Special FBI squad to combat obscenity: A waste of resources or the right thing?

NCOSE Press Statement logo
By Robert Peters
President of Morality in Media

October 2005

** This article was first published at www.catholicexchange.com

Barton Gellman of the Washington Post (“Recruits Sought for Porn Squad,” 9/20/05) reported recently that the FBI was “recruiting a new anti-obscenity squad” and that a communication was sent to every FBI Field Office describing the initiative as “one of the top priorities” of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Gellman said the new squad will “divert eight agents, a supervisor and assorted support staff to gather evidence against ‘manufacturers and distributors’ of pornography – not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults.”

He quoted an “exasperated FBI agent” who said, “‘I guess this means we’ve won the war on terror,’” and an “experienced security analyst,” who said, “‘It’s a running joke for us.’”

Gelman also observed, “Popular acceptance of hard-core pornography has come along way, with some of its stars becoming mainstream celebrities and their products…being ‘purveyed’ by upscale hotels and most home cable and satellite TV systems.”

The thrust of Gellman’s article is that the new anti-obscenity effort is a waste of resources and that the agents should be assigned to investigate real crimes such as organized crime, sexual exploitation of children, terrorism, and violent crime.

While I don’t have space to respond fully to Gellman, here are six points in defense of the new FBI “porn squad” that I jotted down in preparation for an interview on Bloomberg Radio.

First, effective enforcement of federal obscenity laws will result in fines and forfeitures to offset all or most of the cost of enforcement. For example, last year the lead defendant in a federal criminal case in Houston pled guilty to various charges (including obscenity) and agreed to forfeit property (including 20 “adult bookstores”) valued at almost $10 million.

Second, effective enforcement of obscenity laws will help curb organized crime, which will free FBI agents for other crimes. In March, six men, including reputed Gambino crime family members, pled guilty in Brooklyn to federal criminal charges in a $650 million rip off of porn website and phone sex customers. Defendants will forfeit more than $20 million in assets.

Third, effective enforcement of obscenity laws will help reduce violent sexual crimes, which will free FBI agents for other crimes. On this point see, “The Link Between Pornography & Violent Sex Crimes,” at:http://www.obscenitycrimes.org/news/Porn-Crime-Link-RWP.cfm The “Link” article is also available from Morality in Media in paper format for $4.

Fourth, effective enforcement of obscenity laws will help reduce sex crimes against children, which will free agents for other crimes. Pedophiles use “adult” pornography to arouse and instruct their child victims. There is also growing evidence that “adult” pornography on the Internet is transforming “normal adults” into child sex predators. What begins as an interest in pornography that does not depict children, progresses to an interest in child porn or “pseudo child porn,” and culminates in a desire to have sex with minors. FBI agents spend countless hours on the Internet imitating children in order to catch child sex predators.

Fifth, effective enforcement of obscenity laws will help protect marriage, leading to fewer single parent families and fewer at risk children. At risk children are more likely to get involved in illegal drugs and violent gangs, both of which require FBI attention. On protecting marriage, visit www.obscenitycrimes.org and click to Help for Porn Victims & Addicts page.

Sixth, effective enforcement of obscenity laws will help in the war against terrorism because pornography is one reason why many Muslims fear and hate the U.S. While we will never be “pure enough” to satisfy murderous fanatics, we can improve our national image by curbing distribution of exploitive, debasing, and often violent hardcore pornography.

Rather than wasting valuable government resources, U.S. Attorney General Gonzalez and FBI Director Mueller are doing the right thing. They are also following the lead of Congress, which allocated funds for the specific purpose of hiring FBI agents to fight obscenity.

To report possible violations of federal Internet obscenity laws or to find resources to fight pornography in your community, visit MIM’s www.obscenitycrimes.org website. Author: Robert Peters   09/20/2005

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NCOSE leads the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation with over 300 member organizations.


The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has had over 100 policy victories since 2010. Each victory promotes human dignity above exploitation.


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