WASHINGTON — The FBI arrested a dozen people nationwide Wednesday for transmitting pornographic images of children and soliciting sex from children on computer networks run by America Online.
Called Innocent Images, the two-year undercover government investigation included searches of more than 120 homes and offices and was aimed at the millions of users of America Online, the nation's largest commercial online service. But sources said other online services will also become part of the ongoing probe, and the Justice Department said more arrests are expected.
"We are not going to permit exciting new technology to be misused to exploit and injure children," Atty. Gen. Janet Reno said in a statement.
According to the FBI, the investigation grew out of the 1993 abduction of 10-year-old George Stanley Burdynski of Brentwood, Md. The FBI said it suspected that Burdynski, who is still missing, was the target of computer pedophiles.
The undercover operation represents the first time the FBI has investigated problems centering on pornography on online services. The FBI said it had found instances of illegal pornography online that showed children from 2 to 13 who were either nude or depicted in sexual situations.
In addition to the 12 arrests Wednesday, the FBI said four people had been taken into custody after they traveled across state lines in an attempt to engage in sex with undercover agents posing as minors on the online network.
But the FBI would not give any details about those arrested, although it said cities involved include Miami, New York, Dallas and Newark, N.J.