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Tough Talk from Ashcroft

Vanessa Fung
When George W. Bush became President of the United States, he promised a Justice Department that would be "guided by principle, not politics."

And so followed the nomination of Attorney General John Ashcroft, a 58-year old former governor and attorney general of the state of Missouri. Conservative groups all across the country rally in support of their new leader, convicted that he will breathe new life to a department that has turned a blind eye towards internet pornography for the past eight years. "We've had eight years of desert as far as our position is concerned," said Bill Kelly, an obscenity prosecutor, to Internet news site CNSNews.com.

Ashcroft has lobbied hard in the recent past for more aggressive federal action on the obscenity front. As a hard core conservative, he was a strong supporter of the Communications Decency Act, a law that was found unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds. Justice Stevens wrote, "The general terms 'indecent' and 'patently offensive' cover large amounts of non-pornographic material with serious educational or other value."

For the $1.5 billion dollar porn industry, Ashcroft's platform appears to have rumblings of vigilante justice. Adult entertainment executives now fear a wave of criminal lawsuits against sexually explicit, pornographic websites snowballing into mass prosecutions later in the year.

Historically speaking, however, the ideology of the Attorney General has not had much of an impact on prosecutions. In fact, in Ashcroft's first appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, he never specifically mentioned Internet pornography, choosing to focus instead on gun violence, drug crime and violence against women. Although he pledged his support to local legislators to help curb obscenity on-line, his blueprint remains to be seen.

So far now, conservatives can put down their white flags and wipe the smiles off their faces. The war that exists between censorship and pornography has been won only in their minds.

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