FBI Agents Diverted from War on Terror to War on Porn

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales–acting under congressional mandate– has made catching pornographers “one of the top priorities” of the FBI, the nation’s primary counterterrorism agency.

Recruits Sought for Porn Squad (WaPo, A23)

The FBI is joining the Bush administration’s War on Porn. And it’s looking for a few good agents.

Early last month, the bureau’s Washington Field Office began recruiting for a new anti-obscenity squad. Attached to the job posting was a July 29 Electronic Communication from FBI headquarters to all 56 field offices, describing the initiative as “one of the top priorities” of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and, by extension, of “the Director.” That would be FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.

Mischievous commentary began propagating around the water coolers at 601 Fourth St. NW and its satellites, where the FBI’s second-largest field office concentrates on national security, high-technology crimes and public corruption. The new squad will divert eight agents, a supervisor and assorted support staff to gather evidence against “manufacturers and purveyors” of pornography — not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults. “I guess this means we’ve won the war on terror,” said one exasperated FBI agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. “We must not need any more resources for espionage.”

Unless there are some big pieces missing from this story, it’s hard to understand why this would even be on the FBI’s radar screen, let alone “one of the top priorities.” Several paragraphs into the story, though, we see that that characterization may be inflated:

Congress began funding the obscenity initiative in fiscal 2005 and specified that the FBI must devote 10 agents to adult pornography. The bureau decided to create a dedicated squad only in the Washington Field Office. “All other field offices may investigate obscenity cases pursuant to this initiative if resources are available,” the directive from headquarters said. “Field offices should not, however, divert resources from higher priority matters, such as public corruption.”

Public corruption, officially, is fourth on the FBI’s priority list, after protecting the United States from terrorist attack, foreign espionage and cyber-based attacks. Just below those priorities are civil rights, organized crime, white-collar crime and “significant violent crime.” The guidance from headquarters does not mention where pornography fits in.

So, porn is not one of the top top priorities, at least. Still, while ten agents is a miniscule fraction of the FBI’s resources, it strikes me as about ten too many given the threat posed by the competing priorities.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. I’m happy to see that the Justice Department is ever vigilant in defending us against the dangers of masturbation.

  2. There may be many things that are more important to fight now, but make no mistake about it, porn is a contributer to many sex crimes against women and children in this country and THAT is is important.

    If you are looking at it, then you can’t be objective about it. Period.

  3. legion says:

    RWS – So basically, nobody in this country has the moral high ground to regulate this stuff, right? 🙂

    Snark aside, the term ‘porn’ can include a great deal of things from soft-core Cinemax to the hardest of hard-core. To say people can’t make moral judgements about porn unless they completely swear off the boobies is a bit reactionary, IMO.

    That said, if the AG and the FBI director are personally casting about for task force members, then it IS one of the ‘top top priorities’. And unless the FBI’s counterintelligence and anti-terrorism duties have been completely amputated & given over to DHS and Negroponte, Gonzalez and Mueller need to have their asses seriously kicked back into line.

  4. ken says:

    In order not to waste their time the FBI should first develop an understanding of what kind of porn is legally objectionable. If they are going to pursue porno it would be a supreme waste if they arrested pornographers only to find the courts release them. So my proposal is they start by interviewing the court members themselves, under oath, as to what kind of pornagraphy they watch. Clarance Thomas has an avid interest in porno movies so he would be the natural place to start.

  5. DC Loser says:

    I’ll volunteer as an expert witness 🙂

  6. LJD says:

    I can see it now…

    “I can’t tell you exactly what qualifies (as porn), but I’ll know it when I see it…”

    American tax dollars going towards a bunch of agents sitting around watching dirty movies all day…

    …all I can say is: How much does it pay, and where do I sign up?

  7. Ya’ll are all very amusing, but I’m guessing you don’t have kids under the age of 13. Any 7 yr old can have access to the kind of porn you wouldn’t want your dog to see at the click of a mouse. And even if you forgo having a computer in your house, little johnny down the street would be more than happy to show your child his porn stash.

    Let’s face it. It’s like having a porn shop in your house. It’s wrong. If you want to go and wallow in porn, be my guest. It’s your life.

    But that doesn’t mean it has to be so easily acessible to children. And IT IS.

  8. Boyd says:

    I think you’re mixing two different but related issues, Sparkle. There’s a lot of porn that isn’t illegal that I don’t want my minor children to see. If that’s the FBI’s target, it’s a huge waste of our money.

    OTOH, obscene materials are a different story altogether, although I’m not sure what could be considered obscene these days beyond child pornography.

  9. eric says:

    sparkle…you make valid points, but ultimately it comes back to parents policing their children and preventing access to content they don’t want their kids to view. Any amount of US Laws on porn will do nothing to stem the tide of horribly obscene material from offshore. Parents need to get filters or monitor their kids internet use.

  10. legion says:

    As a matter of fact, I have a 6yo son and a 9yo daughter. They have their own computer, but it has no net connection.

    I believe Boyd has it right – there are things out there that are flatly _wrong_; things our society as a whole has decided are _never_ acceptable, and that’s what the FBI should be on the lookout for. But there are also things out there I’d rather not have my children exposed to – but I recognize that I can’t keep them in plastic bubbles until they turn 18, and if they do get exposed to boob, or a dead body, or a racist asshat, or whatever, I’m prepared to deal with it and talk to them about it. ‘Cause I’m a parent, and that’s my job. Not the FBI’s. If the FBI is truly, as the article implies, investigating legal, consensually-produced porn, marketed to adults, then I want an IG investigation right the hell now, and I want someone’s butt kicked for wasting my tax dollars.

  11. PornPrince says:

    I’m a gay pornographer, and I would like one of these right wingers to tell me how my product hurts women or children.

    I don’t want children looking at my product, and I have registered my website with every filtering company out there. Shouldn’t parents monitor what websites their children are visiting? And if your child’s friend will show your kid porn, shouldn’t your beef be with HIS parents and not with me?

    Most of my customers are over the age of 30, and I have many customers in their seventies or even eighties (God Bless ’em). My material is often the only positive image of gay people they see.

  12. Zackster says:

    I agree with permalink up there. I mean…. don’t we have the government stepping in our lives enough already! It’s getting ridiculous! Next we’ll have these stupid asses that run the counrty trying to tell us what time to put the kids to bed! When will it ever end. We need a law preventing any “new” laws, too. And get them government idiots out out our bedrooms for sure! What we want to look at in the privacy of our own home should not be any of the governments business. Period. I’m a 38 year old adult and I don’t need big brother baby sitting me. And if you have kids, their your responsibility. Be the parent of your own kids! Why have the government trying to do it for you. Personally I think they should fire anybody with a government job that has strong religious views on anything. And should hire people to run our counrty that are open minded enough to grow with the times. It’s not 1950! LOL

  13. Renee says:

    With Bush and his administration running the country… we’ll all be on horseback before long. LOL

  14. Anderson says:

    Ya’ll are all very amusing, but I’m guessing you don’t have kids under the age of 13. Any 7 yr old can have access to the kind of porn you wouldn’t want your dog to see at the click of a mouse. And even if you forgo having a computer in your house, little johnny down the street would be more than happy to show your child his porn stash.

    Sparky, I’ve got two boys, and I rather suspect they’ll be shown porn by their pals some day. Back when I was 10, we had to resort to looking at primitive “magazines.” Now it’s all on the computer.

    Sure, you can get harder-core stuff nowadays. So what? Are we supposed to outlaw all this stuff for the benefit of parents who can’t/won’t teach their kids about porn & what’s wrong with it?

    10-year-olds are actually pretty good at seeing relatively tame stuff (oh, say, cunnilingus) and exclaiming “GROSS!” and getting the heck off that website.

  15. ComputerParent says:

    Ya know, I have to laugh at all these people who want to cheer the Current Administration efforts to go after porn. Wasting all those resources is going to look very foolish when we get hit with another major terrorist attack. It will be about as dismissal as the Fed response to Katrina.

    Ok, so you want them to go after the porn. Do you really think that all that porn spam in your e-mail is coming from within the USA? Actually most of it is coming from outside the USA because our anti-spam laws don’t mean anything to those operating outside the USA.

    Do you think going after porn in the USA is going to rid the internet of porn and make it some great oasis for kids? Then you would find it interesting to know, that the internet is a global thing and only about 30 percent of porn actually comes from with-in the USA. The USA’s current obcenity laws are far to strict. The real disgusting stuff comes from outside the USA already. Also, if you eliminate that 30% of porn that comes from within the USA, don’t think for a minute that there will be 30% less porn on the net. Overseas porn empires will certainly fill that market.

    People look beyond your own little world. Like I said the internet is global and so is access on the internet. Despite it’s efforts, the USA is not going to be able to control the entire world anytime soon.

  16. Paul Hooson says:

    Internet scams and cons have grown at a fantastic rate under the Bush Justice Department. A Florida cocaine dealer who operates about 20 scams on the Internet is still in business for example. The Bush Justice Department has failed to shut down this criminal organization after thousands of complaints. Almost everyone receives daily scam Emails or even cryptic Emails with links to awful material that may even feature sexual child abuse. Yet this is not the material being targeted either.

    This administration is very weak on real crime such as identity theft, phish Emails, “Nigerian letter scams”, etc. yet pursues purely political goals like a war on adult entertainment material that hardly does much worse that satisfies the private sexual gratification of some who seek such oddball material.

    My Website: http://www.progressivevalues.blogspot.com offers more thoughts on this issue, as well as names more scams that the Bush Administration is very soft on. Being soft on Internet crime that steals billions each year from Americans is outrageous from an administration that should protect the public. That’s being “probusiness” in a pretty twisted way. Protecting Internet crooks, failing to prosecute Iraq reconstruction scams and schemes, failing to shutdown Email scams, etc. The sense of justice is very warped in this administration.

  17. lol he played the oh noes what about he children card says:


    hey jackass ‘rightwingsparkle’:

    Be a respectable parent and monitor your kids time on the internet. Don’t let them go over to friends houses to play where you know their parents aren’t going to provide supervision.

    If you don’t have time to supervise your children, then you shouldn’t have had kids- end of story.

    I would like to believe you’re just trolling, but I’m sad to say that I know there are actually people out there like you who want to impose their belief system on others.

    If the FBI is talking about non-consensual acts, then that’s one thing, but I think calling a rape on video… porn is obviously flagrant. It’s not porn- it’s a rape on video. So call it what it fucking is and don’t try to rig the system so that you can impose your personal belief that seeing naked people fucking makes you evil.


  18. Thorn says:

    This is crazy.. I am a mother of three kids.. ages 12,8 and 6. I recently caught my son looking at porn on the web. I didn’t freak out, I just sat down with him and talked to him about it. He is curious about sex. His hormones are kicking in. Its natural!! My mother raised me to believe that porn is awful and wrong and I had years of trouble with having a healthy sex life. One where I could enjoy it and experience orgasm. I just have to say if you find your kids looking at porn. Talk to them, inform them, tell them about sex, std’s, and let them feel comfortable in talking to you about it. I have met people around my age whose parents were open about sex and they live normal and happy sex lives and are not perverted or twisted and they definitely don’t go after women and children to be abusive to them. The people who attack women and children are not influenced by porn, if you really do the research its because someone in their lives sexually abused them and it had nothing to do with the porn they were looking at. In fact, porn is an outlet for many of those kinds of sex offenders that keeps them from attacking people. Some of you really need to get informed if your going to place blame. Do the research and find out what the real problems are and for gods sake.. TALK TO YOUR KIDS!