Task Force Argos
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|Queensland Police Service|
Logo of the Queensland Police Service
|Motto||With Honour We Serve|
|Formed||1 January, 1864|
|Legal personality||Governmental: Government agency|
|Operations jurisdiction*||State of Queensland, Australia|
|Headquarters||200 Roma Street,
Brisbane, QLD 4000
|* Divisional agency: Division of the country, over which the agency has usual operational jurisdiction.|
Task Force Argos is a highly specialised branch of the Queensland Police Service responsible for the investigation of on-line child exploitation and abuse. Founded in 1997, the unit’s original charter was to investigate historical, institutional child abuse alleged during the Forde Inquiry.
The unit's name was derived from Greek mythology in which Argus Panoptes or Argos, was a primordial "all seeing" giant with multiple eyes and who was guardian of lo. As protector of the children Argos was great and strong: sleep never fell upon his eyes and he kept sure watch always.
Technological advances and wider access to the Internet led the unit in 2002 to explore avenues to address growing community concern over the proliferation of child exploitation across the internet. Task Force Argos identified potential threats to children in on-line chat rooms where sexual predators were grooming children and coercing them to engage in sexual activity.
In March 2002, Argos began an undercover operation against a person whom they had discovered in a chat room seeking underage girls for sex. An Argos operative, posing as a 14-year-old girl, was asked to meet the offender in Brisbane so he could photograph her nude and have sex with her. During the on-line conversations the offender claimed to have some 66,000 images of child exploitation. Argos identified the offender and a search of his computer identified contact offences including maintaining a sexual relationship with a child, indecent treatment of a child, and copying and distributing child abuse images. One child was 12 years of age at the time and had been befriended by the offender on the internet. The other child was aged five and was made available to the offender by her father whom the offender had met in an internet chat room.
In 2004, the first significant on-line child exploitation operation of the modern era codenamed ‘AUXIN’, was referred to the Australian High Tech Crime Centre. A highly organised criminal enterprise located in Belarus, responsible for hosting a huge quantity of commercially produced child exploitation material, was taken down by international authorities. Also seized during the investigation was credit card information of suspects who had paid to access the material. 720 persons of interest were identified in Australia, over 10 million images seized and, on average, each offender held approximately 45,000 child abuse images. One offender had 350,000 child abuse images alone. Task Force Argos was responsible for identifying eight Queensland child victims and removing them from harm.
The Unit’s accomplishments since Operation AUXIN are too numerous to mention but of significance was the international operation codenamed Achilles. Task Force Argos formed an alliance with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a lengthy covert operation that smashed a sophisticated international network of on-line offenders responsible distributing and creating on-demand graphic, child exploitation material. Operation Achilles began in January 2006 and closed in February 2008 with the execution of warrants and arrest of offenders in Australia, the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom. Task Force Argos covert operatives infiltrated the international child sex offender network who were trading images and videos depicting the horrific and violent abuse of children. The completion of Operation Achilles and its associated sub-operations around the world resulted in the removal of more than 60 children from sexually abusive situations, the arrest of 22 network members globally and the closure of four commercial child exploitation websites. The work of Task Force Argos in raising community awareness to the dangers of on-line predatory behavior have been recognised globally. The team was named the winner of the annual International Law Enforcement Cybercrime Award 2011 (Gold award) by The Society for the Policing of Cyberspace (POLCYB), a Canadian-based organisation committed to enhancing partnerships in order to prevent and combat crimes in cyberspace.
Task Force Argos has also been responsible for partnering with software powerhouse Microsoft to develop the Australian National Victim Image Library aimed at reducing investigator exposure to child exploitation material and improve opportunity to identify children at risk. Microsoft donated its technical development expertise to build this capability and the identification database is currently in national deployment.
Task Force Argos works closely with international counterparts to deliver positive outcomes for child victims, irrespective of where those children might be geographically located. The unit relies on victim identification expertise and their specialist is also the chair of the Interpol Specialist Group on Crimes Against Children. By employing robust victim identification strategies that effectively identify and locate child victims then their offenders can be found and prosecuted. One such operation involved the police taking over and running a dark web network for several months, resulting in the rescuing of 85 children and hundreds of arrests, including Britain's worst paedophile Richard Huckle and the site's operator Shannon McCoole.
Task Force Argos expends considerable effort to protect children on-line by researching contemporary technology to effectively target on-line predators. Adopting the mantra to ‘Leave No Stone Unturned’ and the insignia of the scorpion (the natural predator of the ‘rock spider’) their focus is squarely on child protection to ensure exhaustive inquiries are conducted so that no child victim of sexual exploitation is ever overlooked.
Notable Abandoned Prosecutions
In December 2008, task force members arrested and charged Maroochydore man Chris Illingworth with 'using the internet to access and publish child-abuse material' after he allegedly reposted on Liveleak a viral video of a man swinging a baby by its arms. On 9 September 2009, it was announced that the charges had been dropped by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions after reviewing the case. Illingworth has called for an inquiry into how he came to be charged in the first place.
- Child Pornography
- "A web of evil, Gotcha". The Australian. 5 September 2006. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
- "NZer charged with using web to procure child". The New Zealand Herald. AAP. 21 January 2008. Retrieved 19 November 2011.
- Queensland police stings in online chat rooms, Australian Institute of Criminology
- Police crack global child porn ring, ABC News
- FBI, Operation Achilles, Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Task Force Argos recognised internationally, Queensland Police Service
- Cops add image matching anti-paedophile arsenal, Computer World
- IPSG Crimes against Children, Interpol
- Safi, M. (13 July 2016). "The takeover: how police ended up running a paedophile site". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
- Robb, S. (2 June 2016). "How 'Britain's worst paedophile' Richard Huckle was caught". The Metro. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
- Li, T. (28 February 2016). "'I thought it was a passing thing': Childcare worker who raped children in his care and filmed it for a global paedophile web ring says his urges were NOT his fault... and he never considered he would get caught". Daily Mail. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
- Moses, Asher (2008-12-11). "Police defend baby swinging video charge". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2008-12-11.
- "Baby-swinging video charges dropped". Brisbane Times. Retrieved 2009-09-09.