This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
By Peter Levenda
Most of us can agree on what constitutes pornography. As Al Goldstein famously remarked, “erotica is what turns me on, pornography is what turns you on. !he social definition of what constitutes pornography is similar to the definition of a faith" my religion is the true faith, yours is a false faith designed to lead poor souls straight to #ell. !he e$plosion of the %nternet over the past &' years has created a pro(lem for governments and for censorship. !he free flow of information" some of it good, some of it (ad, some of it frankly incredi(le, has given rise to an alternate news source. Persons wanting more in)depth news coverage of any given topic are introduced to thousands of we(sites where arguments, discussions, documents, and other additional media and messages can (e viewed, downloaded, and distri(uted. !his site is one of them. !he control of the media prior to the %nternet was easy" it had to do with money. Printing was e$pensive. !elevision and radio (roadcast was prohi(itively e$pensive. !hat meant that the wealthy individuals, corporations, governments, could control the flow of information. Alternative newspapers and underground presses en*oyed only a limited field of distri(ution. %n addition, the information in that medium was marginali+ed, considered “suspect (ecause it did not have the imprimatur of the mainstream press. !he %nternet made the distri(ution of information cheap and afforda(le" (oth to send and to receive. Anyone with a computer and a phone line can access hundreds of millions of we(pages worldwide. ,ne can even access this information from a li(rary or from a cy(er caf-, so that one does not even need to own a computer or a phone.!his has created a headache for our government as well as every other. .ith the %nternet, one finds it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. .ho knows how good the data is on any given we(site/ .ho knows if the commentator commands his su(*ect matter or is *ust “making stuff up/ %t takes a discerning eye and no little e$perience to wade through the morass of information availa(le on the 0et and pick up the nuggets of real data that threaten our consensus reality. And that1s the point. %nstead of alternative views of history and politics (eing marginali+ed (y mainstream views, every point of view is in danger of (eing marginali+ed. !he reporting of suspicious events surrounding the 2eptem(er 33 attacks provide one e$ample of how our focus has changed. !he %nternet “chatter on the su(*ect of the 4arl 5ove leak of 6alerie Plame1s name to the press is another. !he government cannot really censor the %nternet, as much as it would like to. !he accusations of 7irst Amendment violations would fly fast and furiously, uniting everyone from the e$treme right to the e$treme left. %n 8hina, filters are in place to censor the 0et. 8ountries like 2ingapore and Malaysia are following suit. !hat1s technology, however, and hackers know how to get around clumsy (ureaucratic safeguards like that. !he real danger to our 7irst Amendment safety net, though, is pornography. As pornography, especially child pornography, has e$ploded unchecked on the 0et, our government has (een loathe to crack down on this multi)(illion dollar industry. ,ne reason, of course, is the
money. .e were all treated the other day to the spectacle of a pornography star attending a 5epu(lican Party fundraiser. But there is another, more ominous, reason for the government1s inaction on this issue, and it is of a piece with the war on terror. !he attacks of 2eptem(er 33 gave the administration a reason for going to war9 *ust as importantly, it gave the administration a reason for creating the #omeland 2ecurity :epartment and the Patriot Act. 2eptem(er 33, in my view, was a 5eichstag fire. 8hild pornography will (e the second 5eichstag fire, giving the administration the popular support it needs to (egin censoring the %nternet. !his will (e due to two, parallel, tracks" %n the first place, no one in their right mind would o(*ect to removing child pornography from the %nternet ;as long as we can all agree what child pornography is<. %n the second place, international terrorist and “alternative intelligence groups have (een using pornographic images for years to encode information. !hose of you who have seen the Morgan 7reeman film, Along Came A Spider ;&''3<, will (e familiar with the concept. A digital image, whether of a cat or a dog, or of Paris #ilton having se$, is nothing more than a collection of 31s and '1s. %t1s data. !he analog image has (een digiti+ed so that it can (e stored on a computer or relayed over the telephone or (road(and ca(le wires. %t is therefore possi(le to insert other data into this image in such a way that the original does not display any tampering (ut a receiver, with the right software, can decode the digiti+ed image and retrieve the em(edded data. !his is commonly done with hard)core pornographic images for a good reason" these images are usually only accessi(le (y someone who possesses a password to the site that stores the image. !his is the first level of secure access. !he second level is the digiti+ed image itself, which must (e decoded on the receiver1s end. 8onsidering the vast amount of adult we(sites,some &=' million pages representing more than 3 million pornographic we(sites,the task of searching through all of them and sifting the enormous amount of data ;even with programs such as >chelon and other 02A devices in place< is daunting. Another reason for using pornography is that security investigators will normally search for data “in the open on a sei+ed hard)drive" document files ;whether encrypted or not<, maps, charts, etc. Pornographic images will appear to (e stored for the user1s amusement rather than as an intelligence tool, thus (uying valua(le time, and the decryption tools necessary for revealing the em(edded code are different from standard decryption devices. 8hat rooms on adult we(sites are another means of secure communication. .ould an underground cell “chat on an Al)?aeda we(site, which is su(*ect to the scrutiny of the world1s intelligence agencies/ Pro(a(ly not. But a secure adult site, accessi(le with a credit card ;however illegally o(tained or phonied)up<, where the chatters use a series of code)words that are se$ual in nature, is virtually impervious to “eavesdropping . !he administration, under the guise of hunting down pedophiles, could install filtering software on the 0et which would ostensi(ly (e used to track violations of child pornography laws (ut which could (e e$panded ;@uietly< to include other activity. 7ew persons in our 8ongress or anywhere else raised their voices in alarm over the creation and passage of the Patriot Act. .hy would anyone want to stand in the way of our government enacting a law that would help them protect us against terrorists and other (ad guys/ !he fact that the Act could (e used against us seemed like a faraway threat, something that could (e remedied later. !hen there was the case of the romance novelist whose home was raided (efore dawn (y si$ federal agents one day last year.
As mentioned in the 0ovem(er &''A issue of Romance Writers Report and synopsi+ed in the Authors Guild Bulletin ;.inter &''B edition<, the anonymous novelist had accessed a we(site during research for an adventure novel that was to (e (ased in a 8am(odian locale. !he offending site concerned Al) ?aeda and atrocities said to have (een committed (y them in 8am(odia. !here is the possi(ility that the we(site was government)created in order to snag unwary terrorists, (ut no one knows for sure. All we do know is that the unfortunate woman1s computer, discs, photocopier, hardcopy files, (ooks, even music 8:s, pens, paper and stamps were all confiscated (y the 7eds. Months later, her computer was returned, with spy software em(edded (y the 7eds and 8arnivore monitoring her email, and some ruined discs. 0othing else. And no charges were ever filed. A romance novelist. 2he admits the possi(ility that (ooks she checked out of her local li(rary might have (een flagged (y #omeland 2ecurity. 2he *ust doesn1t know for certain how she ran afoul of the government9 (ut the fact remains that her home was raided in the wee hours of the morning and her entire livelihood stolen from her during the course of three horrific hours in the name of national security. %s this a taste of things to come/
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?