Porn Wars

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While reticent to discuss juvenile crime and its prevention, Flores is effusive when it comes to discussing pornography, which he refers to as "illegal speech." There is, of course, no advocacy group favoring child pornography or juvenile prostitution. Nor are there any reputable public figures seeking to legalize sex with children or fighting to end the prosecution of age-appropriate offenders. So it would seem there is little room for debate, particularly partisan debate on the matter. Anti-child porn bills sail through one Congress after another at a rate of about one every two years. Who wants to risk being labeled soft on child porn or juvenile prostitution?

The most recent statute signed into law is the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), signed in 1998 by President Bill Clinton. Flores was appointed to COPA's 19-member commission by House Speaker Denny Hastert (R-Ill.). COPA limits material "harmful to minors" and requires pornographers to take credit card numbers or have an access code in order to restrict porn websites to adults. COPA was enacted after a unanimous Supreme Court found its predecessor unconstitutional on free speech grounds. In late May the Court agreed to hear a challenge to COPA in a case, Ashcroft v. ACLU, that will be heard in the court's next term, beginning in October.

Congressional Democrats prefer to address child abuse and neglect, including sex abuse and its prevention, through law enforcement and social service provisions. Congressional Republicans swoon over the topic once a scandalous and salacious dose of sex, plus a few sensational but unverifiable statistics guaranteed to draw considerable media attention, are added to the mix. During the Janet Reno years at the Justice Department the emphasis was on "perps" using the Internet to meet kids in chat rooms; enforcement by the U.S. Customs Service, FBI and other law enforcement agencies; and expanded services aimed at all types of child abuse and neglect. The results: a 31 percent decline in reported cases of substantiated child sexual abuse from 1992-98. Incarcerations for sexual assault against juveniles rose by 39 percent from 1991 to more than 60,000 in 1997.

A Newsweek cover story on "How the Web Has Fed a Shocking Increase in the Sexual Exploitation of Children" appeared in mid-March, just two months after Clinton and Reno surrendered their police powers. Newsweek found "arrests for possessing and distributing child pornography have been climbing steadily, in part because federal agencies are putting more resources in this area. In fiscal year 1992, U.S. Customs recorded 57 arrests for possession of child pornography transported across borders, 48 indictments and 69 convictions. By 2000, those numbers had grown to 320 arrests, 299 indictments and 324 convictions."

Children of the Night President Lois Lee writes in the group's 1999 annual report, "It was in 1999 that we finally saw the results of our push to get the federal government involved in the prosecution of vicious pimps who kidnapped teenagers and moved them across state lines forcing them to prostitute. ... This new involvement of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office has been a powerful boost to the cause of helping child prostitutes and prosecuting the pimps who exploit them." Says Lt. Toby Tyler, a 34-year veteran of the San Bernadino Sheriff's Department and one of the nation's top child porn investigators, on or off the Internet: "There is a high level of co-operation [on child porn and sex crimes] from federal agencies, especially the FBI," that has steadily increased over the years. Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, largely funded through OJJDP, says. "There has been a greater federal interest [in anti-child-porn enforcement] in the last five or six years." He cites as one example the FBI's $20 million annual spending on its Innocent Images unit, set up early in Reno's tenure as attorney general.

That's all news to Flores and the NLCCF. At a May 2000 hearing before the House Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Trade and Consumer Protection, Flores testified: "A comprehensive and coherent strategy which addresses each of the major aspects of the obscenity and sex business is necessary. Whoever is blessed with the opportunity to lead [the next administration] will bear the responsibility of choosing a path down which we will all walk. It is hard to imagine leadership on this issue being worse than it is today, when the pornography trade association is able to ask the question in its March 2000 trade publication, 'How likely is it, would you say, that we are going to enjoy the same benevolent neglect that the industry has enjoyed under Janet Reno?'"

Flores is master of the invited inference, especially when it comes to his never-married former boss at the Justice Department. In the November/December issue of Family Voices (www.family-voices.org), a periodical published by the Concerned Women for America, Flores writes, "In 1993, the United States began a staggering decline in obscenity prosecutions." After complaining of Reno's unwillingness to meet with the NLCCF and like-minded groups after Flores left her employ, Flores goes on to write in Family Voices,  "In 1996, the [porn] industry endorsed President Clinton for a second term."  He then quotes a porn industry trade publication article as ending with  "Vote for him [Clinton]." Helpfully counseling the Concerned Women for America just in time for last November's national election, Flores offered, "In fact, the Gore/Lieberman campaign also secured the porn industry's endorsement in September."

What really changed, say experts, most of whom either work for or receive grants from the Justice Department, was not the arrival of Clinton and Reno but the widespread use of the Internet beginning in 1993. Lt. Tyler believes he was one of the first in law enforcement to grasp the full potential of the Internet as a tool for what he calls "extremely high-risk people." Boise, Idaho, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Peters, who wrote a Justice Department manual entitled "Prosecuting Child Exploitation Cases," concurs that it was the march of technology and the arrival of the Internet that led to a resurgence of child porn and of adults scouting for child sex victims. Asked for specific cases of child pornography that Reno failed to prosecute, Flores, who worked for Reno for six of the eight years she was AG, says only, "I'm sure there were cases."

In the same Family Voices article, Flores wrote, "Studies show that soft porn leads to hard porn, including illegal obscenity. And pornography use leads to child abuse. According to a 1983 report to the Department of Justice, 87 percent of those who molest girls and 77 percent of those who molest boys admitted to regular use of hard porn," neatly illustrating the fallacy of asserting correlation without demonstrating causation.