Thursday, July 10, 2003

Ridge Goes After Porn

Tom Ridge, Director of the Department of Homeland Security, has announced that he will use "all means possible" to prosecute pornographers, especially child porn vendors. Now, I have no love for those who pursue child pornography. But I hope that I won't be alone with this "I told you so." We establish this new uber-agency to go after terrorists, give them new powers and a new budget, almost unlimited resources, and they target Pornography?

I don't dispute that ensuring that those aliens who finish their sentences are actually deported is a valuable law enforcement function for the immigration authorities, but every other process that Ridge announced for this new initiative is already covered by an existing program. Their new database of pornography, which they are building with an eye to "rescuing the children" is already an initiative of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the FBI has been involved in the crusade against pornigraphers for decades, with such great prosecutions as those against Hugh Hefner, Larry Flynt, and Harry Reems already to their credit. It seems to me that the reason that the FBI was kept out of the Department of Homeland Security in the first place was so that the Department could keep its focus. It didn't take them long to revert to type.

I watched a fair amount of the debate in Congress over the formation of the Department, and read quite a lot. Ensuring their focus was a paramount concern for many, before they were granted these new powers. But it is the nature of bureaucracies to expand their area of operations and increase their budgets. And I can hardly fault Ridge for picking kiddie porn as his first target... it is simply a brilliant choice. Who, after all, is not against Kiddie porn? As with violence against women and drunk driving, bureaucrats always pick issues where there is no opposition when they seek to maneuver an end-around the Congress or the Constitution. Do not be fooled. Just as with the Violence Against Women Act and drunk driving checkpoints, you don't need to be in favor of the criminals to see the creation of a bad law or precedent-setting court decision. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking usually puts you in the minority.

On this one, we shall see soon enough whether there is an outcry or not, since this news just broke. We shall see.