The Bush administration still is putting a high priority on prosecuting obscenity statutes. The Associated Press reports that since 2001, 40 people and businesses have been convicted and 20 additional indictments are pending, according to Andrew Oosterbaan of the Justice Department’s child exploitation and obscenity section. There were four such prosecutions during the eight years of the Clinton administration. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, like predecessor John Ashcroft, has pledged to make obscenity prosecutions a priority. The department is expected to announce the creation of a special unit within its criminal division to focus on adult obscenity cases.
Gonzales has directed U.S. attorneys to report by late July on effective ways to crack down on obscenity and what tools the prosecutors might need. Critics say a few dozen criminal cases will not dent a $10-billion-a-year industry. “They’ll find some sacrificial victims, but the porn industry will go on,” said Marjorie Heins, founder of the Free Expression Policy Project at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. “At some point, they’re going to have to ratchet it up if they want to do something meaningful,” said Robert Peters, president of Morality in Media.