Two retired police officers are paid by federal funds through a private organization to review sexual Web sites and other Internet traffic to see whether they qualify as obscene material whose purveyors should be prosecuted by the Justice Department, the New York Times reports. The group Morality in Media gets a $150,000 a year for the work from an earmark inserted into a spending bill by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA.)
In the last few years, 67,000 citizens' complaints have been deemed legitimate under the program and passed on to the Justice Department and federal prosecutors. The number of prosecutions resulting from those referrals is zero. No one – not Justice Department officials, not Wolf, not even the religious antipornography crusader who runs the program – seems eager to call the project a success. Justice Department officials, seemed less than keen to talk about ObscenityCrimes.org. Spokesmen for the criminal division said officials there had nothing to do with the program, which they had been obliged to start because of the earmark. The Bush administration has prosecuted about 24 obscenity cases, several centered on film producers who failed to keep proper records showing that their models were not minors. Stephen G. Bates, a lawyer and journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said he was appalled when he discovered that the Justice Department was outsourcing a search for obscenity.