Mukasey: DOJ Will Continue Obscenity Prosecutions

WASHINGTON, D.C. - In testimony this morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on Department of Justice (DOJ) Oversight, Attorney General Michael Mukasey said that his agency will continue conducting "targeted, efficient" prosecutions of adult material, citing the government's recent victory in the Max Hardcore case in Tampa, Fla. as justification for continuing its attempted porn purge.

Mukasey spoke in answer to a question from reliably conservative Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Ut.), who asked, "General Mukasey, let me start my questions by following up on a topic I raised at your confirmation hearing last October. At that time, I described the concern of many that in enforcing the obscenity laws, the Justice Department is targeting too narrow a range of obscene material. The most extreme material may make a conviction more likely, but that conviction has little impact on the overall obscenity industry, and as I said then, I believe that the strategy is misguided. Now, you agreed personally to review and consider changing the strategy. Now, I hope you've had an opportunity to conduct that review and that you will share your conclusions with the committee if you can."

Mukasey responded, "I think what we try to do is to bring those cases that we can win, and those cases that are going to have the greatest impact on removing obscene materials which degrade our society and depict behavior that we think is disgraceful. We've done that; we had a recent conviction in Tampa of a large-scale producer of this kind of material. We want to do it in a targeted, efficient way. We want to do it in a way that will have the most effect. What we don't want to do is - as you know, there's a tolerance for this in the courts. We don't want to bring prosecutions that will have the effect essentially of making more tolerated the kind of material that we think ought to be stamped out. We pick our targets carefully; we pick them so as to have the greatest effect and we bring vigorous prosecutions. The Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section is involved in that and the criminal division is involved."

Hatch's question reflected the charges expressed on several religio-conservative Websites such as Focus on the Family's CitizenLink, Morality In Media's site and the site of former DOJ prosecutor Patrick Trueman .

For instance, Morality In Media (MIM) recently released the results of a survey it had commissioned from Harris Interactive, wherein it claimed that 75% of Americans would support the next president "do[ing] all in his or constitutional power to ensure that federal obscenity laws are enforced vigorously against commercial distributors of hardcore pornography." Unfortunately for MIM, that figure is down 5% from a similar survey it commissioned in 1997 from Wirthlin Worldwide.

However, with the 2008 survey indicating that just 56% "strongly support" porn prosecution, MIM president Robert Peters sought to bolster his view that porn viewing is bad by claiming that "much if not most pornography is consumed by a relatively small percentage of individuals who are hooked on it; and many addicts hate what they do"; that "just because a person, whether by mistake or deception or out of curiosity or at weak moments, views pornography does not mean he or she approves of it," arguing that mousetrapping and other redirects increase unintended viewership; and that "just because an adult thinks it's OK to look at some pornography does not mean that he or she approves of all of it."

Peters, among others, will likely be unhappy with Mukasey's equivocal answer that "[w]e pick our targets carefully." MIM and the other religious groups support wholesale indictments against all adult content producers.