FBI agents track down child predators

March 21, 2008 8:57:57 PM PDT
Action News goes inside an FBI post where agents track down child predators. Everyday, three women come to a windowless room, hidden away in a Philadelphia office building.

They look like regular corporate drones, but really, they're hunters, FBI special agents relentlessly pursuing child pornographers.

Just this month, they were part of a sting that took down an international ring that used sophisticated technology to share 400,000 pictures and 1,000 videos of abused children.

"It's horrific, the images are something that most of us we'll never forget, we'll never forget the victims faces," FBI Special Agent Becky Little said.

These agents have learned that no child is off-limits to these criminals.

"I had a trial in December that I found the jury afterwards just amazed; they were thinking 13 to 15-year-olds, they had no idea that this was toddlers," FBI Special Agent Pam Kirschner said.

In an effort to warn parents, they allowed Action News exclusively into their secret space and showed us how they operate.

Child pornography isn't just on secret, hard-to-crack sites; in fact, the agents do a lot of their work on sites that are public and probably on your family computer.

Special Agent Andrea Manning goes to a site popular with kids for getting free movies and music. First, she pulls up hundreds of downloads for that G-rated star, Hannah Montana. Then, on the same site, she tries something else.

Manning showed the example of if you're a 13-year-old boy looking to see what a 13-year-old girl.

Instantly, hundreds of hardcore child porn clips pop up, all available for free download.

Special agent Becky Little monitors chat rooms, carrying on up to 15 chats a day.

On a popular Internet provider, she enters a chat room and says she is a 13-year-old named Susie.

She never makes the first move, letting others approach her and a number of adult men do.

The agents have this advice for parents:

-Keep all computers in shared parts of the house.

-Don't allow webcams.

-Install parental controls.

-Pay attention to sites your kids visit.

-Be vigilant about everyone who has contact with your kids. All too often, these agents find themselves arresting teachers, mentors, neighbors, and even parents.

The work is draining and frustrating: Even if they get the criminals, those terrible pictures and videos can't be scrubbed from cyberspace. The work is also relentless.

"I know all of three us come in and there's more cases sitting there on our desks for us to work and that's never going to stop," Manning said.

They take stress breaks and find joy in their friends and family. Then they come back to the windowless room, get back on line, and try to save every child they can.