Larry Nassar, a now former medical professor at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics doctor, has finally been held to account for the prolific crimes he committed against many children over decades. What is less discussed is his December 2016 arrest on federal child pornography charges. Nassar was trading in files called “pedo-vicky 10 yr old orgasm,” “pthc Sara,” and “pthc Kelly 13 young girl.” PTHC is pre-teen hard core—the brutal rape and torture of very young children.
While the Nassar trial dominated headlines, two US government employees were recently arrested, like Nassar, for trading in child rape. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Richard Nikolai Gratkowski and Border Patrol Agent Paul Casey Whipple were members of a child sex trafficking website providing “access to more than 117,000 graphic” videos of child rape and torture. Gratkowski used his government ID to open his account. Whipple was charged with producing and distributing child pornography. My recently-released book, Epidemic: America’s Trade in Child Rape, details the extent of government employees, often in sensitive positions and frequently from work computers, arrested for these crimes and explains why this is an urgent national security issue. This is one issue which US’ foreign policy and national security community has, almost totally, ignored.
In 2016, Daniel Payne, the Pentagon’s Defense Security Service director, said the “amount of child porn” on government computers is “unbelievable.” Department of Defense’s Computer Forensics Laboratory director, Lt. Col. Zatyko, said in 2012, of child pornography investigations, “we always have cases in the queue… more work than we can handle.” Merritt Baer, former Armed Forces US Court of Appeals clerk, reported in 2013 that there was an “overwhelming flow of child pornography” appeals; about two-thirds of the docket. In January 2017, The New York Times reported Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) investigators have “repeatedly warned top managers that unaddressed allegations of corruption among contractors could put the immigration system at risk” citing the distribution of child pornography on government computers.
Networked Criminal Behaviour
An “unbelievable” amount of child pornography on government computers threatens US’ national security in many ways: opening government networks to organised crime, exposing classified information and rendering government employees vulnerable to blackmail. Criminal behaviour, particularly in leadership, establishes permissible conduct for the entire workplace compromising the safety and well-being of law-abiding employees. For example, Army prosecutor and judge advocate Daniel Wollverton, sentenced for infant sodomy and 30,000 child rape images, would have unlikely held his colleagues accountable for sexual assault in the military workplace.
Individual arrests are not isolated events. Pedophiles are extensive networkers. Networking is one of the defining behaviours. Pedophiles obsessively video themselves violently abusing children and broadcast these crimes on the internet. They brag about their assaults and share children they have access to. Pedophiles “working as a team…” protect each other and “use their connections to outwit the police.” Those in government positions have a heightened ability to shield each other. Pedophiles appear to be connected throughout our military, law enforcement and civilian government’s agencies. This is a problem for the security of America’s children. This is a problem for the national security of our country.
Cascade of Child Sex Abuse
In 2015, an Associated Press (AP) investigation found the largest inmate population in military prisons to be child sex offenders. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2016 that child abuse in the military is a “little-noticed cascade”, saying often “military officials knew or suspected that child abuse or neglect was occurring, but failed to intervene.” Although the Department of Defense (DOD) issues an annual report on adult sexual assaults, child assaults and child pornography convictions are not included, because the DOD does not track child pornography convictions and hence, it is “difficult to determine how widespread the problem might be.”
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia estimates one-in-five cases of child sex assault victims in the Army are reported. Marisa Taylor, a McClatchy journalist, says even when military staff admit these crimes they are not necessarily referred to law enforcement agencies. For example, an Air Force Lt. Col. confessed to downloading “child pornography on his Pentagon computer and to touching a child in a sexual way” during an interview with The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the government agency responsible for overseeing spy satellites. The NRO never reported this to law enforcement agencies or the Air Force. Of documented arrests, girl-children of male relatives in positions of military leadership are most frequently targeted. For example, Marine Corporeal Aaron Masa, who groomed a fellow Marine and used the friendship to access the father’s 3-year-old and infant daughters to produce child pornography. This is consistent with my research about who trades in child rape and how they access the children. It is most frequently fathers in positions of power sexually abusing their own children and/or children of family friends. Other examples, out of thousands, include Col. Robert Joel Rice, at the Army War College, who was charged on 130 child pornography counts and sentenced in 2016 to 12 years in federal prison concurrent with a four-year prison sentence in a military court-martial. The Army War College employed Rice while he was on bail and allowed him to access to Army computers. Rice had more than 30,000 child sex abuse videos/images. His wife notified police.
David Riley, a 37-year-old Air Force Major sent “extremely graphic” images to an undercover Washington DC police officer. Riley said he was “looking for other pervs in the area” and bragged about sexually abusing a six-year-old daughter of a former girlfriend. The officer sent Riley a picture. Riley asked “What is the purpose of showing me pics of your daughter? Do you want to share her?” Riley was enrolled at the National Defense University at the time.
Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy, 70-year-old retired Navy Captain Wade Sanders, pleaded guilty to child pornography possession and was sentenced to 37 months in prison. He had been awarded the Silver Star, the nation’s third-highest valor award, which was revoked. Sanders introduced John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
Men arrested for trading in child rape are frequently in significant positions within our national security infrastructure. Such as America’s chief scientist monitoring global nuclear activity at Patrick Air Force Base’s Atomic Energy Detection System. David O’Brien was sentenced in 2014 to five years in prison. He had a large child pornography collection including on his Air Force computer and was trading in pre-teen hard core (PTHC); the brutal rape and torture of very young children, often infants and toddlers. He was also exchanging Russian-sourced material. O’Brien placed images of his granddaughter’s head over images of children being raped and transposed photos of Air Force employees. National security journalists never reported on O’Brien’s arrest.
One of the highest-ranking Homeland employees arrested was Deputy Press Secretary Brian Doyle who sent images/videos to an undercover officer in Polk County, Florida. “Doyle couldn’t have been more brazen, giving out his title, calling from his DHS office, even sending a photo showing his Department of Homeland Security identity card along with his genitals.” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said, “It doesn’t come any more hard-core. He graphically explained to a 14-year old girl what he would like to do to her and what he would like her to do to him.” Doyle was sentenced to five years in jail and is now a registered sex offender.
Homeland Security acknowledged, to Christian Science Monitor journalist Aliya Sternstein, their firewalls lack the capacity to recognise, block and report child pornography and confirmed they “do not investigate the behavior of individual employees.” In contrast, The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Commerce Department have security systems that alert authorities when illegal material is shared on their networks. If the FTC and the Department of Commerce can install blocking software, why isn’t this mandatory for Homeland Security as well as for all government agencies?
Child Pornography is a National Security Threat
Epidemic: America’s Trade in Child Rape establishes the US government has a considerable child pornography problem, one that is a serious threat to our personal and national security. Pedophiles have infiltrated government service and cultivated positions of power to protect their crimes and access children. Children, and our national security, are not being protected.
No pedophile should ever be employed in the US government. Child sex trafficking should never occur on government computers. That this is transpiring in what appears to be epidemic amounts should outrage and frighten us. As journalist Aliya Sternstein explains, “pornographic images of children on government computers present a profound national security risk that if left unresolved could endanger American lives at home and abroad.”
The foreign policy and national security community must address the issue of child trafficking committed by government employees. The startling number of government employees arrested on child pornography charges renders this an urgent national security issue—one that demands everyone’s immediate attention.
Dr Lori Handrahan has worked on gender discrimination and sexual exploitation as a university professor and humanitarian for over 20 years. Her most recent book is Epidemic: America’s Trade in Child Rape. She can be reached on her website www.LoriHandrahan.com