CWD -- A Pair With No Yucks
Date: Thu, 8 Jun 95 11:24:43 PDT
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: CWD -- A Pair With No Yucks
[This Congress certainly is making some strange bedfellows, largely by bringing
out the dark side of former heroes... -psl]
From: "Brock N. Meeks" <email@example.com>
CyberWire Dispatch // Copyright (c) 1995 //
Jacking in from the "To Hell In A Handbasket" Port:
Capitol Hill -- This is the beginning of the end.
Tonight, June 7, the Senate passed its Anti-terrorism bill by a stunning
vote of 91-8. The bill contains a broadening of the wiretap entitlements
for law enforcement -- the so-called "Roving Wiretaps." This allows any law
enforcement agency, including your local sheriff, to institute a wiretap of
an entire area, in order to catch the mobile bad guys.
As nefarious as that provision of the bill is, it harbors a much darker
side: The Feinstein amendment that flies in the face of the First Amendment
and places a legal prohibition on the distribution of "information relating
to explosive materials for a criminal purpose" on the Internet or local
bulletin board systems or through mail order, for that matter.
This amendment, tossed into the terrorism mix by unanimous consent, will
put you in jail for 20 years and make you pony up a quarter of a million
dollars if "by any means" you place information on bomb making in an
"So, why should I give a shit? I'm not putting bombing making information
on the Net!" you say. Well, think again.
What Sen. Dianne Feinstein's amendment does is open a chilling precedent
for regulating content on the Internet. It is the break in the dyke; the
trickle that could become a river of regulatory hammers meant to turn the
rough and tumble, open and free-flowing online discourse into something
with all the appeal and intellectual acumen of Tofu. The cyberspace equal
of the domino effect.
Feinstein waged a verbal defense of her assault on the First Amendment
while introducing her amendment. "Now, I have heard people say, oh, but
the Encyclopedia Britannica has eight pages on explosives.... Well, I have
read the eight pages and it does not say how to make a toilet paper roll
booby trap. What legitimate purpose is there for a toilet paper roll booby
trap other than to kill somebody? You do not blast out a the stump of a
tree. You do not need it for mining."
Those last two references were a glancing blow at the arguments that even
the U.S. government distributes bomb making material. Such "mayhem
manuals" are available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forestry
Service that publishes, at tax payer expense, something called the
"Blaster's Handbook." Feinstein, apparently, couldn't care less about
this material. What?! Why shouldn't she? After all, this handbook
contains a recipe for an Ammonium Nitrate/fuel oil bomb, like that cold be
used to... oh, say, BLOW UP a federal building in Oklahoma City.
I guess somebody forgot to tell her that these legal recipes killed some
160 people in Oklahoma City. Must have slipped her mind. It's easy to
understand, she was too focused on attacking free speech.
"I do not think our first amendment, or the framers of the Constitution,
want to protect the freedom of speech for criminal purposes," she said on
the floor of the Senate. "Clearly these [toilet paper and the like] bombs
are there for one reason and one reason only and that is a criminal
The amendment doesn't degrade the first amendment, Feinstien argued,
because it is "specifically aimed at preventing... distribution of material
that will be used to commit serious crimes external to the distribution
itself." And just how does she expect to discern that?
She even shunted aside a current law that says essentially the same thing
that her amendment says. She says her law is needed anyway, current
statutes be damned.
Because computers are involved; because technology allows bomb making
material to be distributed "in a matter of seconds, I believe that some
restrictions on speech are appropriate," she said. Well, then, why not
ban fax machine transmissions while you're at it, Senator?? Her staff had
Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), one of the Senate's staunchest first amendment
defenders, rose to battle Feinstein in the beginning. He acknowledged that
the intent of the encyclopedia publisher wasn't the same as those putting
the Terrorist Handbook online. "But for the purpose of Lady Justice,
blindfolded, weighing her scales, it is hard to tell the difference
sometimes, other than looking at the person or the organization that is
publishing the material to determine their intent. And we do not want the
courts getting into that kind of business," Biden said.
Biden later caved when Feinstein agreed to make a technical change in her
bill and passed off on the amendment.
And so what if you don't like how the good Senator has trashed the First
Amendment. "Fuck you," is basically her attitude. "I know, though, that
the true test of of the amendment's constitutionality will be if and when
it comes before the courts," she said, thumbing her nose at you. "I
welcome that opportunity."
Well, of course she does. The protracted legal fees won't come out of her
pocket; they will come out of yours and mine, as the Justice Department is
forced to defend her brain dead provision.
And the question Feinstein never, ever addressed: How in hell does she
ever hope to stop the flow of such information from OFF-SHORE Internet
sites? Answer: She can't.
Which begs the question: What the hell did she accomplish in the end?
[Another CWD posting follows. I don't believe I've ever seen Brock Meeks this
worked up before. Perhaps with good reason... -psl]
CyberWire Dispatch // Copyright (c) 1995 //
Jacking in from the "Enough is Fucking Enough" Port:
Capitol Hill -- Presidential candidate Bob Dole, today (June 7) took his
attack on Hollywood smut and escalated it by attacking Cyberspace.
During a press event sponsored by the anti-porn group "Enough is Enough,"
Dole announced the introduction of a bill he has co-sponsored with Sen.
Chuck Grassley (R-Ia) called the "Protection of Children From Computer
Pornography Act of 1995." The bill makes it a criminal act to say dirty
words or send "indecent material" to kids by radio communications, from
"remote computer facility, electronic service or electronic bulletin board
The bill is aimed at stemming the "proliferation of computer pornography,"
Dole said. He played to a crowd of freshly scrubbed, mostly white women.
Dole played off his recent bashing of Hollywood, saying that the bill isn't
the result of a long, thoughtful process (no duh), rather "the beginning"
of what promises to be a protracted battle. But Dole seemed to revel in
the fact that he's firing the first salvos. "I'd be flatly opposed to
censorship," he said, "but challenging the industry" to be more responsible
is apt, he said. "There is a bottom line for greed."
Dole aimed to short-circuit the critics that would say he was
grandstanding, making the issue into a political play. "This is not
politics... it's to protect the innocence of children," he said.
The bill won't be attached to the sweeping telecommunications reform
package, now being debated in the Senate. Instead, the Senate will likely
hold hearings, he said. Umm... all the better to raise the issue beyond
the warp and woof of a laborious debate process. But remember, this isn't
The room was so thick with irony, it was hard to concentrate on the opening
pledge of allegiance (I remembered all the words...) and the opening prayer
(okay, so I didn't close my eyes). My esteemed former colleague and mentor
of no small means, Art Brodsky of _Communications Daily_, reminded me that
the room the event was being held in also had been the site of the
Watergate hearings. Nixon and pornography... it was a heady juxaposition.
But the irony didn't stop with the cavernous room. One of the featured
speakers' names rang an all-too-familiar bell. You might remember it, too:
Donna Rice Hughes. She is the Communications Director for the group, but
you might remember her sitting the lap of failed presidential candidate
Gary Hart on the deck of a boat called "Monkey Business." Or maybe you
remember those racy ads she did for Guess jeans, where her ass was wrapped
so tight in denim it looked like spray paint. Only on this day, gone were
the jeans. She wore a tartan blazer, black mid-calf skirt, librarian's
glasses and her hair pulled back in an extreme bun. Donna's schtick for
the afternoon: "Computer Pornography."
And still more irony. There was enough cleavage hanging out in that room
to make Jessica Hahn jealous. And enough short skirts, showcasing "from
here to forever" legs to take anyone's mind off the singing of the "Battle
Hymn of the Republic." No, I'm not joking, about the legs or the song.
Only slightly amused, I couldn't help but play out a hunch. I walked about
20 paces from the hearing room and entered the men's bathroom and strolled
into a stall. And there it was: Government maintained, taxpayer funded
homoerotic pornography. The same type of pasted pictures and scribbled
"come ons" for 8-inch pricks (smaller crowd I guess) as I'd spied earlier
this year just down the hall from where the infamous Exon bill was added to
the Senate's telecom reform package.
The Dole/Grassley bill will you put in prison for five years, if you or
your service provider or BBS "knowingly" sends smut to a kid under 18.
Wake up AOL, that means "Go to Jail, Do Not Pass Go." Why? Because those
kats *know* how much porn is passed back and forth on that system.
And for everyone one of you Internet Service Providers that allow links to
Alt.Sex.Binaries.*, you get hammered to. Might as well turn yourselves in.
You know that kind of pictures those groups carry. If you know, you're
guilty. End of discussion.
Of course, the Enough is Enough people wanted to make sure their attendees
would recognize the dangers, too. So they handed out a packet of "sample
smut." It included the Jake Baker story; a 1978 photocopied cover of
Hustler magazine and other stuff.
Grassley also spoke, saying that he wanted to "bring cleanliness to
American society." He said his bill would "fill a gap" in the law.
Moreover, he referenced the case of the California couple found guilty --
in Memphis -- of running an adult BBS. The case is under appeal and if the
couple beats the rap, Grassley said he would make it his mission in life to
make sure Congress "corrected it."
One confusing aspect of the day: Grassley, when asked if he would seek to
attach his bill to the telecom reform package said, "I haven't talked to
Senator Dole about that." What?! Asked if he would hold hearings on the
bill, his answer was again, "I haven't talked to Dole." So, sports fans,
who is really riding this horse? REMEMBER: This isn't politics.
And what would a day bashing the Internet be without a cameo appearance by
Sen. James Exon (D-Neb.) He showed up to say that he would fight to get
keep his amendment in the telecom reform bill, despite "attacks from all
Exon said he had rewritten parts of his bill to "take care of the potential
constitutional problems." I asked him exactly how he did that. His
answer: "We took out the provision that made it a crime for consenting
adults to talk to each other any way they want." Sounds good? Small
problem: The bill doesn't do that.
Reading over the new language, however, I couldn't find where Exon had
changed that. I called his office. "Well, we don't really address that
issue as such," said his congressional aide. And then he said that
"obscene speech is obscene speech and isn't protected.... even between
consenting adults." But because consenting adults, apparently, won't
"tell" on one another, no problem right?
Wrong. What happens if your other consenting adult gets pissed off? What
happens if they have been saving all those steamy messages of yours and
then when you blow them off (so to speak) they trot them out and call the
Feds? Result: You're fucked (so to speak).
Opposing Exon is Leahy, who will offer an amendment to that strikes Exon's
language and replaces it with a study of the problem. "We've had enough
studies," Exon said. "Leahy's bill does nothing but punt the issue. We
don't need that."
Exon said he thought the bill "would be a tough fight." He bristled at the
fact that he has been hammered from "both sides" of the issue. "The ACLU
and the Christian Right have been in bed together," in opposing the bill,
Exon said, "Imagine that."
Well, I would, Senator, but it's probably illegal... in some state.
© 1995 Peter Langston