Operation Centurion

There are those who, in the wake of the collapse of the pursuit of Bill Henson (in the courts, for the time being, at least) have pointed to Operation Centurion as the sort of thing which the police should be doing, rather than wasting their time “tramping through art galleries” (to coin Malcolm Turnbull’s phrase).

I would not be so ready as they seem to be to accept all the claims police are making for this operation. There is a lot of hype and also a lot of panic. Below is Tom Allard’s story in the SMH, with my comments and the odd emphasis added:

Child porn web broken by 70 arrests
Date: June 5 2008

“Child porn web” suggests that all these people have been communicating with each other. Wait for any evidence of this to emerge from any of the prosecutions. I’m thinking Malleus Maleficarum here.

Tom Allard National Security Editor [national security?]

DOZENS of men have been arrested for child pornography and abuse offences – including community leaders, a police officer, a teacher and a youth worker – after the nation’s biggest anti-pedophile investigation.

The six-month joint operation by the Australian Federal Police and state police forces uncovered several cases of child molestation and highlighted the astonishing way in which pedophiles form secret communities in cyberspace and use the global reach of the internet to trade child exploitation images.

I don’t think this case gives any evidence of trading images at all. This was not an exchange transaction. No money went back to the pornographers. They received no images in exchange, so far as is made out so far at least. In fact, the whole thing could have been a law-enforcement sting, since its success was the way it used widgets, presumably embedded in the “respectable” web page (see below) to extract the identities of those viewing or copying the pages.

To date, 70 arrests have been made across Australia. A further 20 people have been issued with summonses to appear in court where they will be charged with possessing child exploitation material. More arrests are expected in coming weeks and months.

As a result of the publicity, presumably any savvy pervert has disposed of his computer thoughtfully but destructively by now.

Dubbed Operation Centurion, the investigation was triggered after a hacker infiltrated a respectable European website and inserted 99 degrading and explicit images of young girls from eastern Europe, the US and Paraguay.

The site – which cannot be named for legal reasons – was besieged by an incredible 12 million hits in just 76 hours after word got around online pedophile networks that the images were available and the website’s address was circulated.

Almost 150,000 different computer users from 170 countries accessed the otherwise obscure website, including Australians using 2883 computer IP addresses. Of those, 1513 had downloaded one or more images in the 76-hour period.

Police were able to match IP addresses to locations. Some were public computers in places such as libraries, some were duplicates, but many could be traced to homes.

Those arrested have ranged in age from 19 to 81 and included individuals with a known history of child abuse, and others with unblemished backgrounds.

Among those charged were:

– Alan Lilburne Melchert, 59, a board member of the West Australian Sports Federation, former head of the state’s volunteers’ association, and coach of junior soccer and hockey teams;

– Michael Edward Hatch, 38, a federal policeman based in Canberra, who has pleaded guilty to child pornography possession. He will be sentenced today.

Hatch claimed just to have been curious. It looks as though he found the pictures with internet searches of one sort or another. No evidence to the contrary was reported in the story about his sentencing. Telegraph headline when this was adjourned from Thursday to Friday: “Predator cop to be sentenced.”

– A primary school teacher who allegedly photographed his students and transposed their heads on to child abuse images. He then transposed his own image on to the head of the perpetrator of the acts.

– Steven Thomas Fox Ross, 30, from Wentworthville, who is on parole for child abuse offences. He was allegedly found to have 8000 images on hard drives and discs.

– Gary Bruce Bechaz, 55, from Queensland, who has no criminal record. Along with offences relating to possessing large volumes of child exploitation material, he also faces five rape charges and two charges of taking photographs of an under-age girl in sexual poses.

These three are more the stuff that parental and other nightmares are made of, but they are presumably the worst examples and are only 3 cases out of 90 or so. Presumably Ross was targetted immediately because of his record. If you believe Hetty Johnston, then 2 more is less than you would expect from a random search of 2882 (IP Addresses viewed page) or 1512 (IP addresses downloaded files) , or even 122 (search warrants executed) cases.

The child was one of four young Australian victims revealed during the course of the inquiry. They have been removed from harm. Police say community services have been told of other children potentially at risk.

None of the victims were in the original photos posted on the international website but were detected when police examined computers, discs, USB sticks, DVDs and other material uncovered during the execution of 123 search warrants. [so that means 33 search warrants haven’t resulted in charges yet] One of those arrested had a collection of 50,000 child abuse images.

I know these numbers of images sound shocking, but when you remember that “child” for this purpose is under 18 or looking so, and the obsessiveness of computer-collection of images, it’s pretty meaningless. After all, if a man has 50,000 images, how long can he have spent looking at each one?

“The possession of the images, the downloading of the images was the tip of the iceberg,” said Andrew Colvin, the AFP’s national manager of high-tech crime operations. “It’s the networks. It’s the children they might have access to. It’s the potential for grooming and procuring that these people are involved in as well.”

Second time the word “potential” is used in this story.

Operation Centurion was twice as large as any other Australian investigation into online child pornography. Police used innovative techniques to keep ahead of the increasingly sophisticated online pedophiles.

I can’t work this one out: all they had to do here was track down the IP Addresses and then execute a search warrant on the computer and everything else in the person’s house.

Posting images briefly on legitimate websites – such as occurred with Operation Centurion – is one emerging ploy adopted by pedophiles, as is hiding images within images and other encryption methods.

The social networking revolution that has swept the internet has been adopted by purveyors of child exploitation. Child porn chat rooms pop up, then close almost as quickly. Here, pedophiles trade images, alert each other to new ones and share tips on how to groom potential victims and avoid detection by police, work colleagues and family members.

“It shows you the power of the internet as a communication tool,” Assistant Commissioner Colvin said. “We are dealing with a medium where communication is so quick and so broad that something like this could happen. It is stunning that millions of people around the world can commit an offence and access child abuse images in one hit, at the same time.”

He’s right, it is stunning, and the internet is an amazing and still new social phenomenon.

During Operation Centurion, police became aware that offenders were using web-enabled devices such as Playstation 3, X-Box and new-generation mobile phones to access the images.

“They don’t have to worry about a family member checking the history on the family computer, or ask why they are spending so much time on it,” said one investigator. “Most people don’t know games consoles can be linked to the web.”

Mr Colvin said that, equally, the internet gave police opportunities. “For law enforcement, it is about using the same tools that crooks can use on the internet to serve us. The anonymity they enjoy, we also enjoy.”

I’m still curious about the “sting” possibilities of the origins of this operation.

The methods used by police include posing as youngsters in chat rooms and assuming the identities of offenders who have been arrested, and joining discussions in pedophile chat rooms.

Police cyber sleuths will also assume child-like avatars and go on to role-playing sites like Second Life, an increasingly popular forum for pedophiles to recruit and groom potential victims.

And we laugh at China’s internet police!

Due to the global nature of the internet, co-operation between different police agencies is vital. The AFP has developed extensive links with the FBI in particular, including sharing staff in the child protection area.

The information that sparked Operation Centurion was provided by Interpol in the form of masses of raw computer data.

“What we need to do as law enforcement collectively is make the internet more hostile for these people, make it harder for them to operate,” Mr Colvin said.

Perhaps most disconcerting is the scale of the internet child exploitation. As many as 3.5 million child abuse images are on the internet and cannot readily be removed. Identifying and locating children in the photos can be difficult.

I wonder where this “as many as 3.5 million” comes from?

“There are kids that international police around the world have seen grow up through these images,” Mr Colvin said. “We can’t identify them and that is very frustrating.”

The huge number of people caught up in Operation Centurion meant that police have been unable, so far, to arrest all those who logged on to the website.

The investigation, and arrests, will continue, but one challenge for police may be whether courts accept entreaties from the accused that they were merely being curious or had stumbled across the images by accident, as improbable as that may be with the website that sparked Operation Centurion.

By this paragraph, I think Allard has really been talking to police for far too long. People have been arrested and charged. He should stick to the facts and not run the prosecution case for it.

Many of those arrested have readily confessed, to a greater extent than people do for other crimes. “A lot of people say: ‘I know what you are here for.’ They are obviously waiting for the knock on the door one day,” said one police investigator.

More of the same.

The volume of potential offenders stunned police, and forced them to list priority targets. It also means police must rely on crime prevention strategies. Parents monitoring the computer use of their children is an important tool in preventing online abuse, said the federal police commissioner, Mick Keelty.

90 men have been charged across with the nation with looking at dirty pictures. Some of them have then been found to have done worse. Mr Keelty had a bad year last year but he is staging his comeback on the child protection bandwagon.

“We are in a new world and you have to ask what it means for future security,” he said. [Hullo? Is this an old loop of post-9/11 tape?] “If online social networks are how we are going to interact, we have to think about the effect on children. It’s something parents, and society, has to address.”

It all makes pretty grim reading.

15 Responses to “Operation Centurion”

  1. Gregory Carlin Says:

    Henson is important, who is going to help the Oz police if they give a free pass to an icon of the pedophile movement such as Henson? I think you will find that Henson’s stuff isn’t so different to other material referred by Interpol, FBI, IWF etc.

    In fact I gather they did refer his material to the Oz authorities. You just wait for Operation Henson, to take place in Europe. We now know he will have to be prosecuted in London or somewhere else, but prosecuted he is going to be.

    ‘“Child porn web” suggests that all these people have been communicating with each other.’

    What like a sign-on letter or gallery invitations or something?

  2. Gregory Carlin Says:

    “As many as 3.5 million child abuse images are on the internet and cannot readily be removed. Identifying and locating children in the photos can be difficult.”

    They need to search the basements of more art galleries and a few computers whilst they’re there.

  3. marcellous Says:

    More examples of the same. If Henson were really an “icon of the pedophile movement” (is there a movement?) we would have heard more about this a lot earlier.

  4. ninglun Says:

    It appears Mr Carlin is on a mission.

  5. Gregory Carlin Says:

    Of course there is a movement, why shouldn’t there be? At the height of sexual rdicalism in the Netherlands they had 300,000 pro-pedophiles who were signed up to the agenda. It took them to the late 1960s to recover from the Nazi occupation, once they’d done that, they hit the ground running. The collapse of sexual radicalism in Holland caused them to move to London and latterly Oz, NZ, and further afield. In Holland they were too successful, they had set the year ‘2000’ as the year of victory. However as they won one issue after another members defected. THe COC sub-culture in the 1960s added organized crime, the homophiles officially went with pornography, prostitution, racketeering, drugs and that competed in cash terms, cash was what the pro-pedophiles gave to their rainbow coalitions. The twinning of gay & pedophile ( in many cultures) was because both were equally persecuted. However, at least of the gays took a stand against the pedophiles, in the USA, it was the NAMBLA issue, and in London it was PIE/GLF. The internet gave them a sense of communityt and solidarity and produced a plebian consensus and a fascination for pornography, not all the pro-pedophiles, would have approved of pornography. Of course they’re ‘a constituency’ how else do you get millions of hits on a tiny nook on the net in Croatia within a period of a day as per Operation Centurion, they are now so very many. Henson’s material is retro 1880s child pornography, he reminds them of the olden days, whe pedophiles were intellectuals. It is a vanity thing. You didn’t think Henson was original did you? It’s just child porn from the victorianm era.

  6. ninglun Says:

    It took them to the late 1960s to recover from the Nazi occupation… which thus must have been a good thing in the history of European morality according to Gregory Carlin?

  7. Gregory Carlin Says:

    ‘“Child porn web” suggests that all these people have been communicating with each other. Wait for any evidence of this to emerge from any of the prosecutions. I’m thinking Malleus Maleficarum here.’

    At this stage it is like a Soviet infantry charge, it is linked arms if it is anything, most of the stuff is still centred on the 1960s networks, they just motored on, Haut de Garenne, type of thing. Basically they’re ersatz-pedophiles, they collect extreme pornography and extreme pornography is extreme at the child end. What they give to the original pedophiles, is a sense that age restriction is inevitable, and money, because the clients buy pornography, which pedophiles went into to compete with the COC (homophle org in Holland). Strictly speaking organized pedophilia makes money from adult pornography more than child pornography. Because the best way to make money is to anchor the goose in concrete, something that delivers year after year. The distinction between COC and pro-pedophile is also not so big, there are only 7,000 members left in Holland for the COC, the openly pro-pedophile parties, which tend to negate religion in their title or documents, they’re a rebellion against clandestinity. so my own view is that as a philosophy, as a ideology, the millions of chil porn users, don’t improve on the politics, they just reflect an indifference to harm, or to prohibition, which benefits the political pedophiles, who may as I have said, not endorse pornography, as it degrades their ‘rights culture’. i don’t want to give you a single primer, because, well, one thesis doesn’t do it, but this may help.


    ‘The tenets of the sexual revolution have been famously formulated in 1967 by Mary Zelden­rust-Noordanus, chair­person of the Dutch Society for Sexual Reform NVSH, suc­cessor of the NMB. She endorsed in her lectu­re the following programmatic points for the year 2000: decri­minali­zation of homosexu­ality, porno­graphy, prostitu­tion and aborti­on, legali­zation of divor­ce and homosexual visibili­ty. The NWHK’s suc­cessor, the Socie­ty for Integration of Homophi­les COC began to support similar goals. These orga­nizations also suggested more radical objec­tives such as the aboli­tion of marria­ge, of coupledom and gender and sexual dicho­tomy. In the language of those times, Zelden­rust-Noordanus stated “homo­sexuality does not exist”, meaning there was no separate homo- or hete­rosexual iden­tity. Both organiza­tions sup­ported erotic diver­sity inclu­ding pedop­hilia, sadoma­sochism and exhibitio­nism.’

  8. Gregory Carlin Says:

    “It took them to the late 1960s to recover from the Nazi occupation… which thus must have been a good thing in the history of European morality according to Gregory Carlin?”

    I don’t follow. In relation to what? Some of the pedophiles would have survived by betraying gays to the Nazis. Pedophiles are usually the whip hand in sexual or gay politics. They usually found most of the gay orgs in one country or another.

    The openly pedophile parties are a reaction to the policy of infiltration. But the struggles to recover files, documents, surviving membership lists took to the late 1960s.

    They re-write a lot of their ‘public’ history Soviet style, they have people at it 24/7. Ian Dunn for example will end up a down-trodden hero as wiki revisions go.

  9. ninglun Says:

    Dealt with here.

  10. marcellous Says:

    This still sounds very Malleus Maleficarum to me.

    There has been a movement, by now much attenuated, in relation to age of consent issues and sexual “liberation.” Some people in that movement would be pedophiles, lots won’t. Even sexual radicals will generally still have a line which they draw where behaviour is impermissible abuse: but it won’t just be a line drawn by a simple combination of age and depiction of the naked body, or even by “sexualisation.”

    But I do not believe that the bulk of the people who clicked on the images which have brought them into Operation Centurion’s net are members of such a movement in any serious sense or that Bill Henson means anything much to them, any more than I believe that the beldame who practised a few folk-remedies was a follower of Hecate who flew off at night on a broomstick to perform black sabbaths with her coven.

    I don’t know what the situation is in Ireland, but in Australia so far as children’s welfare is concerned, money would be better spent on a decent children’s dental scheme than on the AFP and the other sequelae (courts, prison, probation) of Operation Centurion or on prosecuting Mr Henson.

  11. Gregory Carlin Says:

    Bill Henson definitely means a lot to the pro-pedophile movement he’s an icon, there is surely no need to explain why? The other point, the targeted constituency, you make goes to the heart of child protectionism, and I don’t have an answer, solution or filter.

    If Alison Croggon had raised the same point, I would have read, rather than posted, to her blog. She didn’t, she was entirely indifferent to the defining of a constiuency child protectionism could target. what she was saying was that a handful of her friends would decide what was child pornography and what wasn’t, that Britain was a police state (SOA 2003, Protection of Children Act etc.) and that she was after all, in favor of creative censorship (by her).

    So, you have hit upon the core problem. contrary to what Croggon was saying, I’m trying to dismantle formal structures vis a vis, CEOP, IWF, NCMEC, FBI and the RCMP as they relate to places like Australia or Japan. The resources simply don’t exist to intervene in Oceania or Japan, and the will on the part of our patron, President Bush, isn’t there either.

    The internet has taken pro-pedophilia out of the hands of the ideologists who made the journey from the late 19th century to the 1960s & 1970s.

    In Holland for example, the area of greatest suvccess, sexual radicalism has collapsed. However, it is worth noting that the COC affiliates, few in number that they are, still think it worthwhile to censor out the adverse parts of their history from the popular gaze.

    Holland would have to pull out all the stops to organize a large gay parade, one of the reasons for that, is that, people are away of rainbow coalitions, between the acceptable and the unacceptable.

    To sum up, to break it down, into a valid descriminator, is as follows, when the preo-pedophles attacked the legitimatist pro-gay activists in London, both from Scotland (Broughton Street Edinburgh), from the GLF, and from the Netherlands,

    what we had was people already under pressure (from the state), suddenly over-powered by extremists, who had taken the precaution of infiltratiing the Labor Party before they made their move.

    What we had was the ‘indifference to harm’ phenomena, there were two sets, peple prepared to be inthe same room as pedophiles, and people not prepared to do that. The latter were a tiny minority, the pedo-tolerants, made up the greater bulk. I say this, people using child pornography sites, have indifference to harm issues, and it is relatively normal.

    Respectfully submitted

    Gregory Carlin

  12. Gregory Carlin Says:

    In relation to Ninglun’s point, where we are at the moment, is the COC, have no prospect of organizing a gay parade in Amsterdam (or anywhere else in Holland) remotely comparable in scale to Toronto or New Orleans.

    One can make a comparison with Sinn Fein in Ireland, at times they were the largest political phenomena the Irish nation had, and at other times they were very tiny, the latter period relates to periods when their ideology became inflexible.

    So two things, core ideology strengthens as the affiliates defect, and during the rainbow days, of mass membership it is possible to be so powerful, as to deliver change. There is a strength through smallness component.

    “I would have thought my inference was quite obvious, and if anything Mr Carlin has confirmed that by constantly blurring lines between pedophilia and “gay orgs”. Not to mention that it was particularly a picture of an adolescent girl that started this whole brouhaha.”


    The entire point of resisting the pro-pedophiles was to keep both completely distinct. to give you a recent example, I was also surprised to see a leadig gay organization dedicate a political prize to a founding member of the pedophile movement in Great Britain, I don’t think that is helpful, I just don’t.


    That’s a Christian web-site and it proves the point, that if gay oganizations will offer the chin for a counter-punch, I can’t think of a sillier way to invite ridicule, and corporate association with pedophilia. I’ve had the same message for decades. If one wants to separate Queerdom from pedophilia, don’t honor or associate leading pedophiles with gay rights.

    Gregory Carlin

  13. Club Troppo » Missing Link Daily Says:

    […] Marcellous is cynical about the police response to the Henson moral panic, seeing it as AFP Comissioner Mick Keelty “staging his comeback on the child protection bandwagon”, and Alison Croggon lets loose […]

  14. Tazia Says:

    “But I do not believe that the bulk of the people who clicked on the images which have brought them into Operation Centurion’s net are members of such a movement in any serious sense or that Bill Henson means anything much to them,”

    It tells them how close they are to winning. When you have a few hundreds child pornography transactions per wedding in a country, you are looking at a demographic.

    It is like that Senator Shelby thing, to win in two years,

    “The Financial Coalition Against Child Pornography is an initiative organized by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children. These two groups are collaborating with several financial institutions and internet industry leaders to eradicate the commercial viability of child pornography by the year 2008.”

    That’s like the Ardennes offensive, Antwerp just wasn’t doable and it was a mistake to try.

    It is a business, a way for Shelby to get favorable media, a way for NCMEC to expand. The only people who seriously thought about winning were th pedophiles.

    We need to re-track, lose Shelby et alia.

  15. marcellous Says:

    I received a charming comment from “a victim no one gave a fuck about to even look for” as follows:

    You are a fucked up individual if you think even one photo of an abused child on one computor downloaded by one man isnt enough to call loudly and long for better protection of the one child that is harmed.
    Everything you see today..the drug abuse, insanity, backwards twisted thinking… the intellectual decline as well as crime and general decline of humanity can care in the world can be tracked back to abuse..yet anytime anyone dares lift a finger to stop it..liberal overweaners cry foul and scream for rights without responsibility….attacking those who stand FOR something…and if protecting kids meses with your egotistical world view and overrated self importance..so be it.

    You are a paedophile apologist…

    Go to hell..

    from a victim who is grateful for centurion

    I don’t generally permit comments by totally untraceable commenters (the email address given was bogus) because once they get approved once they are approved automatically. Hence the transmission of the comment via my own comment.

    People can make their own minds up about the quality of the coment, which I can’t say I really endorse.

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