Feds Mount War Against “Lawless” Porn Industry

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In an office in Washington, D.C., 32 prosecutors, investigators, and FBI agents are spending millions of dollars investigating anti-obscenity across the country for the first time in 10 years, says the Baltimore Sun. Nothing is off limits, even soft-core cable programs such as HBO’s long-running Real Sex or adult movies offered in major hotel chains. The Justice Department promises to send “ripples” through an industry that has spread on the Internet and grown into a $10 billion-a-year colossus profiting big corporations like Comcast, which offers hard-core movies on a pay-per-view channel.

The department recently hired Bruce Taylor, who was instrumental in a handful of convictions obtained over the past year. Larry Flynt, who recently opened a Hustler nightclub in Baltimore, says everyone in the business is wary, making sure their taxes are paid and the “talent” is over 18. “Everyone’s concerned,” Flynt said. “We deal in plain old vanilla sex. Nothing really outrageous. But who knows, they may want a big target like myself.”

Drew Oosterbaan, chief of the Justice unit in charge of obscenity prosecutions, says officials are trying to halt an industry they see as growing increasingly lawless. “We want to do everything we can to deter this conduct” by producers and consumers, he said. “Nothing is off the table as far as content.”

The Sun notes that any move against mainstream pornography could affect large telephone companies offering broadband Internet service or the dozens of national credit card companies providing payment services to porn Web sites.

Officials at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association said adult programming is legal, relies on subscription services for access, and has been upheld by the courts for years. “Good luck turning back that clock,” said Paul Rodriguez, a spokesman for the association. Attorney General John Ashcroft has made it clear that the Justice Department intends to try. He said pornography “invades our homes persistently though the mail, phone, VCR, cable TV and the Internet,” and has “strewn its victims from coast to coast.”

Link: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nationworld/bal-te.obscenity06apr06,0,567200.story?coll=bal-home-headli

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