Resolution Urges 'Vigorous Enforcement' of Obscenity Laws

By Lawrence Morahan | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

( - A rash of porn spam hitting American home computers in recent months is prompting calls for tougher enforcement of obscenity laws, which family groups say have gone virtually unheeded since the first George Bush was president.

Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions and Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith are about to introduce a resolution urging the Justice Department and all 93 U.S. attorneys around the country to be more aggressive in prosecuting pornography violators.

Family groups are hoping the resolution will embolden Attorney General John Ashcroft to take tough action against Internet pornographers, knowing that Congress and the public are behind prosecutors.

Patrick Trueman, a sponsor of the resolution, said the successful prosecutions of Enron and other business executives on fraud charges has demonstrated that the Justice Department has the resources to prosecute a wide variety of criminal behavior despite the stresses of the war on terrorism.

"This is an issue they haven't handled well," said Trueman, who served as chief of the Child Exploitation Section of the Justice Department's Criminal Division under presidents Reagan and Bush.

"They haven't made it a priority, and therefore, there have been less than a handful of prosecutions and no prosecutions to date of major pornographers who are violating the law," he said.

Although President Bush promised to crackdown on obscenity, "we still haven't seen it to date," he said.

"So the resolution is a statement by Congress, which represents the people, saying that even though these laws haven't been vigorously enforced in a decade, we stand behind those laws," he added.

Concerned Women for America (CWA), a public policy group that supports the resolution, said U.S. attorneys across the country have ignored more than 22,000 complaints of obscenity forwarded to them for investigation since June of this past year.

The complaints, which were recorded on the website "," are reviewed by experts in pornography law and then forwarded to the Department of Justice and the particular U.S. attorney for the district from which the complaint originated, reported Jan LaRue, chief counsel for CWA.

"So we're urging citizens across this country who are sick and tired of getting hard core pornography in their e-mail and having it in their face when they go on the Internet to write a letter to their U.S. attorney and ask, 'What are you doing about obscenity enforcement?'"

Calls to the Justice Department for comment were not returned.

Eight out of 10 Americans believe federal laws against Internet obscenity should be vigorously enforced, according to an opinion poll conducted this past year by the Wirthlin Worldwide research company.

Moreover, 70 percent of respondents said they did not believe these laws are being vigorously enforced, said the study, which was conducted on behalf of Morality in Media, a New York-based group that tracks obscenity in the media.

Ashcroft, speaking at a federal prosecutors' symposium on obscenity prosecution this past June, called the Internet "perhaps the most pernicious medium for obscenity."

While the Internet provides children with a wealth of educational resources, it also serves as a conduit for child exploitation and obscenity that recognizes no jurisdictional lines, he said.

An estimated nine out of 10 children between 8 and 16 years of age have been exposed to obscene material on the Internet, Ashcroft said.

In addition to harming children directly, obscenity has tremendous consequences for the broader society, he said.

For example, evidence shows a correlation between exposure to sexually violent materials and an increase in aggressive behavior directed towards women.

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