Former HHS Official Sentenced for Child Pornography

Timothy DeFoggi, a former head of cyber-security for the increasingly misnamed Department of Health and Human Services ( HHS ), has been sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for accessing and soliciting child pornography and conspiring to act out his fantasies of child rape and murder:

“Using the same technological expertise he employed as Acting Director of Cyber Security at HHS, DeFoggi attempted to sexually exploit children and traffic in child pornography through an anonymous computer network of child predators,” Assistant Attorney General Caldwell said in a statement. . . .

“Through the website, DeFoggi accessed child pornography, solicited child pornography from other members, and exchanged private messages with other members in which he expressed an interest in the violent rape and murder of children,” the press release said. “DeFoggi suggested meeting one member in person to fulfill their mutual fantasies to violently rape and murder children.”

I probably don’t even want to know how common this is among those members of our society who are charged with the protection and well-being of the populace.

The crimes committed by DeFoggi also bring to light the nefarious uses of the dark web. DeFoggi used the (apparently) anonymous encrypted browser Tor in order to find and share child pornography. It brings up the question of how browsers like Tor should be dealt with. It has been estimated that as much as 80% of the sites accessed on the dark web contain child pornography. Drugs, illegal weapons, prositution, and even assassinations can be purchased on the dark web as well.

But there is another angle here. It may come about that the dark web is the only place left for free interchange of ideas if the non-encrypted web becomes overly censored or controlled by the civil government. Already, in some countries, political activists have used the dark web to avoid being detected and punished by totalitarian regimes (e.g., during the Arab Spring).

So I am glad that DeFoggi has been caught, and I hope every single person on the planet responsible for child pornography gets exactly what he deserves. But I would caution that allowing the civil government too much leeway to constrain an outlet for free exchange is dangerous. And cases like this almost certainly will be used to support such unilateral action. We must be vigilant to resist any liberty-destroying over-arching changes based on individual cases of abuse. Prosecute the abusers. That’s what we ask. And that is all we ask.