All credit to Duncan Campbell of PCPro magazine and my least favourite newspaper, the Guardian, for this story.
Why has Guardian Unlimited only run it as a small piece on the technology pages though? For that matter, why is this major scandal not splashed across national front pages in the way that Operation Ore itself was?
Thirty-nine men have killed themselves in Britain alone, because of being accused of paedophilia during Operation Ore. Now it seems they were victims, not criminals. The child pornography site in question was one of many being used by organised crime, including the Gambino family, to steal money from 54,348 credit cards the details of which their associates had ripped off.
As Duncan Campbell says:
Operation Ore has become a byword for our police's investigation into the murkiest of online worlds - but hundreds, perhaps thousands, of the cases show that the police were misled and confused by criminals whose computer expertise was years ahead of theirs.
Many of us found it fishy that so many as 7,272 Brits would have been subscribers to a single child pornography site. Extrapolate that random sample and it would suggest that in Britain Paedophiles R Us.
Did no-one in the Crown Prosecution Service question that? All this has only come to light because someone who served as an expert witness for some defendants thought to examine the activity logs of the websites in question:
The log recorded when credit cards were signed up and charged - and, critically, whether the person putting in the card details then went on to visit the porn site they had paid for... Not only did thousands of the supposed porn buyers not go to get their porn; many of the sites had been set up purely for fraud. His checks were evidential tests that the UK police seem to have forgotten to take.
US police ran those checks and only prosecuted those who went on to download porn. Sophisticated Brits who despise hick Americans might like to chew on that, as well as asking why no British journalists asked questions about it at the time. Had they picked up on the different approach taken in America, they would have had a splendid opportunity to show their journalistic mettle at the police's triumphalist press conferences.
I suspect that paedophilia and child abuse are rarer than the authorities would have us believe. They tend to exaggerate any evil that makes the gullible eager for State protection. Paedophilia witch-hunts are a wonderfully emotive tool for manipulating the masses. Judged by their actions, rather than their words, our government's main political objective seems to be constant expansion of State power. Stories like this are grist to the mill.
All the death, pain, misery and family break-ups caused by this affair should lie heavily on the consciences of the police and prosecutors involved. When dealing with the minions of the State, that's the only punishment for which we can hope. Some of the destroyed families will sue, but the taxpayers will pick up the bill for damages. Heads should roll, but that's not this government's style. So massively incompetent is its whole apparatus, that no guillotine could cope.
At this moment, furious as I am, I could wish there was a Hell. I would like to reserve a particularly uncomfortable spot there for the sneering police officers mentioned in this particular story;
Tens or hundreds of thousands of people fell victim, including some who later became targets of Operation Ore. One was 'John', a top city banker. In 1998 and 1999, his family credit card was repeatedly charged by Gambino internet organisations, and its details then shared with other fraudsters: in June 1999, his card was charged twice more to make payments to one of Landslide's top-earning webmasters - who was also a child porn merchant.
Seven years later, 'John' was targeted in Operation Ore: in May 2006, he stood aghast as police entered his home and trawled through his family's intimate possessions. He says that police officers "sneered" when he and his lawyers told them about credit card fraud. "They said they had never heard of it happening," he told me. Only after a two-day High Court case last September did the police agree that he was above suspicion, and apologised to him.
An apology. Well that's fine then.
The Operation Ore Exposed site is here.