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Child Porn As a Weapon 774

Posted by Soulskill
from the guilty-until-proven-innocent dept.
VoiceOfDoom writes "Want to get rid of your boss and move up to his position? Put kiddie porn on his computer then call the cops! This was the cunning plan envisaged by handyman Neil Weiner of east London after falling out with school caretaker Edward Thompson too many times. Thankfully, Weiner didn't cover his tracks quite well enough to avoid being found out — earlier boasts about his plan to friends at a BBQ provided the police with enough evidence to arrest him for trying to pervert the course of justice. Frighteningly, however, between being charged with possession of indecent images and being exonerated, innocent (if 'grumpy') Thompson was abused and ostracized for eight months by neighbors and colleagues. With computer forensics for police work often being performed by 'point 'n click'-trained, nearly-retired cops, or languishing in a 6-month queue for private sector firms to attend to it, the uncomfortable question is raised: how easily might this trick have succeeded if Weiner had been a little more intelligent about it?"
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Child Porn As a Weapon

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  • How do you know... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by The MAZZTer (911996) <megazzt@@@gmail...com> on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:04PM (#33163160) Homepage
    ...people aren't successfully pulling off this "trick" already?
  • by Grumbleduke (789126) on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:15PM (#33163328) Journal

    Recently there was a big stir caused here over proposed plans to make the defendants in rape cases anonymous [bbc.co.uk]. For some reason it was decided that this would be terrible, as anyone accused of rape is obviously guilty and so deserves no protections... Something about this strikes me as simply wrong - and it applies in this case as well.

    The way our society is geared up we don't just have trial by court, but trial by media; if the media decides someone is guilty, then it doesn't matter what the court decides, the defendant is screwed. In my opinion, defendants should have the right to anonymity especially in "socially disgusting" cases such as most sex-based crimes.

    Of course, these days child porn over here could consist of stick figures, so the actual laws themselves could do with a serious overhaul - remind me again why mere viewing of material should be illegal?

  • by gurps_npc (621217) on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:15PM (#33163338) Homepage
    This kind of stuff is exactly why we need to care about privacy even "if you have nothing to hide". The law is not perfect. We need to build in safeguards to prevent it being abused, not just to catch the criminals.
  • Re:very (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Chrononium (925164) on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:16PM (#33163354)

    Is it really so different that the offending items are electronic than if they were physical?

    Consider this scenario:
    (1) Disgruntled person A wants to get person B in trouble by planting child porn in B's work desk.
    (2) A calls the cops on B.
    (3) Cops find the porn in B's work desk.

    Do the cops automatically jump to the conclusion that B owned the child porn? Or do they try to investigate further to establish how the material likely got there? If yes to the latter question, then perhaps the basic problem is that cops don't get the desktop metaphor: anyone who has access to the desk can put stuff on it. There isn't an invisible shield permeable by only the desk's owner. Computers are literary no different and thoughts of equivalent magic shields around the computer's hard drive only impede justice.

  • Re:well... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:22PM (#33163452) Journal

    It doesn't even take any particular malicious action. Operation Ore in the UK fingered all sorts of people, including The Who's Pete Townshend, who were in fact innocent and victims of online credit card fraud. Once you get the name "kiddie porn lover" it's very hard to get rid of.

    The problem here is that the cops and the media have created a mad child porn frenzy completely out of proportion to the problem. Innocent people are railroaded through a system that cares more about showing large numbers of accused flowing through than about quality of evidence.

    The fact is your average cop doesn't have the know how to analyze forensic evidence. Any competent IT forensics expert is first going to check to see if the computer has been rootkitted, is going to check to see if the credit card has been stolen, etc. and so forth, but between the missionary's zeal to stamp out all child porn and incompetence you don't get that. Operation Ore was a good example of how things can go terribly wrong, and shines a light on how innocent people can even be manipulated into admitting guilt if they are given the choice between jail time and a lesser sentence.

    In other words, cops are often moronic bastards, and anyone accused of anything, or taken in for questioning on anything should not say a goddamned thing to them and refuse any co-operation until a lawyer is present.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:24PM (#33163494)

    I am skeptical of the claim that voluntarily pedophilia harms children. The arguments that it causes harm seem to be based on cases which aren't voluntary, which are then stretched by parents who are horrified by the idea that their little baby is maturing.

  • by CHK6 (583097) on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:25PM (#33163504)
    As a college student I was hired as a co-op. Soon after joining I saw the politics of the group and the team. The team I was on disliked one of their members so much that pornography was "found" on his PC during a routine IT sweep. We all knew the team lead did it, being he was sitting at the trouble maker's PC during the late shift when co-ops were working, but I was happy to have a job after starving in college for so long to say anything. My first ethics dilemma and I failed. After all I couldn't prove that happened, but it was odd to see the team lead on his PC late one night. The trouble maker was fired and nothing else was said. I was happy once that team lead moved on.
  • Re:First off... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dawich (945673) on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:27PM (#33163528)
    Someone in Wisconsin has emailed child porn to legislators and administrative staff in the state government, apparently to extort votes or political favour. http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gnAmcYzYG2Ef0BJwTrf9aYQRIrTAD9HBNFR80 [google.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:27PM (#33163534)

    You know, that may be even worse. One of these days you're going to forget to lock your computer/logout/etc., and then proving "Yeah, it was on my encrypted drive that only I can decrypt -- but it wasn't me!" will be hell.

  • by VoiceOfDoom (875772) on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:29PM (#33163584)

    According to The Independent [independent.co.uk], the judge has added Weiner to the Sex Offenders Register for the specific purpose of causing the general prison population to identify him as a pervert and make him suffer, even though there is no indication that Weiner possessed this material for any purpose other than to screw up Thomson's life.

    I think Weiner is a scumbag who deserves to go to prison, but he is *not* a sex offender and does not need to be kept away from children's playgrounds when he is released. I certainly don't agree with this tactic by the judge - surely placing people who are not sex offenders on a list of sex offenders renders the list meaningless for any monitoring or preventative purpose? And since when was justice about eye-for-eye revenge in this civilised society?!

  • My Experience (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:33PM (#33163648)
    I work in private sector digital forensics, I'd say about 30% of the criminal work I see, in regards to child pornography, was probably planted or probably not belonging to the suspect but because I can't objectively prove it I can't say that when I act as an expert witness. Technology incompetence of all parties (defense, prosecution, the defendant etc.) prevents the right questions from being asked and answered. It's stuff like that which makes me lose faith in the adversarial court system.
  • Re:First off... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jayme0227 (1558821) on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:41PM (#33163748) Journal

    This [huffingtonpost.com] actually just happened in my home state. Senators were blackmailed with child porn placed on their computer through malicious e-mail attachments, apparently in order to sway their votes on some legislation.

    Child porn is messed up, but the reaction to it, and the effects stemming from those (over)reactions can be equally messed up.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:41PM (#33163750)

    Posting anon so my mods aren't wiped.

    In cases like that where there's an emotional element that may cause a jury to overlook the facts, one would be well advised to waive one's right to a jury trial.

    A bench trial (judge only, no jury) works best in these cases because the judges are less likely to overlook the facts and the law for simple emotional arguments.

  • Re:First off... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by flajann (658201) <.flajann. .at. .linuxbloke.com.> on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:41PM (#33163756) Homepage Journal

    So walking around with a bomb strapped to your chest is ok? Or carrying a machine gun into a bank? There have to be limits, silly. :p

    Carrying a gun into the bank should be OK. Using it to rob the bank, on the other hand, is a different matter.

    But it would be tough to do that if everyone were open-carrying, anyway. Hello, we can end the cycle of victimhood already.

  • by davidwr (791652) on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:41PM (#33163760) Homepage Journal

    Calling your enemy a witch or whatever and making it stick has always been a way to ruin his life.

    In the 1990s calling your spouse a child- or wife-beater or a child molester was a too-common* ploy in divorce cases.

    1600s and earlier, and today in some 3rd world areas - witch
    1950s - gay or commie
    1980s and later - pedophile
    2001 and later - terrorist
    Throughout history - traitor

    *I don't mean to imply that it was numerically common or anywhere a close to a majority of the divorce child-custody cases, only that there was a spike during that time.

  • by MikeRT (947531) on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:55PM (#33163994) Homepage

    This stems from the completely broken Christian concept that children are innocent and therefore must be protected at all costs from anything and everything.

    No, that is a Victorian Era concept. Christian theology and philosophy hold that no one is born innocent and hold that no good can be achieved through evil means (which is what happens when innocent people are sacrificed "for the children.") This is basic theology 101 stuff.

  • Re:First off... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WeatherGod (1726770) on Friday August 06, 2010 @12:56PM (#33164016)

    This is so true. Back in my high school days, we had some bomb threats that got called in to the school. Then a couple of students "came forward" and accused another student of calling it in and planning an actual event (this was shortly after Columbine). The student was arrested and everyone in the town heard about this. It was front page news in local newspapers for a few weeks.

    After a few weeks, I hadn't heard anything new and the whole thing slipped from my memory. A few years later, I read in the local paper that the student had committed suicide because of him being constantly ostracized by the town. Turns out that he was cleared of all charges, but this was never announced in the media and most people in my town still thought he did it. When confronted, he would tell people that he was cleared, but most people didn't believe him because his credibility was destroyed by the original media coverage. There was no trial verdict for him to point to since it never went to trial.

  • by davidwr (791652) on Friday August 06, 2010 @01:04PM (#33164202) Homepage Journal

    Assuming the firm still exists in some way, shape, or form, a letter to its HR department apologizing and explaining what you saw may get this guy off of their "not eligible for rehire" list.

    These days, with past-employers not willing to give out anything other than the dates of employment and a yes/no to eligible for rehire, removing this black mark from this guy's work history will help him.

    If you know how to reach the guy a letter of apology to him would also be helpful.

  • Re:How easy? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by flajann (658201) <.flajann. .at. .linuxbloke.com.> on Friday August 06, 2010 @01:23PM (#33164532) Homepage Journal
    We have so many stupid laws today that you can't even step foot outside your house without breaking half a dozen or so. It's really dumb and stupid. But leave it to government to totally control us anyway it can.

    Double-plus good, my brother.

  • by dhickman (958529) on Friday August 06, 2010 @01:27PM (#33164596)
    If any of you seen what is required to be a law enforcement forensics investigator in the US, you would be pissed.

    In most departments the forensics investigator is the poor bastard who has some computer skills.

    He gets selected to take a couple of encase or ftk classes and then they use a confiscated computer, add a write block to it and there you go.

    Now lets say you get a CS degree, work for a while and decided that you want to do forensics. The odds of you getting a job is next to impossible.

    In fact you will be specifically told that they do not want you around. There is a hatred of "nerds" in the law enforcement community.

    Not only will you have to go back to school to get an associates in criminal justice, you will have to go through the police academy
    and then work as a beat officer for several years before you will even get a chance to touch a computer.

    Now lets look at requirements for other kinds of forensics. All of the other forensics fields have lab type people who are specifically trained in their field of expertise. for example, an dna specialist will have at least a masters in biology, a forensic pathologist, has an MD, a ballistics specialist usually has a degree in physics, or engineering. But a computer forensics specialist usually has a high school degree, maybe an associates degree in CJS, and must meet all of the active physical requirements as a patrol officer.

    Note. I work in infosec and perform forensic investigations for private, defense cases, and the university level.

    Every time I go to a continuing education class, encase/ftk, or other. There will be several leos in there that have no clue on even the basics on how a computer works. As a result the majority of the training is "point and click" as mentioned in the article.
    In the days when everyone ran dos, this was doable.

    At these classes I will point out the above issues and ask why computer forensics is differnet than any other forensics field.

    I will point out that computers have gotten much more complex and standard procedure for most law enforcement agencies if they run into anything but a standard unencrypted windows computer is hand the case to the state police, or the feds, since they lack the skills to even process a linux box running reiserfs. Hell, what am I saying, most of them can not process a macintosh since the tools out there are windoze based and have very limited mac capability. So in order to investigate a mac, one must have core unix skills and treat the case as they would treat any other unix system. Yes there are newer tools to macs, but they suck. So be prepared to go through plists and file system attributes.

    Their usual comment, you have to pay your dues son.
  • Re:First off... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fjandr (66656) on Friday August 06, 2010 @01:40PM (#33164828) Homepage Journal

    I have a friend who works with children who have extreme behavioral issues, and she had a situation similar to this that was just resolved last week. A girl claimed she was touched inappropriately, and my friend was suspended without pay for the last 4 months while the investigation was ongoing. This girl has a long history of fabricating such stories.

    Unfortunately, she's also currently engaged in a nasty custody fight where the allegations (of which she was completely cleared last week) are being used to support a claim she's a danger to her own children.

  • Re:First off... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday August 06, 2010 @01:41PM (#33164848) Journal

    >>>What is it about you that makes people escalate what seem to be incredibly mundane disputes

    I look like I'm easy to push around. People are more likely to do "evil" things to other persons, if they think the victim won't defend him or herself. The Motel 6 guy thought he could kick me out simply because he didn't want to honor the 10% sale price (and he was right). The Boss figured I wouldn't fight an unjustified termination (and she was right too).

  • Re:First off... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by commodore64_love (1445365) on Friday August 06, 2010 @01:55PM (#33165124) Journal

    P.S.

    I can also show the Credit Card Dispute where Discover Company sided with me AGAINST the Motel 6 manager, sucked $130 away from him, and refunded it back to my account. Still think I'm lying?

  • Re:How easy? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by binkzz (779594) on Friday August 06, 2010 @01:58PM (#33165184) Journal

    This stems from the completely broken Christian concept

    How do you figure it's a Christian concept? Or are you just inserting a small rant against Christianity?

    These laws aren't created to protect children, they're made to control the people. Children are just the excuse.

  • Re:First off... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by timeOday (582209) on Friday August 06, 2010 @02:00PM (#33165226)
    I can name a lot more countries where bank robberies with firearms are rare due to limits on gun ownership (e.g. most all of europe) than I can nations where peace is maintained by everybody being armed all the time (e.g. Afghanistan, Somalia). So, I really have no clue what you're basing your opinion on. Unless it's a thought experiment of some sort.
  • True Story (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Locke2005 (849178) on Friday August 06, 2010 @02:00PM (#33165244)
    I was working at HP as a consultant. One of the machines in my cubicle was running the officially approved HP Linux distro, which was set up to cycle through all the available screen savers, one of which put up quotes from the fortune files, one of which was the Zippy the Pinhead fortune file which contained the quote "I want to kill everyone here with a cute colorful Hydrogen Bomb!" I never saw it on my machine, but months later, a security guard walking through at 3am sees this come up, immediately goes on point, and reports me as a terrorist. I'm called into a meeting, told "It was on YOUR machine, so it's obviously YOUR responsibility!" and suspended from work (with pay, which is stupid for a contractor). A week later, I'm called back in; due to my coworkers efforts, they have finally discovered that ALL the Linux machines were configured to do that. No apology offered, but I'm allowed to come back to work, and my project that I was on the critical path for is behind a week. Of course, I spent that week off applying for other positions, and a month later I got an offer for a better job closer to home, and said "bye-bye!" to HP.

    The point is, shit can show up on your computer completely by accident through no fault of your own. Telling people "It's on your computer, therefore it's your fault!" is a pretty naive reaction.
  • by jahudabudy (714731) on Friday August 06, 2010 @02:08PM (#33165380)
    Ok, that's just ridiculous. If I am legally allowed to have sex with a person, I should be legally allowed to view them having sex (I'm not really into blindfolds). I have never heard and can not imagine a justification for this legal distinction.
  • Re:First off... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Friday August 06, 2010 @02:19PM (#33165562) Homepage

    Which media? This sounds like the sort of thing parents could sue over.

  • Re:First off... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by horza (87255) on Friday August 06, 2010 @03:13PM (#33166578) Homepage

    I had a boss like that once. She came in as a touchy-feely Technical Director, and disliked me because I told off some girl for forwarding spam around the company (not in a rude way). She tried to fire me on all kinds of flimsy grounds. Tried accusing me of resisting any kind of QA (I forced the company to set up the QA department), of sometimes arriving after 9am (er I did every day as I cleared it with my line manager to do 10-6 rather than 9-5 to avoid rush hour), and random other things in the hope something would stick. She even suspended all work going to me, so I was 'forced' to spend months sitting around doing whatever I wanted (awesome). It worked out well for me in the end.

    Don't worry comm64, for every one of you that gets pushed around by bullies, there is somebody like me to give them grey hairs :-). As for the motel guy, he would have a crowd, the police, and myself all camped there going mad in short order. I've caused a scene in a bar because their clock was a couple of minutes fast and they tried charging me a non-happy hour price!

    It's not a bad thing being a nice guy, you just need to have a good friend that has a complimentary character. He can stand up for you when you are being too nice, and you can reign him back when he is being a dick.

    Phillip.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Friday August 06, 2010 @03:32PM (#33166850) Homepage Journal

    My friend isn't a "quick learner"? How is he supposed to "learn" how to keep kids from bald-face lying about where he was and what happened while he was supposedly there?

    You're right about the crushes, though -- all three accusations were from girls who had a crush on him and wanted revenge for him "rejecting" them.

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