistance from federal law enforcement in combating child pornography. Certain local officials remarked that child pornography cases entail a level of technological expertise beyond that possessed by many local departments. Additionally, they indicated that many of these crimes are beyond their jurisdictional boundaries.
Alien smuggling and human trafficking are two criminal activities that fall under U.S. immigration and naturalization laws. Alien smuggling involves the illegal transportation of foreign persons across U.S. borders, while human trafficking is, essentially, a modern-day slave trade where victims are forced against their will into prostitution or labor offering little or no pay.
Alien smuggling and human trafficking are often committed by criminal enterprises. Moreover, law enforcement officials have commented on the potential of terrorism-related persons or equipment being transported into the United States during these criminal operations.
Perspective from Other Law Enforcement Agencies
According to ICE managers in Los Angeles, the USAO wanted the FBI, ICE, and the Department of Labor to be jointly involved in each human trafficking investigation, which these officials stated was occurring at the time of our fieldwork in April 2005. These ICE officials also believed that this strategy worked well.
According to ICE managers in Phoenix, their office has experienced a significant increase in the number of immigration-related cases, while simultaneously undergoing reductions in resource levels. As a result, these officials noted that their office is unable to address every alien smuggling case.
During our site visits, FBI managers in Phoenix remarked that alien smuggling is a significant crime problem in Arizona due to its location on the Southwest Border. Despite the extent of the problem, these officials stated that the office was investigating only a handful of alien smuggling cases because they do not have available resources to devote to this criminal activity.
FBI managers in Los Angeles commented that a duplication of effort exists between the FBI and ICE in human trafficking and alien smuggling and indicated that a clarification of investigative responsibility is greatly needed. They said that, in Los Angeles, the FBI joined ICE’s human trafficking task force to help reduce duplicative efforts.
According to FBI officials, they have drafted a memorandum of understanding and are actively seeking to coordinate with ICE on alien smuggling and human trafficking matters. However, this document has not been finalized.
FBI and ICE officials we interviewed during our audit cited problems in investigating child pornography, human trafficking, and alien smuggling. These federal agencies were primarily concerned about the amount of resources available to adequately address these crimes. State and local law enforcement agency officials commented that they also lacked sufficient resources. In addition, these officials stated that their agencies lacked the technical ability and jurisdictional authority often required to handle these investigations. Moreover, in certain locations we identified a lack of coordination between the FBI and ICE on these types of cases.