Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2001/03/23/carnivore_and_net_censorship/

Carnivore and Net censorship will save the children

Part 2: why Feds, legislators and prudes love pedos

By Our investigative reporter

Posted in Media, 23rd March 2001 07:32 GMT

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.

Congress loves pedos too

In mid-2000, child-protective hysteric and US Representative Robert Franks (Republican, New Jersey) introduced a House bill requiring mandatory prison sentences for 'cyber-molesters' who use the Internet to find underage sexual partners. His bill would hamstring judges by imposing a minimum of five years' incarceration for those found guilty.

The proposed legislation would apply to defendants who "establish a relationship with a child over the Internet and then travel across state lines for the purpose of engaging in illegal sex."

Not surprisingly, the FBI dutifully reported a 550 per cent increase in "high-tech child molesters" since 1998, which dovetailed beautifully into Franks' self-serving reckoning.

"Even when law enforcement is successful in catching these criminals, they are often given lenient sentences," he lamented. "The average sentence for the crime is just 18 months in jail."

He fretted that judges have been "ignoring the seriousness of the offence" when a convict is otherwise law-abiding, and concluded that it's necessary for Congress to choose sentences for them. "Those sick criminals who terrorize our children, destroy their innocence and leave them scarred for life deserve to be locked away for a long time," he said.

(Well, of course they do; but we remain convinced that judges are in a far better position to determine what's appropriate from the bench than members of Congress are from Capitol Hill. Call us old-fashioned....)

Also last year, the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), regrettably, was signed into law. Sponsored by US Senator John McCain (Republican, Arizona) and US Representative Ernest Istook (Republican, Oklahoma), the Act imposes Internet filtering requirements on public schools and libraries which accept money from Uncle Sam. Naughty pictures, inappropriate chatrooms and blue prose are to be rendered inaccessible to tender sprouts, and failure to comply results in the money spigot being shut off.

The legitimate fear among perfectly reasonable and law-abiding adults, naturally, is that public libraries will be cowed into filtering all their computer terminals on fears of government retaliation if some brat should get his or her hands on an open one, and thereby restrict adult research opportunities to those appropriate for children.

An equally perverse Congressional gift is the Children's Online Protection Act (COPA), which, among other things, makes it a crime to create, distribute or possess any material which 'appears to depict' a child in a sexual context.

This language, being so vague that anything the Feds dislike might be outlawed -- morphed pics of kids where no sexual exploitation has occurred but which nevertheless appear sexual, movies such as "Endless Love", "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and even the recent "Traffic" (in which, ironically, conservative US Senator Orrin Hatch appears as himself in a brief cameo) -- has wisely been shot down by the Third and Ninth US Circuit Courts of Appeals.

But the DoJ is pursuing reinstatement of this imbecility before the US Supreme Court this year. Their thin justification is that images whose production involve no actual, real-world harm to children still cause irreparable social ruin by satisfying the unhealthy desires of pedophiles. Thus the innocent interests of the many have got to be sacrificed to frustrate the perverse interests of the few. Sorry, mate, but we know best what you ought to see.

The prude bandwagon

Public libraries are a hotbed of on-line pedo activity and must therefore be forced to install Internet filtering software on their public computers, pedophile psychotherapist Mary Anne Layden told a Congressional Committee on Children and Families which convened last year to consider measures for protecting children from Internet predators.

"What is happening in our public libraries is a national scandal," she said gravely. After a few hours' perusal "pedophiles can...leave the library with toxic messages and become carriers back to their jobs, their homes, onto the streets and into the schoolyard," she claimed.

Layden said that permission-giving myths, dear to pedos, such as their twisted notions that children actually enjoy being raped by adults, or that such perverse relations are in fact natural and healthy, are being propagated with unprecedented virulence via the Net. As a result, thirty-eight per cent of American girls are sexually molested before they reach age eighteen, she claimed, brandishing a number that strikes The Register as ludicrously overstated in spite of our well-known inclination towards pessimism regarding the darker regions of human nature.

The American Library Association (ALA), Layden says, is solely responsible for all this savagery. The professional organization belligerently rejects all efforts to censor content at public libraries, and proudly snubs its nose at the idea of Internet filtering.

But the ALA has its own reading of the tea leaves. "The use in libraries of software filters which block constitutionally protected speech is inconsistent with the United States Constitution and federal law, and may lead to legal exposure for the library and its governing authorities," the organization warns.

Therefore, "the American Library Association affirms that the use of filtering software by libraries to block access to constitutionally protected speech violates the Library Bill of Rights."

Layden nevertheless excoriated the organization for its stubborn stance, and for encouraging continual efforts to obstruct prudish ambitions by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She noted that on its Web site, the ALA even has the audacity to publish links to step-by-step instructions for teens on how to disable filtering software.

"Libraries have become the new red-light districts," she cried.

Worse, this irresponsible atmosphere of intellectual permissiveness makes it impossible for her to treat her pedo patients effectively, she lamented; but she offered not one shred of factual data establishing a causal relationship between access to library computers and crimes committed in the real world, or any data on the frequency of such outrages.

It was pure prude Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD), but it worked on a Congress terrified to appear soft on pedos whatever the cost in civil liberties might be. The CIPA, as we noted above, made it into law a few months later.

Puritanical alarmists sitting on the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) Commission argued before Congress in mid-2000 that the US government should forcibly defend our tender sprouts from on-line filth by imprisoning the purveyors of electronic obscenity.

"One well-placed prosecution could send a message to the providers of this material that it's not acceptable," COPA Commissioner and former Gary Hart squeeze turned anti-porn crusader Donna Rice Hughes, whose more than half-decent pair of tits may be evaluated here, recommended.

Former 'model' Rice has clearly seen The Light and accepted Jesus Christ as her Personal Savior since her days of soft-core posing and her scandalous overnight liaison with the then married former Colorado Senator, which scuppered his bid for the US presidency in 1987.

She has since cast out the demons by writing a book, Kids Online: Protecting Your Children in Cyberspace, which advocates a "more aggressive enforcement of cyber-crime laws," and urges citizens to "remember [that] public opinion drives public policy and law enforcement!"

And that it does, sadly.

The mainstream press swallows (the bait)

"The Web's Dark Secret" Newsweek Magazine emblazoned on its cover last week, along with a picture of a prepubescent child. "The Web has fed a shocking increase in the sexual exploitation of children," the subhead confidently claimed.

Open the story and you'll be confronted with this unsubstantiated claim: "before the Internet came along, pedophiles were lonely and hunted individuals. Authorities had child pornography under control. Today, networks of child abusers are proliferating worldwide."

The Internet accomplished it all, we're urged to believe. "Child pornography was pretty much eradicated in the 1980's. With the advent of the Internet, it exploded," the magazine quotes US Customs Service Cyber Smuggling Center chief Kevin Delli-Colli as saying.

We're told of an imminent "wide sweep" against pedos (no numbers, naturally) involving customers of a kiddie porn Web site called Blue Orchid, which has, apparently, been infiltrated in some manner by the Feds.

Good on them for nailing a cluster of abusive sickos. But shame on them for exploiting mainstream journos who lack the technical background to evaluate their claims, thereby using them as a mouthpiece to spread their propaganda.

The fact is, all that can be proven thus far is that the Internet has led to a greater awareness of pedophilia and child porn, as the diseased bastards who trade in this filth avail themselves of its many obvious conveniences.

Surely common sense argues that pedophilia was merely harder to track and assess before the Internet, because doing so relied on inefficient, difficult methods of investigation involving old-fashioned, tiring gumshoe detective work, for which only a limited number of people are actually qualified. Today, any fool can fire up a search engine, and with a modicum of cleverness in forming his queries, come up with heaps of pedophilia.

The Internet clearly makes it easier to find this garbage. But as for whether more of it is actually in circulation, and whether, consequently, more children are being raped and abused, there simply is no reliable data.

But there is rhetoric, and plenty of it, urging us to make a leap of faith that easier access to evidence of pedophilia equates with increased incidence of pedo activity. And the purpose behind this rhetoric, clearly, is to justify both more convenient access by law enforcement to Net surveillance, and censorship of anything the family-values lobby should deem inappropriate.

The battle, however complex and nuanced in its details, can ultimately be reduced to a single, fairly simple observation: a large number of influential people fervently desire to impose 'values' on the Internet and its users. On the other side are those who see it as essentially a research tool, a mechanism for adult communication and not a playground for children, best maintained permanently as value-neutral space.

We remain persuaded that what can be lost through an onerous law-enforcement presence and mandatory censorship outweighs any advantages to society in the name of exploited children who we doubt can trace their heartbreaking misfortunes solely to the Net.

With this in mind the pedo lobby itself has gone to pains to portray itself as more the victim of a witch hunt than an actual threat, and we will therefore examine the Internet's role in pedo advocacy in our next segment. ®

Related story

Part One: Interview with a Net pedophile