- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 17, 2000

There's a monster lurking in our homes and schools and the administration refuses to protect citizens from it. In fact, we're now learning that the Clinton-Gore administration is actually catering to this monster illegal pornography.Two separate studies released this summer revealed that while young children feed the growth of the Internet, they also encounter pornography and unwanted sexual advances. In addition, adolescent males ages 12-17 are among the largest consumer groups of obscenity, according to separate national commissions impaneled to study the effects of illegal pornography. So what's the response of the Clinton-Gore administration? This spring, a Justice Department official told the House Telecom Subcommittee that the administration long ago stopped prosecuting obscenity cases. A week later the administration dispatched a delegation to the U.N. Women's Conference with orders to soften criticism of the pornography industry. That same month, Playboy magazine featured a photo of Bill Clinton, arm in arm with Hugh Hefner at a Democratic fund-raiser.

Meanwhile, Al Gore protg and Democratic National Committee co-chairwoman Loretta Sanchez reluctantly agreed to drop the Playboy mansion as the site of a planned convention-week fund-raiser. This, hours after the White House admitted to "a recent uptick in incidents" of employees using White House computers to download pornography over the Internet. The record speaks for itself: The Clinton-Gore administration has become the apologist for an industry whose victims are women and children.

In 1957, the U.S. Supreme Court held that illegal pornography, or obscenity, should remain illegal. In Roth vs. U.S., the Supreme Court likened obscenity to other types of speech slander, false advertising and child pornography deliberately left unprotected by the Bill of Rights. That decision has withstood the test of time.

But in recent years, the gap between identifying obscenity and prosecuting it has become a canyon. U.S. attorneys now in office, all of whom were appointed by President Clinton, refuse to prosecute obscenity. As Adult Video News, the trade magazine for the porn industry, crowed in March 1998, "It's a great time to be an Adult Retailer." Today's obscenity law violators include the owners and operators of porn web sites, as well as those who control web chat rooms and allow such material to continue unchecked.

In May, I called for a hearing before a House Commerce Subcommittee in which a Justice Department official admitted that his agency places no priority on stopping obscenity. Other witnesses at the hearing testified that children have ready access to obscenity over the Internet at home (and even in public schools and libraries) while the Justice Department looks the other way.

As a result, offenders have become emboldened enlarging their empires to the point of being publicly traded. Unimpeded by law-enforcement, material readily available on the Internet now includes depictions of torture, bestiality, bondage and rape of women and teen-agers material that is unquestionably prosecutable under federal and state obscenity laws, if only our federal authorities exercised their authority to uphold the law.

Failure to prosecute can translate into headaches for local police, who often discover obscenity on the trail of sex offenders. In their arrest of a suspected serial killer who lured his victims over the Internet, Kansas City area police in June confiscated dozens of photographs of women at the suspect's home. This fits an important profile: according to separate studies conducted on convicted sex offenders, more than 85 percent admitted regular use of obscenity, most of these offenders admitted they imitated pornographic scenes in the commission of sex crimes.

Today, this national scourge has begun to find its way across our phone and cable lines into our homes, libraries and even public schools. "Exposure often begins at age thirteen," observes psychologist and author Archibald Hart. Obscenity will continue to spread like a cancer, creating new addicts, extending its reach to every corner of our culture, provided the Justice Department continues with its current policy and does absolutely nothing.

Before adjourning for the summer, the House approved a bill that I introduced to get the Justice Department back on track in the war to protect our families from obscenity.

It's time to draw a line in the sand. Our families cannot afford to throw away their future over the failure of one administration. We have the laws. Now let's enforce them.

Rep. Steve Largent is an Oklahoma Republican.

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