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Operation Ore was a British police operation that commenced in 1999 following information received from US law enforcement, which was intended to prosecute thousands of users of a website reportedly featuring child pornography. In the United Kingdom, it led to 7,250 suspects identified, 4,283 homes searched, 3,744 arrests, 1,848 charged, 1,451 convictions, 493 cautioned and 140 children removed from suspected dangerous situations [1] and an estimated 39 suicides.[2][3] While Operation Ore did identify and prosecute a number of sex offenders, the validity the police procedures was later questioned, as errors in the investigations apparently resulted in a large number of false arrests.[4]

Operation Ore succeeded the similar crackdown in the United States, called Operation Avalanche, though in the US only 100 people were charged from the 35,000 US access records available.[5]

The final chapter in the operation Ore debate was settled in the Court of appeal on 6th December 2010, when the much hyped case of Anthony O'Shea was thrown out after a comprehensive and scathing written judgement dismantled the alleged conspiracy theory and basis for appeal.[6]

OriginsEdit

In April 1999, United States Postal Inspection Service of Texas had received an internal complaint via postal inspector Robert Adams. Adams had received a tip from an acquaintance in Saint Paul, Minnesota, Ronnie Miller, who provided information in relation to a website advertising child pornography. The image in question turned out to be sourced from a webmaster in Indonesia, which presented the question as to whether the USPIS could successfully prosecute it.

As a part of a nationwide initiative funded by the Office of Justice Program’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), The United States Department of Justice announced a grant from the Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce Program to the Dallas Police Department on 10 January 1998. The purpose of the ICAC was to investigate and prosecute Internet crimes against children. In early 1999, The United States Postal Inspection Service engaged the Dallas Police Department to further investigate whether the image from Indonesia could be prosecuted.[7]

As later revealed in the court transcriptions from the case against Landslide Productions, the Dallas Police Department had formed a relationship with The Microsoft Corporation through a series local police investigations where the software maker had encouraged its technical employees to volunteer their time to better the community in which they lived. After having confirmed that the image in question was indeed being sourced from Indonesia, making prosecution difficult, The Dallas Police Department reached out to its local Microsoft volunteers for one last opinion. Using Web Buddy, a computer program which displayed Internet traffic on geographic maps, the volunteers helped the Dallas Police Department to identify that Internet traffic related to Ronnie Miller's complaint was passing through routers of Ft. Worth, Texas-based Landslide Productions.

USPIS and Dallas Police brought their investigation to the attention of Terri Moore, an assistant district attorney, and obtained a search warrant to raid the home and offices of Thomas Reedy and his wife, owners and operators of the business, to seize evidence to use in prosecution for child pornography.

On 8 September 1999, federal agents raided the Fort Worth, Texas, home and offices of Thomas and Janice Reedy. The Reedys operated an internet business called Landslide Productions, Inc., which the FBI believed had sold subscriptions to websites offering child pornography. A separate raid of Reedy's nearby Ft. Worth residence confiscated a home computer where computer expert Dane Heiskel uncovered business emails confirming his knowledge of customers using his payment system to access child pornography. Sexually explicit images of underaged children were also found on this computer.[8]

Later independent investigators questioned Thomas Reedy's intention to provide child pornography[9] , but on 6 August 2001, Reedy was convicted of trafficking in child pornography and sentenced to 1,335 years in prison (later reduced to 180 years on appeal). His accomplice, Janice Reedy, was sentenced to 14 years. Both owners were convicted, even though the child pornography in their offerings was provided by third parties, and they testified that they had reported illegal sites to the FBI and cooperated with the ensuing investigations.

This marked the beginning of Operation Avalanche, an operation in the United States to investigate and prosecute child pornography users identified from the Landslide computer databases. The FBI also passed identities from the Landslide database to the police organizations of other countries, including 7,272 names to the UK.

Landslide Productions, Inc.Edit

Thomas Reedy was a self-taught computer programmer and entrepreneur located in the Ft. Worth, Texas, area. He developed a website called Landslide Productions, Inc., to provide middleman services for the adult pornography industry, which he ran with his wife Janice. Landslide quickly became successful, drawing some 300,000 subscribers from three continents and sixty countries. In just two years, the company made USD 10 million.[10]

Landslide provided automated payment systems for adult webmasters so that the webmasters could sign up to the system online, and users accessing the websites would go through the payment or login system before being granted access. The principal systems were AVS for Adult Verification System and Keyz which operated via the keyz.com domain name owned by Landslide. These systems were meant to protect the companies legally, as the credit card was used to verify that the user attempting to access an adult website was of legal age to view the website's content.[11]

In 1998 Thomas Reedy recognized systematic fraud in the system. To protect his business from chargebacks on disputed fees, Reedy traced the source of the traffic and set up a new web service called Badcard.com. However, his measures failed to stop the fraudulent charges which put Landslide out of business in August 1999.[12]

Operation OreEdit

In May 2002, Operation Ore was implemented in the UK to investigate and prosecute the Landslide users whose names were provided by the FBI. Police conducting Operation Ore targeted all names on the list for investigation due to the difference in laws in between the US and the UK, which allowed for arrest on a charge of incitement to distribute child pornography based solely on the presence of a name in the database.

In all, 3,744 people were investigated and arrested. The charge of possession of child pornography was used where evidence was found, but the lesser charge of incitement was used in those cases where a user's details were on the Landslide database but no images were found on the suspect's computer or in his home. Because of the number of names on the FBI list, the scale of the investigation in the UK was overwhelming to the police, who appealed to the government for emergency funding for the case. Reportedly several million pounds were spent in the investigations,[13] and complaints mounted that other investigations were put at risk because of the diversion of the resources of child protection units into the case.[14]

Information from the Operation Ore list of names was leaked to the press early in 2003. In January the Daily Mail first led with a story implicating a "legendary British rock star." [15] After obtaining the list, the Sunday Times stated that it included the names of a number of prominent individuals, some of which were later published by the press. The Sunday Times reported that the list included at least twenty senior executives, a senior teacher at an exclusive girl's public school, personnel from military bases, GPs, university academics and civil servants, a famous newspaper columnist, a song writer for a legendary pop band, a member of a chart-topping 1980s cult pop group, and an official with the Church of England.[14] An investigation followed the leak, and police complained that the advance warning would allow suspected paedophiles to dispose of evidence. A police officer was reported to have lost his job for leaking the names.[16]

ControversiesEdit

After 2003 Operation Ore came under closer scrutiny, with police forces in the UK being criticised for their handling of the operation. The most common criticism was that they failed to determine whether or not the owners of credit cards in Landslide's database actually accessed any sites containing child porn, unlike in the US where it was determined in advance whether or not credit card subscribers had purchased child porn. Investigative journalist Duncan Campbell exposed these flaws in a series of articles in 2005 and 2007.[11][17][18]

It was a serious error that UK police received no information on the scale of the credit card fraud which had occurred within the Landslide business. Many of the charges at the Landslide affiliated sites were made using stolen credit card information, and the police arrested the real owners of the credit cards, not the actual viewers. Plus, thousands of credit card charges were made where there was no access to a site, or access to only a dummy site. When the police finally checked, they found 54,348 occurrences of stolen credit card information in the Landslide database. The British police failed to provide this information to the defendants, and in some cases implied that they had checked and found no evidence of credit card fraud when no such check had been done. Because of the nature of the charges, children were removed from homes immediately. In the two years it took the police to determine that thousands had been falsely accused, over one hundred children had been removed from their homes and denied any unsupervised time with their fathers.[19] The arrests also led to a number of suicides[4]

One man was charged when the sole "suspicious" image in his possession was of young-looking- but adult- actress Melissa-Ashley.[20] Also arrested were Massive Attack's Robert Del Naja (later cleared[3]) and The Who's guitarist Pete Townshend, who was cautioned by the police after acknowledging a credit card access to the Landslide website. However, Duncan Campbell later stated in PC Pro magazine that their credit card charges and IP addresses were traced through the Landslide site, and both were found to have accessed sites which had nothing to do with child pornography.[12] The actor and writer Chris Langham was among those convicted.[21]

Independent investigators later obtained both the database records and video of the Landslide raid. When this information was presented in a UK court, Michael Mead of the United States Postal Service contradicted his US testimony under oath regarding several details relating to the investigation. As a result of the errors exposed in the cases, a number of people arrested in Operation Ore filed a group action law suit in 2006 against the detectives behind Operation Ore, alleging false arrest.[22]

After Campbell's articles appeared, the independent computer expert Jim Bates who analyzed the hard drives was charged and convicted of four counts of making false statements and one count of perjury regarding his qualifications [23] and barred from appearing as an expert witness. Bates's judgement has been called into question on a number of other matters.[24] Bates was later arrested for possession of indecent images during his Operation Ore investigations.[25] However, the search of Bates home was ruled as unlawful as the Police had applied for the search warrant using the wrong section of P.A.C.E.and the Police were unable to examine any of the material seized from his house.[26][27][28]

CEOP and particularly its Chief Executive, Jim Gamble, were accused of using vague terms which do not have a recognised meaning within either child protection or law enforcement when they defended the operation.[29].

The most recent and perhaps final stage of the Ore saga was played out in the court of appeal in December 2010. In a judgement delivered on the 6th of December 2010 senior judges roundly rejected the appeal of Anthony O’Shea. Their judgement, rejecting the appeal on the basis that there was no evidence of the credit card fraud that has been aleged, was scathing of the approach by some of the conspiracy theorists involved. In paragraph 54 the judgment states: “These suggestions are fanciful in the extreme. The appellant’s theory (for it is no more than such) that he [Mr O’Shea] was the victim of the machinations of a fraudulent webmaster is, in our view, pure speculation.”[30]

The judgement further states in paragraph 43: “We have no hesitation in rejecting this evidence as incapable in belief. It was mere assertion, unsupported by any published or other material or any reasoning.” Jim Bates, one of the key protagonists, was criticised for misleading comments during the hearing.[31] The appeal had been considered to be a landmark case where success could have lead to many of the other convictions achieved as a result of Ore being overturned.[25]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Arthur, Charles (17 May 2007). "When will we know whether Operation Ore was a success?". The Guardian (London). http://technology.guardian.co.uk/weekly/story/0,,2080778,00.html. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
  2. Laville, Sandra (2 July 2009). "Legal challenge to web child abuse inquiry". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jul/02/web-child-abuse-inquiry-challenge. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Child Porn Suspects Set to be Cleared in Evidence Shambles", Sunday Times 3 July 2005, URL accessed on 23 January 2007.
  4. 4.0 4.1 http://www.pcpro.co.uk/features/74690/operation-ore-exposed/page2.html
  5. "Operation Ore exposed", PC Pro magazine, URL accessed on 19 June 2006.
  6. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/12/06/operation_ore/
  7. "Press Release from Richard B. Roper" United States Department of Justice Northern District
  8. Alex Tresniowski "Caught in the Web", People, 27 August 2001 Vol. 56 No. 9
  9. http://ore-exposed.obu-investigators.com/PC_PRO_Operation_Ore_Exposed_2.html Campbell, Duncan. "Sex, Lies and the Missing Videotape", PCPro, April 2007. Retrieved on 2007-04-23.
  10. "Landslide: Profile of a Pornographer," CBS Fifth Estate, 5 November 2003. Retrieved 16 January 2010. http://web.archive.org/web/20031108033754/http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/landslide/profile.html
  11. 11.0 11.1 Duncan Campbell (2007-04-19). "Operation Ore flawed by fraud". London: The Guardian. http://technology.guardian.co.uk/weekly/story/0,,2059832,00.html. Retrieved 2007-04-23.
  12. 12.0 12.1 http://ore-exposed.obu-investigators.com/PC%20Pro%20article%20June%202007%20.pdf Campbell, Duncan. "Sex, Lies and the Missing Videotape" PC Pro Magazine, June 2007. Retrieved 27 December 2009.
  13. "Operation Avalanche: Tracking child porn", BBC News, November 11, 2002. URL accessed on June 14, 2006.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Cullen, Drew. "Child Porn list leaked to Sunday Times," The Register, 27 January 2003. Retrieved 16 January 2010. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/01/27/child_porn_list_leaked/
  15. Taylor, Ben. "ROCK STAR BOMBSHELL; Police to quiz British multi-millionaire musician over Internet child porn," Daily Mail, 11 January 2003. Retrieved 16 January 2010. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-96356755.html
  16. O'Hagan, Sean. "Won't get fooled again...," The Guardian, 28 December 2003. Retrieved 16 January 2010. http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2003/dec/28/childprotection.popandrock
  17. Campbell, Duncan (2005-07-01). "Operation Ore exposed". PCPro. http://www.pcpro.co.uk/features/74690/operation-ore-exposed/page3.html. Retrieved 2007-04-23.
  18. Campbell, Duncan (April 2007). "Sex, Lies and the Missing Videotape". PCPro. http://ore-exposed.obu-investigators.com/PC_PRO_Operation_Ore_Exposed_2.html. Retrieved 2007-04-23.
  19. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/04/19/operation_ore_fraud/
  20. Liam Clarke ‘Child’ porn star backs Army major The Sunday Times May 29, 2005
  21. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/08/02/nlangham202.xml Sapsted, David. "Langham: Caught in Operation Ore's net", Daily Telegraph, 2 August 2007. Retrieved on 2007-08-02
  22. Howie, Michael (2006-09-15). "Accused in child porn inquiry to sue police". The Scotsman. http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/index.cfm?id=1362272006. Retrieved 2007-04-23.
  23. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/7340997.stm Expert sentenced for court claims. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
  24. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/mar/23/ukcrime.law
  25. 25.0 25.1 http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/09/17/ore_bates_arrest/ Paedo case expert Jim Bates arrested on child porn charge. Retrieved 30 December 2009.
  26. Police chief Colin Port forced to back down in hard drive stand-off http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6512468.ece
  27. Bates & Anor v Chief Constable of the Avon and Somerset Police & Anor [2009] EWHC 942 (Admin) (08 May 2009) http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2009/942.html
  28. O'Neill, Sean. "Police chief Colin Port risks career by refusing to return child abuse data," The Times, 27 May 2009. Retrieved on 16 January 2010. http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article6368314.ece
  29. Arthur, Charles (17 May 2007). "When will we know whether Operation Ore was a success?". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2007/may/17/guardianweeklytechnologysection2. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
  30. http://www.judiciary.gov.uk/Resources/JCO/Documents/Judgments/o-shea-judgment-06122010.pdf
  31. http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/12/06/operation_ore

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