Tuesday, October 11, 2005
media and society
police state-r-us: now even text is illegal
The FBI and our Department of Injustice have apparently misplaced their copy of the Constitution -- as has much of the rest of this administration.
NOTE: The link in the article below is to a site for adult site webmasters. Only people over the age of 21 should follow that link.
by Connor Young
PITTSBURGH, PA - The FBI raided the home of a controversial erotic stories website owner on Friday, apparently on charges of obscenity. The website, red-rose-stories.com, posted a notice on its home page announcing the raid and warning customers that the FBI now has access to all past customer information. "I am sorry to inform all interested parties that Red Rose Stories is a DEAD site," read a statement posted on the website by operator Rosie. "The FBI has suceeded [sic] in closing me down. I am being charged with 'OBSCENITIES' and face charges for having posted such stories. Our stories are NOT protected speech. Please, please, be careful out there." The stories in question, according to the website’s announcements, include no images or videos, but describe acts of bestiality, urination, scat, BDSM, slavery, threesomes, orgies and sex with children.
According to Rosie’s post, the FBI entered her home while she was away and seized several items before leaving. "The men in black (FBI) took ALL of my computer equipment, and many of my diskettes, and have access to ALL my files and site information," Rosie warned on her site. "They came when I was NOT home and siezed [sic] my belongings, I had no choice, and no recourse."
Rosie’s attorney Larry Walters, of Weston, Garrou, DeWitt and Walters, said that the FBI will have a difficult case if the raid was merely over the content of text stories. "We're still investigating the issues associated with the raid, but at this point it does not appear that any basis exists to justify obscenity charges premised on the written stories and audio files that were the subject of the search warrant," Walters told YNOT. "While obscenity laws are broad enough to potentially cover the written word, a conviction based solely on text, or even audio, would be an extreme uphill battle for the government in the current culture. We are hopeful that once the matter is reviewed at the next level, no further action will be taken in regards to the stories at issue." [...]
Normally, no government official would even think of prosecuting for obscenity based on textual content. Given the articles guaranteeing both Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech, it is entirely constitutional to advocate perfectly illegal or abhorrent actions. That's why, for example, the Klan gets to march in Skokie when they feel like getting some attention; it's entirely legal for them to advocate all sorts of horrific things to be done to people they don't like. Similarly, it's entirely legal to write down or verbalize all sorts of legally abhorrent sexual fantasies, as long as you don't necessarily carry them out. (And many of the fantasies included in the stories in the warrant seem to be entirely legal, as long as done between consenting adults of whatever age and numerical combination.)
What the government is hoping, of course, is that the webmaster will simply surrender quickly. After all, this person isn't some porno bigwig, like Larry Flynt; she's just this woman running this website. They're thinking that she can't afford a long case, so she's likely to cop some sort of plea that allows her to stay out of jail, pay some sort of fine, and go on with her life, and they'll get to point and say, "Hey, look, we're tough on porn!" If she can hang on long enough to get this to trial, a judge who applies the Constitution properly ought to dismiss this charge with prejudice, meaning that refiling charges would be considerably more difficult for the FBI
The only other way this case makes the least sense is if the FBI was misinformed as to the nature of the site. If they thought that they were actually going to find child pornography photographs on the site, then the raid would make sense. Of course, that would also require them to have done no preliminary investigation whatsoever. And, in fact, the materials in the warrant in question are, as mentioned in the above article, text and audio. No visual materials were even noted.
If it weren't for the nominal independence of the Department of Injustice from the White House, I'd wonder if they didn't mean this to be a distraction from some sort of indictments that the administration might be expecting. The press may be full of this blatantly unconstitutional action over the next few days -- although the nature of the stories involved might make them hesitate -- and so the indictment of a minor official or 22 might go somewhat less noticed. (Or it could produce a rather interesting pile-on effect. One can but hope.)
I also suspect that they weren't after the site so much as they were after its subscription records. After all, people who subscribe to this site might subscribe to similar sites where illegal materials are maintained, right? If you've read stories about sex with children, then you'll maybe want to see an image or two, maybe want to watch a video ... If they can get this sort of link from her subscriber records -- or, more technically, from examining her subscriber records, getting a wiretap warrant, and monitoring computer activities from those people -- then they can maybe pull in a few other convictions.. (Unless, of course, a judge dismisses this case with prejudice and orders them to return all records and equipment and purge all information from their files. They won't, of course -- law enforcement is notorious for taking their own sweet time in complying with such orders, and there's no hope that they'll purge the information, although they'll say that they have.)
Posted by iain at 01:29 PM in category media and society