After Afghanistan, military veteran now tracks down child predators online: Here's why he does it

Posted at 5:58 AM, Feb 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-02 17:20:20-05

Chris Beattie spends his work days viewing online images most people cannot stomach. They are images of naked, abused and tortured children who are often under the age of six.

"These are crime scenes, being video-taped, recorded, traded like baseball cards," said Beattie. "I mean these are young children."

His job is to track down predators by trolling the Internet. He's doing so by applying his military training in new ways.

"We need the specialized skills that these HERO interns possess to be able to go online to dig deep and find all of the individuals that are conducting these crimes," said Celeste Koszut, a supervisory special agent for the Homeland Security Investigations division of the U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

Beattie is what is considered a HERO: a Human Exploitation Rescue Operative. He is one 16 interns nationwide working with federal agents to combat online child sexual exploitation.

The HERO Child-Rescue Corps program, developed by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Special Operations Command in conjunction with the National Association to Protect Children, trains wounded veterans, or those transitioning out of the military full-time in digital forensics.

The veterans receive two months of training and conduct a 10-month internship with Homeland Security Investigations.

Beattie spent a year in Afghanistan with the Army and thought he knew the dangers of the world around him until he started investigating child pedophiles.

"There are enemies here that I'm more afraid of than there," he said.

According to the Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, one in 11 children have been solicited for sex online.

"Everyday, I'm appalled at how many people are partaking in this," said Beattie, who recently transitioned from the Army to the Army Reserves. "The majority of the victims that we end up helping, their predator was someone they knew. It was their coach, their priest, their step-father."

Beattie has helped put more than a dozen alleged pedophiles behind bars since he started his position in November.