“For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:7 NLT
“For my part, I think it less evil that some criminals should escape than that the government should play an ignoble part.” – Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Olmstead vs. The United States (1928)
Attorney General Eric Holder said recently that a 471-page report by Inspector General Michael Horowitz made it clear that he took immediate action to stop the tactics used in the seriously flawed “Fast and Furious” gun-walking operation once he learned about them. In fact, according to the September 20, 2012 Wall Street Journal, Holder denounced those who were “so quick to make baseless accusations that turned out to be without foundation and that have caused a great deal of unnecessary harm and confusion.”
The “unnecessary harm and confusion” that may have been caused is nothing compared to the totally unnecessary harm and confusion those 2,000 illegal weapons Holder’s employees negligently allowed to fall into the hands of dangerous criminals will cause to untold individuals and their families.
When will this nation learn that anytime those who are charged with upholding the law place themselves above the law and employ tactics that border on criminal acts to catch individuals in criminal activity that they created, the public winds up paying an exorbitant price? No matter what lofty goals were envisioned; no matter what eloquent explanations are given, placing 2,000 “mostly variants of AK-47 rifles” into the hands of men predisposed to use them is an act that I feel confident saying Justice Holmes would classify as “ignoble.” And that would be if he were being beneficent.
For any agent of the United States government to promote illegal activity to combat it goes far beyond being “ignoble” and approaches an act that teeters on the edge of criminality.
The congressional probe of Operation Fast and Furious was led by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Rep. Darrell Issa of California. Both expressed “outrage and indignation” over the incident and called on Mr. Holder to “hold people accountable.”
Jason Weinstein, a top aide to Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, resigned from the Justice Department on September 18. Kenneth Melson, former ATF Acting Director, retired from the Justice Department on September 19. The ATF, according to the Journal, said it would “use the report to pursue disciplinary investigations which could result in firings or other administrative sanctions.”
Perhaps Senator Grassley and Representative Issa can now be persuaded to “express outrage and indignation” regarding an even more “seriously flawed” operation being conducted by the Justice Department. I refer to the ongoing efforts to ensnare those who would look at child pornography. I say “seriously flawed” because the current approach to solving the problem of the spread of child pornography, can never achieve results other than negative ones that cause ‘unnecessary harm and confusion.” These results include the totally unnecessary incarceration of tens of thousands of individuals; the effective destruction of their families; and – most important of all – the inadvertent aiding in the distribution of child pornography not only to adults but to children as young as 11 years old. Eleven years old is the average age at which children are exposed to Internet pornography and, sad to say, if one can find pornography, one can find child pornography.
At the Reform Sex Offender Laws (RSOL) National Conference in early September in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Senator Cisco McSorley of that state said, “I am sick and tired of politicians who won’t take a stand on controversial issues.”
Perhaps Senator McSorley can get together with Senator Grassley and Representative Issa and stand up to do the right thing, which is to demand that the Justice Department and Internet Service Providers move immediately to end the “unnecessary harm and confusion” that this preventable pandemic causes in America each and every day. The victims suffer; the families of victims suffer; the families of those incarcerated for viewing these images suffer; those arrested suffer and society itself suffers immeasurably.
Given the fact that much of what transpires today is preventable, I am not sure that “harm and confusion” even begins to come close to describing the avoidable carnage wrought by another “pattern of serious failures” in this tragic chapter in American history. More jail time is not the answer.
More people in jail is not the answer. The answer is to eliminate the images; to stop them from entering this nation’s homes in the first place; to use available technology to prevent, not promote illegal activity.
Justice Holmes also heard another case in which he made a comment I find particularly relevant. The case was Schenck vs. the United States (1919) and it was a famous one that concerned an individual’s right to free speech. Justice Holmes said that the Constitutional right of free speech did not give an individual the right to stand up in a crowded theater and shout “fire”, creating a panic.
Any time discussions are entered into concerning the blocking of anything on the Internet, the subject of free speech emerges. Let us consider the words of Justice Holmes in “Schenck”: The question in every case is whether the ”words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has the right to prevent.”
In this case, child pornography constitutes “the words.” The “clear and present danger” to this nation by child pornography can hardly be disputed. The “substantive evil” that child pornography brings into this country’s homes is not only the right of Congress to prevent, it is Congress’ duty.
Let us hope that Mr. Grassley, Mr. Issa, Mr. McSorley or any of the other men and women elected to serve the people of this country stand up and address this problem in the right way.
They have the power to lock the door on child pornography. And they must.