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Carnivore and Net censorship will save the children

Part 2: why Feds, legislators and prudes love pedos

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Online Pedophilia This is the second in a series of stories examining firsthand how pedophiles use the Internet.

There is perhaps no group more universally despised than pedophiles, and with good reason, we'll add freely. No sensible person would dispute that children are by nature defenseless relative to adults, both physically and mentally, and therefore entitled to greater civil protections.

That said, responsible citizens may well be alarmed by efforts to exaggerate the danger of on-line sexual exploitation and contamination of children as a pretext to justify increased government surveillance and censorship on the Internet.

Indeed, an extremely complex struggle over Internet privacy and content restrictions is underway in courts and legislatures around the globe; and make no mistake, child-protective rhetoric echoes loud throughout.

Because the United States possesses the most loudly self-proclaimed 'tradition' (many would say 'myth') of individual liberty, along with some of the most Draconian, anti-libertarian initiatives pending in its courts and Congress, it serves handily to illustrate the almost schizophrenic battle between two universal human instincts: our natural tendency to protect children, and our natural tendency to seek privacy and to confront un-edited information and evaluate its significance for ourselves -- along with the cynical ways that governments and 'family-values' advocates are using the former as currency to bribe us into surrendering our rights to the latter.

Terrorists, drug lords and....pedos?

History will remember the Clinton Administration for Monica, certainly; but it will remember it as well for doing more damage to individual civil liberties than any administration prior to the shocking revelations of the Church Committee back in the mid-1970's. Former US Attorney General Janet Reno's wiretap-happy Department of Justice (DoJ) in particular sought relentlessly to secure ever-broader authority to monitor Internet activity.

Reno sought, for example, to circumvent the Privacy Protection Act of 1980 (PPA), which protects publishers and journalists, researchers, authors and academicians, by forbidding the Feds from seizing, or even examining, data meant for publication along with its supporting documentary information such as notes, transcripts and related research materials.

"Because computers now commonly contain enormous data storage devices, wrongdoers can use them to store material for publication that the PPA protects while simultaneously storing child pornography, stolen classified documents, or other contraband or evidence of crime," a White House committee chaired by Reno concluded last year in a contemptible report typical of this inclination.

"Features of the Internet that make it different from prior technologies may justify the need for changes in laws and procedures that govern the detection and investigation of computer crimes," the Reno committee said chillingly.

We know what "changes in laws and procedures" means. It means that the Internet and its presumably vast population of pedos justify streamlining warrant procedures and expanding government intrusion to save the tender sprouts we all, quite rightly, love and wish to protect.

Also last year, White House Chief of Staff John Podesta insisted that government surveillance of citizens suspected of 'computer crimes' must be made easier for federal law enforcement agents, whole speaking at the National Press Club in Washington.

Blanket trap and trace orders should be permitted without prior court approval during an 'emergency', Podesta cheerfully recommended.

Back in mid-1999, Reno was touting a draft proposal for what she called a "Cyberspace Electronic Security Act", expanding a little-used law enabling the Feds to obtain warrants to sneak into private premises and install hidden recording devices. In this case, the black-bag job would be done on a suspect's computer.

Assistant Attorney General Jon Jennings' letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, entreating him to drum up congressional support for the scheme, was a classic piece of Clinton/Reno child-protective drivel appealing to the need for rapid action in such emergencies as "stopping a terrorist attack or seeking to recover a kidnapped child, [where] time is of the essence and may mean the difference between success and catastrophic failure."

One man's terrorist may be another man's patriot; but no one admires a pedo. This is why Reno and her minions never dared open their mouths to advocate her pet Orwellian projects without cynically appealing to the protection of children.

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