DOJ OIG Publishes Memo Expressing Concern Over Lack of FBI Policy on Sharing Child Sexual Abuse Material

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Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz on May 26 published a “management advisory memorandum” highlighting concerns it had identified over the lack of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) policy regarding child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and other contraband material being shared among employees.

The advisory (pdf) is titled: “notification of concerns with the absence of a policy regarding FBI employees emailing child sexual abuse material and other contraband.”

It was issued following an investigation into an FBI employee who emailed images they believed to contain probable CSAM over a secure FBI email system to a prosecutor with whom they were handling a criminal case, according to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

Multiple FBI employees, including the subject of the OIG investigation, told the OIG that CSAM should not be transmitted over email, the DOJ said.

One FBI Inspection Division (INSD) employee told the OIG that such contraband images should be transmitted through the FBI’s closed network system designed for these types of images when they are being sent to other FBI field offices or to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

However, none of the FBI employees could point to a physical written policy that specifically prohibited such conduct, OIG said.

“In addition, an employee with the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) told us that emailing CSAM presents significant risks that the CSAM will be received by unauthorized individuals,” the management advisory reads.

In its memorandum, the OIG noted that it found that the FBI’s written policies do not address the issue of emailing CSAM and other contraband despite the FBI telling the OIG that employees should not do so.

“We also found that the absence of a written policy presents risks that such contraband will be received by unauthorized individuals. We further believe that the absence of such a policy risks exposing confidential child victim information to unintended recipients, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 3509,” the OIG wrote.

In its memo, the OIG recommends that the FBI clarify its policies regarding approved methods for transmitting CSAM along with other contraband to prosecutors and other government employees who need to review the material.

By Katabella Roberts

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