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FBI Executives Left an Undercover Agent Behind

Ken Hillman heard a knock at his hotel room door, and violence began to surge inside  him.   A deafening emotional scream came from familiar demons trying to consume him.    As Ken moved toward the door, his demons were escaping,  getting the better of him.   Desperately he struggled to will them back into the cage he kept buried somewhere deep inside of him.  Ken had fought and beaten them a hundred times before, but now they’d grown into monsters, seemingly stronger each day.  During recent battles, he had barely prevailed against them.  As Ken opened the door he felt their death grip, but he’d just run out of time to battle them; he had work to do. 

                    

                    

The stranger at Ken's hotel room door was standing in the hallway with two small children, both girls, one eight-years old, and one seven.  The man had brought the children to the hotel room to be raped by Ken.  The man was expecting Ken to accept his children in exchange for Ken’s two daughters, who the man would rape.  Ken began a casual conversation with the stranger. He glanced down noticing that like him, the man’s two children also seemed to be in a self-induced, numb, state of consciousness, trying to cope with the horror they thought was about to occur.  Ken looked closely at the younger child, straining covertly to identify her without being noticed by the man.  Yes, he was sure, it was her. Round face, deep brown eyes, a precious looking child, and terrified now, just as she was in the video. 

The stranger in the hallway had played a video for Ken in a private chat session just two-days earlier to convince Ken that the man wasn’t a cop. That was 48 hours ago, and Ken had not slept, eaten much or been home since.  The chatroom video had depicted the younger girl crying, hysterical, trying to hide under covers on a bed, then being dragged naked from the bed, pulled by her leg across the floor, and into a bathroom, where she was filmed being raped.  She was screaming and there was blood.  Her rapist showed no sympathy for his victim, as if her rape was a routine occurrence.   Since the moment he had seen the video Ken had used Red Bull, mostly, to stay awake and relentlessly track the man’s electronic addresses, cyber footprints and communication data, all while convincingly acting interested in having sex with the man’s children, and priming him to exchange their kids as soon as possible.  Ken’s acting job included long chats about how fantastic he thought the man’s rape video was.   Ken’s demons had very nearly escaped during one of those chats, but his tortured, adrenaline and caffeine fueled forty-eight hours of desperate hard work, had paid-off.  The rapist, and his 7-year-old victim, were now standing directly in front of him.  The precious little girl would never again be the man’s victim.

Ken Hillman was an FBI agent.  Before that, he was a Washington, D.C. Metro Police Officer.  He was one of the most productive undercover child sex investigators in the history of the Department of Justice.  You had to be good at undercover activity if you wanted to lure pedophiles who were raping children out from the darkness of the internet.  And Ken was good at it, very good.  Ken worked the most difficult child sex cases.  All child sex cases are difficult, traumatic for everyone involved.  But agents working those cases know, there is a definite pecking order, and Ken’s cases were at the top of the heap.  Ken worked “travelers” who were “active” with children.  This meant that most of Ken’s targets were currently having sex with children over which they had some type of custodial relationship, and they were willing to travel and exchange them with other sexual deviants who had children to offer.  “Active -Traveler” cases are known to inflict a much higher level of trauma on an investigator than other cases, for example, when an undercover agent lures a man on-line to have sex with a non-existent teen-ager.  In Ken’s investigations, there was usually an actual child-victim trapped and being raped.  If he didn’t find the abuser and stop them, it was tough to live with yourself.  Very tough.  Ken stopped a lot of rapists.  In just his first year undercover he ranked third in the FBI for statistical accomplishments on child exploitation cases. During each of the next four-years, he was first.  He arrested over one-hundred pedophiles and rescued fifteen children, most of which had been delivered by their abuser for Ken to rape.

former FBI Agent Ken Hillman and former FBI Director Louis Freeh

former FBI Agent Ken Hillman and former FBI Director Louis Freeh

Law enforcement agencies have strict protocols for child sex cases.  The protocols are designed, in large part, to monitor the mental health of the assigned investigators.  The people, images and circumstances to which investigators are exposed in active-traveler cases are a toxic sewer that can potentially inflict severe emotional distress.  It is only a matter of time before most investigators become physiologically scarred.  Among the safety protocols fundamental to the process is that investigative tasks be divided-up, with each task assigned to separate, specific investigators, so that no single investigator becomes overwhelmed or overexposed to the severe emotional trauma unfolding in most investigations.  FBI policy dictates, one agent is responsible for administrative areas such as vouchers and expenses, another is assigned to lead the investigation, another acts in an undercover capacity at the direction of the lead investigator, and yet another is assigned as a contact agent directly responsible for monitoring and supporting the undercover agent.   Other agents handle arrests, searches and interrogations along with the primary investigator.

An additional key safety protocol is that undercover personnel who are directly interacting with the rapists should not be exposed to them for too long before the law-enforcement agency management completely removes the undercover agent from the undercover activity for mandatory “cooling-off” periods.  The FBI has these, and other safeguards in place to protect investigators in child exploitation investigations, and in most cases, they do an effective job of executing those safeguards.    But in Ken’s case, FBI executive management failed him.   Ken was left alone, in a small resident agency office of the FBI.  He had no case agent, no contact agent, no administrative agent, and little support from FBI management.  Most troubling, according to a source with first-hand knowledge, was that several of the personnel directly responsible for conducting his periodic mental clearance evaluations had never even read a single pedophile sex-chat, so they had no experience with the deeply troubling psychological abuse Ken was exposed to as an undercover agent.  Ken quickly tired of their assembly line reviews of his mental health and on one occasion, their attempt to evaluate him at a tourist resort that he felt was nothing more than a cover for them to get a free vacation on taxpayer money.

Ken’s investigations were conducted out of a small FBI resident agency office with almost no staff.   Ken was the lead investigator, the undercover agent, the administrative agent, and he operated the small ad-hoc child exploitation task force including administrating the paying of overtime to local officers assigned to assist him from time-to-time.  If that wasn’t enough, Ken did all the arrest planning, wrote the operational plans, processed the electronic evidence, executed almost all arrests himself.  He dealt with interviewing the victim children and breaking the news to them that they were going to state custody, and he conducted the interrogation of the rapists, where he almost always obtained confessions.  Ken also handled all the related court appearances frequently requiring him to expose himself under his real identity while still being assigned full-time as an undercover agent.  That unacceptable dual-role which Ken was exposed to by FBI executives was dangerous, and ultimately significantly contributed to his downfall. 

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After three years of daily exposure to the trauma of convincingly living the life of a child rapist, Ken recognized he was having problems.  It had been years since he had discussed any aspect of his job with his family.  There was really no way to respond when a family member asks you how your day was, and the answer is that you spent it online chatting with, and watching some mom molest her young son while the boy whimpered.   After three-years, Ken tried to leave his undercover assignment, but FBI executives notified him that no one was willing to replace him.  If he left his undercover role, his small task force would be dismantled.  Ken thought about the predators that would never be discovered raping kids, so he ignored his emotional trauma, caged his demons, and continued.  Soon Ken began drinking just so that he could get through the chats.  He saw a psychiatrist and received a diagnosis of Acute Stress Disorder, and then Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  His psychiatrist prescribed medications for the PTSD.  Ken reported everything to the FBI doctors but they left him in his undercover assignment anyway.  At one point Ken vented to a FBI psychologist, asking that his emotional issues be addressed.  Instead of helping, the psychologist divulged the contents of Ken’s confidential, private counseling session to non-medical personnel in the FBI management’s chain-of-command.  Ken felt betrayed and victimized after that incident.  Ken was told that for six-months he could continue to do everything else at the task force, except directly contact subjects himself.  He wasn’t removed at all from the trauma of the undercover operation, he still was directly exposed to the chats, videos and vile images daily.  Then, without further medical evaluation, after the six-months, Ken was cleared to return to full-duty in his undercover capacity.  He arrested five pedophiles his first week back.  

The FBI executives kept Ken’s undercover case running, it was a stat machine that made them look good.  His efforts translated into the false impression that they were great leaders, when the opposite was true.   The executives selfishly kept Ken in the fight, despite his diagnosis, despite his taking medication, and despite Ken having self-reported his issues through the FBI program designed to safe-guard him.  For a while, outwardly, Ken continued to thrive, racking up win after win against the pedophiles, while inside he was unraveling.  There were definite cracks surfacing.   Ken became so brazen and distanced from reality, that he bet some cops that he was good enough to actually arrest a pedophile inside the FBI office, luring the target there thinking Ken’s children were waiting.  It worked!  His colleagues were amazed that he had devised such an artful approach in his undercover capacity, that he was able to convince the pedophile to walk into an FBI office, bringing with him wine-coolers and condoms.

But on the inside,  after working five straight years undercover in the diseased sewer of child rapists, things were really starting to fall apart for Ken.   The only thing keeping him going was focusing on the victims.  Doing the chats.  Then arresting the abusers.

The Beginning of the End

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After five-years Ken finally cracked.  He had been undercover far longer than policy or common sense dictated.  There were two reports in the press that Ken was driving after drinking.  The beginning of the end came for Ken with the collision of two events.  One was that Ken noticed something very unusual was happening with certain defendants who were diverted for prosecution in the state court system, rather than federal system.  Too many were ending-up with light sentences and Ken thought he knew why.  He reported his concerns through the proper channels at the Department of Justice.  When people involved found out about that referral, they were not happy, and Ken picked-up some enemies from blowing the Whistle to DOJ.  The second event involved Ken’s lapses in judgement related to two citizens who volunteered to work with the task force. Because Ken had no support from an administrative agent, he had to initially contact the two citizens regarding an administrative matter in his true name, and using his true FBI identity.  Due to the very pubic role the FBI had forced Ken into in the arrests and court appearances, , the two citizens knew about Ken and his undercover activity at his first meeting with them.  The two asked a police officer working with Ken if they could help with the case.  Many citizens offer the FBI help in cases and there is a formal process to document and gain supervisory approval for their involvement, but completing the paperwork is usually just a formality to them being approved to participate.    During the  next five-weeks Ken allowed the two to participate in task force operations without completing the required approval paperwork, and that brought to light just how badly Ken’s mental state had deteriorated.    He allowed the two to participate in task force operations well beyond what was permitted by policy, even for approved individuals, and he socialized with both.    At the same time, more negative press articles started being published about Ken, so FBI executives forced him into a grueling, two-hundred-fifty-mile round trip daily commute, and a degrading re-assignment to an area that most FBI personnel knew was set aside for misfits, all while the executives decided how to handle the allegations published in the press against him.   The FBI executives ignored Ken’s suggestions that the negative press articles might be in retaliation for him being a whistle-blower to DOJ related to his suspicions about the local court system.   Rather than protecting him from that possible retaliation, FBI management ignored him.  FBI executives, who for so long had claimed accolades for themselves,   that they had something to do with Ken’s investigative successes, now isolated Ken, marginalized him and punished him, instead of investigating if he was being retaliated against.   They refused to discontinue the punitive commute they had imposed on him despite his doctor saying it was affecting his PTSD condition.  One executive dismissively told Ken, “tough, deal with it”.  

The PTSD, the commute, the pressure of his isolation in the FBI office by executives and also the press stories, caused Ken to seek a medical retirement from the FBI with an official diagnosis of PTSD.   Ken left the FBI on a medical retirement.  The FBI left him alone in the civilian world to deal with his demons, taking no responsibility for their prolonged exposure of him to the five-years of torture toiling in a sewer, befriending people who raped and molested children.     The FBI’s Inspection Division launched a review into the mishandling by FBI executives of Ken’s case and some other personnel actions that they had botched.  Some FBI executives left the FBI during, or immediately after that Inspection.   The Inspection report has been the subject of a Freedom of Information Act request for nearly a year, but the FBI continues to refuse to release it.  It seems the FBI executives don’t want transparency or public accountability when it comes to their actions.  We plan on vigorously pursuing obtaining that Inspection Report, confronting the offending FBI executives and publishing the result.

Federal Courthouse, Rome, Georgia

Federal Courthouse, Rome, Georgia

Almost five more years passed for Ken in retirement.  Ken had to endure continuing press attacks, along with his family, while FBI executive management stood-by silently doing nothing.  Then, suddenly, after nearly five-years, the Department of Justice (DOJ) contacted Ken telling him they wanted to charge him with crimes.  Ken’s legal team aggressively intervened.   The DOJ offered Ken a misdemeanor plea deal.  The misdemeanor charge filed had singled-out only that short, five-week period where Ken’s PTSD had finally gotten the better of him.  It was only about when he had used the two undocumented sources without FBI management approval.   The misdemeanor plea listed no Acts during Ken’s other five-years of undercover work.    So, in late July 2017, in the same federal courthouse where he had brought dozens of child rapists to justice, and just a few days shy of the five-year statute of limitations expiring, Ken pled guilty to a one-count misdemeanor.  The judge who accepted Ken’s plea was familiar with Ken’s undercover accomplishments, and after accepting Ken’s misdemeanor plea, complimented him extensively on his work as an FBI agent, and thanked him for his service on the child predator task force.  Ken fully admitted he made mistakes, he did things he should not have, and agreed he should face any consequences.  But he feels strongly that no other undercover agent, and even more importantly, their families, should ever be victimized again through the prolonged, hazardous conditions to which FBI executive management, recklessly, incompetently and selfishly exposed him.

The Underground is pursuing FBI records through litigation under the Freedom of Information Privacy Act, and as our investigation unfolds, much more will be written about the failures of FBI executives related to Ken’s case and the resultant Inspection conducted by FBIHQ.  Stay tuned!

 

Holding FBI Management Accountable Through Transparency