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Internal U.S. watchdog faults FBI on how it notifies victims in child sex abuse materials cases By Reuters


By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Justice Department’s internal watchdog on Tuesday faulted the FBI for flaws in how it notifies child victims when their images are discovered during federal investigations into child sexual abuse materials.

According to Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the FBI has been accused of failing to notify victims and guardians when child sex abuse images are discovered during investigations. However, this audit shows that it does inform victims and guardians when they first become aware. It also fails to keep victims informed if their photographs come back in future cases.

“Generally, child victims and their guardians are notified by investigators and victim specialists when their

images are first identified in a federal investigation,” the report says.

“However … when those images were found in subsequent investigations, the FBI did not consistently notify these child victims and their guardians or advise them of their rights if

their images were in more than one investigation.”

This audit is coming at a moment when the FBI faces scrutiny over its child sexual abuse investigation of Larry Nassar, disgraced ex-USA Gymnastics coach.

Last week, gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols told a U.S. Senate panel in detail the FBI’s failures allowed Nassar to continue sexually assaulting other girls and young women for more than a year.

Maroney’s case was not just delayed in the FBI interviewing victims; an FBI agent interviewed Maroney over the telephone without her parents present. Later, she falsified information about her account.

Horowitz claimed Tuesday’s audit that the FBI had too strict criteria in determining when victims should be notified if additional images of them are discovered in cases.

The FBI’s procedure was to notify victims about any additional images that were found in cases if the images are “actively traded”, meaning they have been subject to at least five more investigations.

Between July 2020 and September 2020, audit results showed that 8693 child victims and guardians failed to receive notices that additional images were discovered. They did so because they didn’t meet the “actively trade” threshold.

Regina Thompson, FBI’s Assistant Director for Victims Services said that the FBI agrees with the audit and agreed to follow the Department and legal requirements to notify victims of federal crimes.

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