On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that the FBI was seeking agents to constitute a new "anti-obscenity" squad. "The new squad will divert eight agents, a supervisor and assorted support staff to gather evidence against 'manufacturers and purveyors' of pornography -- not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults," the Post stated. The FBI announced to prospective recruits that the mission was "one of the top priorities" of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, as well as FBI Director Robert Mueller.
The "objective" reporter for the Washington Post, Barton Gellman, promptly sought out FBI agents to critique the new program. "I guess this means we've won the war on terror," said one FBI agent. "We must not need any more resources for espionage." "Honestly, most of the guys would have to recuse themselves," guffawed another. "It's a running joke among us," chuckled a national security analyst.
The jocularity of these agents is rather disturbing. Back in 1986, Attorney General Edwin Meese III declared that "it is still the case that the production of pornographic materials is a practice and a business that remains substantially 'underground.'" Today, FBI agents joke about even bothering to police production and distribution of pornography.
Of course, it is pure malarkey for FBI agents to complain that policing porn takes valuable resources from the war on terrorism. In the FBI context, every agent who polices public corruption or civil rights violation is an agent not working on terrorism. In a broader governmental context, the same could be said of welfare, health care and federal aid to the Katrina victims, to take some random examples. Every dollar spent by the federal government on causes other than terrorism takes a dollar away from fighting terrorism. Before we discuss cutting police power with regard to pornography, perhaps we should re-evaluate dedicating millions of federal dollars to building new bridges named after Robert Byrd.
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