- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 2, 2002

Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday said he will support an anti-child-pornography bill pending in the House that would circumvent a Supreme Court decision striking down a similar law banning computer simulations of children having sex.
The "Child Obscenity and Pornography Prevention Act of 2002," introduced in the House late Tuesday, would outlaw trafficking in child pornography, expand the definition of child pornography to include computer imaging, and prevent defendants from blocking prosecutions by claiming the material was an electronic creation.
"In this thriving market for child pornography, the Supreme Court's legalization of computer-generated child pornography has created a dangerous window of opportunity for child abusers to escape prosecution," Mr. Ashcroft said during a Justice Department press conference.
"The legislation we introduced today is carefully crafted to address the Supreme Court's concerns, while strengthening our ability to eliminate child pornography," he said.
The bill was introduced yesterday in the House by Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican.
On April 16, the Supreme Court struck down a 6-year-old law prohibiting the distribution and possession of child pornography that appeared to but did not depict lewd actions by real children. The court, in a 6-3 ruling, said the law violated the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech.
The decision, met with criticism on Capitol Hill and at the Justice Department, represented a major setback for lawmakers and prosecutors who sought to use the law to bring cases against child-pornography suspects.
Voting with the majority were Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and Clarence Thomas. Those who opposed the ruling were Justices Sandra Day O'Connor, Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.
"Congress's clear intent was to ban any depiction or image of children in sexual situations," said House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Texas Republican, who attended the press conference.
Mr. Delay predicted the House would approve a bill "very quickly" and said he hoped the Senate "will pass it just as quickly."
"I hope this legislation meets the standard set by the Supreme Court," said Rep. Mark Foley, Florida Republican, "Pedophiles do not have a First Amendment right to gawk over exploited children, real or virtual."
Mr. Foley, who also attended the press conference, said the April 16 Supreme Court ruling forced the Congress to take action to prevent further abuse of children.
"The high court, in siding with pedophiles over children, forced us into action. Today, united, we begin reversing the damage," he said. "This legislation is a pedophile's worst nightmare. It virtually guarantees we're helping protect America's children."
In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the existing law was overly broad and could have been used to ban modern versions of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" and award-winning movies such as "Traffic" and "American Beauty."
The pending legislation, Mr. Ashcroft said, also would create an FBI database of pornographic images of real children, making it easier to prosecute those who have the pictures.

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