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Policing Porn Isn't Part of The Job

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the welcome-to-the-brave-new-world dept.

592

Rick Zeman wrote to mention a Washington Post article about an incident at a Bethesda library. Two uniformed men from a Homeland Security detachment made an announcement stating that pornography was not acceptable viewing at the library. They then questioned a patron's choice of reading material. From the article: "A librarian intervened, and the two men went into the library's work area to discuss the matter. A police officer arrived. In the end, no one had to step outside except the uniformed men. They were officers of the security division of Montgomery County's Homeland Security Department, an unarmed force that patrols about 300 county buildings -- but is not responsible for enforcing obscenity laws."

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592 comments

Free news articles (2, Informative)

alanw (1822) | more than 8 years ago | (#14748951)

The Washington Post article required registration, however there is plenty of free coverage of this article.

Google news [google.com]

Re:Free news articles (0, Offtopic)

ForumTroll (900233) | more than 8 years ago | (#14748970)

I didn't have to register. I clicked the link and read the story, no registration required and I've never signed up for any account at the Washington Post.

Re:Free news articles (0, Offtopic)

pdhenry (671887) | more than 8 years ago | (#14748999)

I may be wrong, but I think the Washington Post uses cookies to let you view a few articles before demanding registration.

Re:Free news articles (0, Offtopic)

ForumTroll (900233) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749000)

After browsing the site a little bit more it's come to my attention that you need to register for some sections and not others. I'm not exactly sure what they base this on, but it's definitely a good way to ensure that I won't be returning to the Washington Post anytime soon. I was still able to read the linked story without any registration though.

Re:Free news articles (3, Informative)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749013)

If you're using Firefox, get the useragent switcher extension and add this to it:

Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; googlebot/2.1; +http://www.google.com/bot.html [google.com] )

A lot of registration-only news sites will let you in as googlebot. After all, they want to be indexed...Oh, and don't put in the [google.com] slashdot autolink bit.

Re:Free news articles (1)

ForumTroll (900233) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749022)

That's a very convenient extension. Thank you.

Re:Free news articles (4, Informative)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749049)

Derrr...I probably should've included a link for the User Agent Switcher Extenstion. [mozilla.org]

Re:Free news articles Speaking of PORN... (-1, Offtopic)

user1010 (953589) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749070)

New Adult Search Engine www.kybe.com I recently ran upon a pretty low-key adult search engine that works pretty well with no annoying pop-ups or phishing...thought some of the diggers out there might be able to provide other adult search engines/sites which are on their top lists...

Neat! (3, Funny)

wren337 (182018) | more than 8 years ago | (#14748958)

Do they get to wear brown shirts too?

Re:Neat! (5, Insightful)

Cpt_Kirks (37296) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749040)

I am a registered Republican (lesser of two evils, etc.).

So now we have our own versions of the Muslim world's "Morality Police"?

The main problem I have with the GOP is this damn puritanism. This is the 21st century, dammit! If we force our views (actually their views, not mine. I have TB's of pr0n) on others, how are we better than the damn Islamist's?

The GOP is liable to take it up the ass big time in November. Hopefully this will clear out some of the ancient old farts so we can later elect younger pols with more of a Libertarian bent.

But I'm not holding my breath...

Re:Neat! (4, Insightful)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749069)

Indeed... there is not much difference between one form of religious nut and other.. in both cases those people try to force their views on others..

Re:Neat! (-1, Troll)

CountBrass (590228) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749116)

I disagree. There is a very big difference between post-Englightenment western Christianity and Islam. The fundamental one in that regard is that the west accepts the separation of church and state, Islam doesnt and that makes a big, big difference.

Now if you'd said there was no difference between modern Islam and medieval christianty I'd have agreed.

Re:Neat! (4, Insightful)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749133)

I do not mean most christians.. I meant the fundamentalist christians.. listening to some of them is very close to listening to a very hard line mullah..

Most christians or muslism are not that hardline, but seems that the hardliners do have way too much media publicity.

Re:Neat! (2, Interesting)

osgeek (239988) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749210)

The problem can't be just blamed on the extremists.

If moderate Christians would stand up and tell Jerry Falwell to shove his bigotted ideas up his ass, Christians wouldn't have such an increasingly bad reputation. If moderate Muslims would *actively* work against the extremist mullahs (I'm not just talking about issuing press statements), then Muslims wouldn't have such an increasingly bad reputation.

The same can be said for Republicans, Democrats, and Cthulus -- the uneducated masses of voters that give the extremists the power are every bit as much to blame as the extremists themselves.

Re:Neat! (4, Insightful)

Zontar The Mindless (9002) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749144)

The (Christian) "religious nuts" to which the GP refers don't recognise separation of church and state, either.

Re:Neat! (2, Insightful)

deanj (519759) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749188)

"in both cases those people try to force their views on others.."

There are some people in EVERY community that try to force their views on others. Some Islamic people do it. Some Christian people do it. You get in from Republicans, you get it from Democrats. You get it from straight people, you get it from gay people. You get it from Conservatives, you get it from liberals.

Notice I said "some" not "all".

The problem comes in when people are utterly convinced they're right, and the other side are evil for not believing that opinion.

Demonizing the other side is not right, and will get us no where.

Re:Neat! (1, Funny)

thatguywhoiam (524290) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749104)

I am a registered Republican (lesser of two evils, etc.).

Wow, how long has the Cthulu party been active?

You cannot possibly be referring to that quaint democratic party that hasn't had a shred of power in six years...?

Re:Neat! (5, Insightful)

smokin_juan (469699) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749111)

lesser of two evils, etc.

These situations will not improve until people learn to count higher than two.

Re:Neat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749127)

This post can't be marked insightfully enough.

Re:Neat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749150)

Great post

Re:Neat! (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749131)

Don't forget the "hostile work environment" scam currently being used by Democrats and lawyers to eliminate anything in the workplace that might offend a person with extremely delicate sensibilities.

Re:Neat! (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749134)

I think the main problem is that America has really only two political parties.

"Party A has really screwed us over. Hopefully Party B will be better."

And then reverse A and B once every 2/4 years.

I suppose this is what the people want; really easy decisions.

Re:Neat! (3, Interesting)

ta ma de (851887) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749158)

I don't think the Republicans are Republicans any more. A few years ago I heard Rush Limbaugh say that fiscal conservancy was liberal value. The incubent Republicans have yet to provide more liberty, less government involvement, and fiscal conservancy. They have grown the government and have begun to insert endiscopes up our collective butts.

Re:Neat! (1)

77Punker (673758) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749171)

Change to Libertarian. Libertarians love guns, money, and porn! I'm a Libertarian and it's a good party to work with, although I must say that in my state (NC), there's no chance of us doing a damned thing in the next 20 years.

Re:Neat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749110)

Yes it is a bit odd that the US government is all upset about the Vice and Virtue squads of certain middle eastern countries, but then have no apparent problem with a similar program being part of the homeland security department.

Sure they might not be exactlly the same, here they crack down on the "immorality" of pornography and not how women dress or what they do (even thou I'm sure that is part of the p0rn problem to). If this goes unchecked how far of are one from the REAL thing?

Re:Neat! (1)

arivanov (12034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749178)

The night watch is a division of the ministry of peace. Brown shirts are not mandatory. Armbands are.

Ha. (3, Interesting)

Voltageaav (798022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14748979)

While I don't think the library is quite the place, it's good to know that some people are keeping an eye on the government as it's peering over our shoulders and aren't afraid to speak up when they see them going beyond where they're supposed to.

Big Brother's Little Helper? (5, Insightful)

ACNSlave (750608) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749005)

I agree that the public library is *NOT* the place to be doing one's pr0n surfing, HOWEVER, I'm more than a little concerned that the dept. of homeland insecurity folks have taken it upon themselves to assume the role of nanny. I would say the DHS folks went WAY beyond their jurisdiction here. In an actionable sense, if you get my drift. Two thumbs way down.

Re:Ha. (1)

Voltageaav (798022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749032)

I'm betting they were monitering the library computers for anything that might pop a red flag. Searches for "How to make a bomb" and stuff like that. They saw someone surfing porn at the library. How many of you would think that's acceptable? They obviously didn't know that local policy allowed it. So they decided to step in before some kid walked past or something similar happened.

Re:Ha. (1)

Simon Brooke (45012) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749109)

They saw someone surfing porn at the library. How many of you would think that's acceptable? They obviously didn't know that local policy allowed it. So they decided to step in before some kid walked past or something similar happened.

RTFA, for heaven's sake!

Local policy forbade it. However, the constitution of the United States, which overrides local policy, allows it.

Re:Ha. (1)

Voltageaav (798022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749148)

You RTFA! "At most public libraries in the Washington area, an adult can view pornography on a library computer more or less unfettered." "Although many library systems in the United States use filtering software, the D.C. and Fairfax systems do not, and Montgomery uses such software only on computers available to children." Where I live, you can't look up porn at a local library, so don't try telling me you can universally do it anywhere.

Libraries are perfect for porn (5, Insightful)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749139)

The library is EXACTLY the place. There are many reasons for looking at "porn" besides getting off. If it was being done in a library, from a book specifically bought in for its value, then the chances are that this "porn" was actually quite historically, culturally or socially important, and that a lot was being learned from it. I for one am very thankful that the library prevailed in this instance.

Re:Ha. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749146)

Obviously not enough people though.

Two uniformed men... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14748985)

Where have I seen this before... /me tries to remember... uniformed men, telling the civilian populace what is acceptable viewing, and what is not.

Sweet god, people, how far does this farce have to run before you realise that the "threat" that Homeland Security was set-up to combat is *you*?

Re:Two uniformed men... (4, Insightful)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749008)

Judging by prior events.. the thing will still take 10-20 years to run it's course.

Re:Two uniformed men... (0, Flamebait)

Voltageaav (798022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749010)

Really? Come on, that's taking this a bit far. This was two people taking it upon themselves to try to stop someone from viewing porn in a library. They should be more familure with the law they're trying to enforce, but that's a bit short of making it a conspiracy.

Re:Two uniformed men... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749023)

No.

This was two government agents taking it upon themselves to dictate what is and isn't acceptable.

There's a huge difference between private citizens and people employed by the government to enforce the law.

Re:Two uniformed men... (1)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749063)

Indeed, when in offcial capacity proclaiming that something is against the rules, you are in effect saying "Goverment says that..." thus anything you say will be viewed as goverment policy.

Thus one should preferably know what the statures are and what part of them one is supposed to be enforcing.

Re:Two uniformed men... (1)

Voltageaav (798022) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749099)

I didn't realise Slashdot was so anti-government that they mod anything that might indicate the government isn't all that bad as flamebait. Maybe I should stop posting here before I get my clearance taken away.

Re:Two uniformed men... (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749169)

<sarcasm> Yeah, but they don't wear brown shirts, red and black armbands, or thump the Koran this time. This time it's Americans thumping a puritan Bible, so it's ok, right? </sarcasm>

I'm disgusted... (0)

killpog (740063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14748992)

And sick...

Re:I'm disgusted... (2, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749086)

and overreacting.

Two officers did something that stepped over their job description. The situation was handled by superiors. I know it is vogue on Slashdot to "rail against the man", but "the man" dealt with the situation.

So now, we can get back to our God given right to wack off in public.

Re:I'm disgusted... (1)

banaanimies (944641) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749168)

It's always the small guy's fault. People who give orders and make policies get away once again.

Porn @ the Library (1)

anoack (649361) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749006)

Yes, This has been a problem with many libraries including the one I take care of. We had to move the computer desks around so that the screens faced the front desk. There was a big problem with kids (even adults) looking at pron. Look, if you are going to look at porn do it at home. No internet?
Subscribe to Victoria Secret because its hard to find the Sears catalog anymore.

Re:Porn @ the Library (2, Informative)

abesottedphoenix (468980) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749028)

Kids looking at pr0n shouldn't be an issue. They can't buy pr0n, so it's easy to tell them to whack off in someone else's trailer. The only pr0n surfer I had at my rural library is a kid, so it was easy to get him to stop.

Now adults technically have a right to look at pr0n over at the Library, which baffles me. I am a big advocate of getting recessed monitor desks. They're the perfect solution. Patrons can look at whatever they want to on the terminals, other patrons and staff can't. Unfortunately, they run like $500 a piece, which tends to be cost prohibitive. :(

Re:Porn @ the Library (1)

anoack (649361) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749061)

Yes I agree. While getting kids to stop looking at porn at the library is no problem. And Adults do have the right to look at porn. It's the people that just so happen to glance at the Patrons PC are the ones that have a problem with it. Which I can understand parents like to bring their kids to the library and they don't want to have their kid watching some 30 year old dude looking at pr0n wile mommy is checking out books.
Another good solution would be those 3M privacy screen covers so that people walking by would not get offended by whats on the other patrons machine.
ahhh what ever happened to the good old days of looking at porn in the library at the National Geographic book section.

Re:Porn @ the Library (2, Interesting)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749098)

And Adults do have the right to look at porn

There is no right that adults get to look at porn on tax payer expense. There is a huge difference between what you do on your own and what you do with funding from the gov't... sorry.

Now, this isn't to say we should pass a law prohibiting. That is another debate. Hoever, I get so damn tired of being told what rights others have, when it comes out of my pocket.

Re:Porn @ the Library (1)

anoack (649361) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749129)

There is no right that adults get to look at porn on tax payer expense.

I agree, I don't want my Tax dollars going towards porn surfers at the local library. There should be a policy (and mostly is) about looking at porn in a public library. What I was just trying to say was... Yes Adults do have the right to look at adult content in general, not in the library. I should be more clear about what I'm saying next time.

Re:Porn @ the Library (1)

mcspoo (933106) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749079)

Anyone looking at porn in a library filled with kids is bad. No one wants to be the Library where that guy was caught whacking off under the desk, and no one wants the janitor to tap you on the shoulder and say "Dude, you wouldn't BELIEVE what I had to clean up under the desk..."

That being said... I work in a Library. In Michigan there's a law called PA 212, which more or less requires that every Library have a "system" in place to prevent the viewing of "legally obscene" images on the internet. This doesn't have to be a program. More often than not, it takes the place of many warnings and the ever popular "tap on the shoulder" method... which incidentally is a way you can discover the true look of fear. If your library is stupid enough to accept federal grants for computer equipment, you saddle yourself with the cost of a filtering system (read that again: accept grants for computer? you're REQUIRED to filter them at Federal Level).

If these idiots came into my library and did that... well, the Police HQ is right behind us. We'd hear the goose steps before they got here.

Re:Porn @ the Library (1)

anoack (649361) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749154)

In Michigan there's a law called PA 212, which more or less requires that every Library have a "system" in place to prevent the viewing of "legally obscene" images on the internet.

Interesting... I do all the IT work for a city here in Texas and to my understanding (from one of the librarians) we are not allowed to filter any internet content. I am not exactly sure why but if anyone knows please enlighten me. If anything I will question the librarian about it again sometime.

Re:Porn @ the Library (1)

thedletterman (926787) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749195)

Look at porn on your computer all you want.. just don't tell the women sitting next to you the one about why blondes wear hoop earrings...

Now they're moving into the open... (5, Insightful)

bwcbwc (601780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749014)

A lot of people have been saying for a long time that "homeland security", the PAT-RIOT act and the war on terror were just codewords for more government interference in people's daily lives. So now pornography is a homeland security issue?

Various conservative factions first gained power at the local government level and leveraged that power to take control nationally. Between RICO and PATRIOT and executive orders authorizing surveillance, the federal government certainly has the capability of being just as interfering as these Montgomery County officials.

I'm starting to feel like that corny old poem about first they came for the Jews, then the homosexuals and I never spoke up. In the case of the U.S. it's already progressing from the terrorists to Muslims in general, non-violent political agitators, and now pornography viewers.

When will the "small-government" conservatives put their votes where there brains are? A "wasted" vote for the libertarian party would demonstrate commitment to their principles and send the major parties a message.

Re:Now they're moving into the open... (1)

fdiskne1 (219834) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749048)

If you'd read the article, you'd see that the officers involved had overstepped their bounds, they arrested no one and they've been reassigned. The departments involved said they would improve their training so rights are not violated. Sorry to burst your bubble.

Re:Now they're moving into the open... (4, Insightful)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749097)

>you'd see that the officers involved had overstepped their bounds, they arrested no one and they've been reassigned.

1. They thought they were doing the correct thing. This is after their training. After getting approved for acting as a government official. After talking to another trained person (each other). (And MAYBE after talking to other trained persons, including their supervisor.)
2. The librarian, who knows what legal knowlege he had, had to talk to them in private. How did it even get to this point? Even then, they had to call in a police officer.
3. If we hadn't heard of this, would they have been reassigned? Why aren't they let go? Its clear they didn't get their training. Will they ever be in the field again in the future? Are they in a position to use their judgement again, even behind the desk (where they could potentially do even greater damage)?

I don't TRUST the police/law enforment, just because they have a badge and a nice uniform because in the end they are just human, like anyone without a badge and nice uniform. I give them a certain amount of respect, but I give everyone the same amount of respect.

(Police/law enforement don't trust their own either, ask them if they have locks on their lockers in the police station.)

Re:Now they're moving into the open... (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749174)

Nobody has ever accused Montgomery County, Maryland, or its government, of being a hotbed of conservatism. It's long been a stronghold for liberal Democrats, especially the People's Republic of Takoma Park [wikipedia.org] .

Hypocrisy (2, Insightful)

Council (514577) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749021)

People shouldn't look at porn in public libraries -- at least, not where there's a significant chance of it disturbing other patrons, including children.

That idea is not incompatible with the view that the federal government has no place policing this. It's not hypocritical to say that something is bad while also thinking the government shouldn't police it.

But please, people, a $50 computer and a $10-a-month dial-up connection will get you all the porn you want at your house. Stop making this an issue.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

Snamh Da Ean (916391) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749047)

Have you read the article? The library provides "privacy screens" if anyone objects to what you are looking at. "Stop making this an issue" - what does that mean? Stop exercising your civil liberties because it is inconvenient?

Re:Hypocrisy (2, Insightful)

Council (514577) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749106)

Have you read the article? The library provides "privacy screens" if anyone objects to what you are looking at.

Yeah; it's just that at places by my library there are sometimes people looking at porn on the middle-of-the-lobby computers. I'm not sure if we offer privacy screens.

"Stop making this an issue" - what does that mean? Stop exercising your civil liberties because it is inconvenient?

There's this attitude here that if something is technically a civil liberty, we can't criticize or discourage people from it. It is your right as a free American to, for example, treat my wife rudely. That doesn't mean I should approve of or tolerate it.

This attitude that any behavior that is legally permitted is behavior that should be encouraged is the same attitude that, flipped around, causes legislation that tries to tell people how to live their lives. I'm saying "I would appreciate it if you don't look at porn on easily-visible computers because it's extremely rude." It is your legal right to do so, and it's my legal right to ask you not to.

Something doesn't have to be legal to be good, and it doesn't have to be illegal to be bad. If people would just understand that good behavior can be encouraged without federal law, we could make a lot of progress on this issue.

Re:Hypocrisy (5, Insightful)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749067)

People shouldn't look at porn in public libraries

Define "porn".

-jcr

Re:Hypocrisy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749092)

If you've got your dick in your hand while you look at it it's porn.

Re:Hypocrisy (5, Funny)

Council (514577) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749118)

If you've got your dick in your hand while you look at it it's porn.

Great. Well, as of last night, Better Homes and Gardens and the American Machinist's Handbook are both porn.

And stop looking at me like that.

Re:Hypocrisy (5, Insightful)

joel8x (324102) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749119)

Define "porn".

Exactly my point. If I'm looking at a nude piece of art and some tooth-fairy worshipping zealot thinks its gross, I shouldn't be stopped. They have a choice not to look over your shoulder.

And if you are worried about the children, guess what? They got here through SEX!! Yes, a penis actually entered a vagina and sperm was injected! There might have even been some oral sex to get the whole thing started!!

How about not worrying about the kids being parented by the government and start parenting them yourself.

It's Not Our Definition, Wiseguy (2, Insightful)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749156)

Obscenity is defined at the local level, and that's fine. And those in many Alabama counties are the most clearly defined and stringent on the books. This degree of state- and local intregity in the make-up of quality-of-life legislation was everything that the Founding Fathers were about. Today, the fine folks of West Hollywood don't have to play by Salt Lake City's mores, and vice-versa. My bet is that the people of Montgomery don't want what they have defined locally as obscene being viewed within the locally run and funded Public Library. The fact that the enforcement is via local DHS dudes muddies the waters, unfortunately, but it doesn't change the fact the locals don't want teh pr0n in the public facilities. The satellite distributors use zipcode masking in their signal encryption to prevent distribution where it's illegal -- they 'get' it. The Internet distributors are about 15 years behind the times, unfortunately.

I'm always amused by how many people who clamor for a local principality's 'right' to perform gay marriages get their panties in a bunch when another local principality flexes its muscles to enforce their 'right' to ban what they consider obscene. Two sides of the same coin: suck it up.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

thatguywhoiam (524290) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749095)

People shouldn't look at porn in public libraries -- at least, not where there's a significant chance of it disturbing other patrons, including children. That idea is not incompatible with the view that the federal government has no place policing this. It's not hypocritical to say that something is bad while also thinking the government shouldn't police it.

100%, flat-out, spectacularly wrong. You obviously did not read the article. The idea is completely incompatible!

'People shouldn't' is a dangerous way to start out a sentence. Who decides? Its the age-old question. What is disturbing? What is art? What is bad for society, and who gets to decide? Just saying 'keep your porn at home' is hardly the answer. What if you think my collection of insect porn is offensive? Beggin' your pardon, but who the fuck are you to decide?

The fact is, your constitution rules in this scenario (public library), and the librarians cannot make the call on what is or isn't obscene. And as we all know the definition is grey at best/. Also, as mentioned in TFA, there were privacy screens available for other partrons who might feel uncomfortable (I imagine these are those polarizing overlays like on bank machines).

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

Council (514577) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749155)

100%, flat-out, spectacularly wrong. You obviously did not read the article. The idea is completely incompatible!

'People shouldn't' is a dangerous way to start out a sentence. Who decides?


I wasn't speaking on behalf of the law. I was saying that as a private citizen, I don't want people to do this. It is certainly within their rights, as it should be, but I can still ask them not to. It's like asking people to please stop treating my wife rudely. They're rightly allowed to, but if people keep doing it, I will speak out asking them not to (which is hardly effective, but such is life).

The fact is, your constitution rules in this scenario (public library), and the librarians cannot make the call on what is or isn't obscene.

Exactly! That's what I'm saying. Just because I think this isn't something you should do doesn't mean I think the people in charge should make the call. I'm condemning these policies while at the same time, as a private citizen, making a request regarding polite behavior. You're free to ignore it; these are all behaviors perfectly within our constitutional rights, and I will fight to keep them there. But I think it's a reasonable request.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

Anne Honime (828246) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749102)

PLease, come on. Public libraries are places where you should be able to look at whatever you feel inclined to, be it for entertainment or work. It's not a matter of personal taste. Libraries around the world have a long time policy of storing even the most offending materials, in the event of someone wanting to contradict them. In ancient times, those parts of collections where called "inferno" (I don't know in english if "hell" was in use). Interstingly, even when laws where harsher than today, in Medieval Europe where blasphemy wasn't taken lightly, monastic libraries kept storing and gave access (not general access, granted) to the most pagan books, and without them Plato would be all lost, as well as many philosophers universally looking like pornographs today. Words are words, images are images : it's not the real thing, merely a shadow of it. Even an illicit picture is only a memory of something which is no more real. You can only fight what you know, that's the purpose of record keeping.

Now, I'm all in favor of separated spaces between children and adults in public libraries, and even a separated space between general public and a more controversial area.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

Mistshadow2k4 (748958) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749157)

The issue isn't about porn. It's about them thinking they have the right to tell us we can't view something on a computer they don't approve of, which is way overstepping their legal authority. And haven't you been paying attention to the problems with Google refusing to turn over search records to the government? The goevernment claims they're doing this to see how easy it is for children to access porn on the internet, as if theat weren't the job of the children's parents. Before long it may be illegal to view porn of any kind on your computer in your own home.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749159)

You sir, have no clue what a library is about. It's for learning, not for censorship of ideas. You've no right to assume that a person is looking at "porn" for the same reasons that someone might look at porn. There are many reasons to do so -- investigators do it all the time. Artists do it all the time. Anthropologists do it all the time. Perhaps the person's child had just announced that they wanted to be a porn star, and the responsible adult was investigating the industry before deciding to forbid it. If you don't want your kids to be exposed to that, don't send them to a place of free thinking. Make them watch a mainstream TV show instead. But don't expect them to thank you for it. Because that's where the real porn -- the pointless, meaningless titilation -- is.

Re:Hypocrisy (1)

daigu (111684) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749166)

Here's another solution, create a porn section. Video stores have them. Why not public libraries? Libraries are supposed to be shared collections of material that people want. So, I'll ask the tough question: why not porn? I think there are good reasons why not - but let's have them out on the table rather than assume libraries just shouldn't have it. That's another form of hypocrisy hidden in this little tale.

Not only porn (5, Interesting)

recoiledsnake (879048) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749025)

From the article here [boiseweekly.com]

A federal employee gets hassled by Homeland Security for antiwar stickers on his car. Is it a mistake, a new rule, or the part of a trend of the First Amendment being bullied out of existence? Read the transcript, read the rules and decide for yourself

Just doing their duty (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749026)

Remember, Tom Ridge said that Homeland Security is about protecting "the American way of life, the most important job of government."

These officers are part of Homeland Security. They are RESPONSIBLE for protecting our homes and our children and our way of life. The department was formed exactly so that we can protect American values.

If they can't stop porn, we will have lost to the terrorists and the environmentalists and those who are more interested in godless "constitutional liberties".

I have an idea that will save $3.6M/year... (4, Funny)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749038)

"In the post-9/11 era, even suburban counties have homeland security departments. Montgomery County will not specify how many officers are in the department's security division, citing security reasons. Its annual budget, including salaries, is $3.6 million."

I have an idea that will save $3.6M/year...can you guess what it is?

Re:I have an idea that will save $3.6M/year... (1)

luvirini (753157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749153)

Outsource those jobs to India?

Wow.. (1)

biglig2 (89374) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749039)

I didn't realise you had state-level homeland security people. Sounds a bit confusing to me.

Re:Wow.. (1)

nwbvt (768631) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749173)

They were not state level. They were county level. Unless Montgomery County has recently seceded from the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Re:Wow.. (1)

nwbvt (768631) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749190)

Or if they recently seceded from the state of Maryland, which is probably slightly more likely (than Virginia invading Maryland and then Montgomery county leaving).

That teaches me to post before I've had a cup of coffee.

Re:Wow.. (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749198)

Virginia?

Re:Wow.. (2, Informative)

Shag (3737) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749187)

Actually, these are county level. If you're from outside the US, that's a further subdivision within a state.

After 9/11, pretty much every state got some homeland security/anti-terror stuff going (my freshly-retired aunt worked for the state I grew up in, and I think wound up with ties to their anti-terror folks, since she dealt with things terrorists like, such as laundered money), and funding for "homeland security" has been doled out down to the lowest levels of government (where it's been spent on some truly weird stuff).

You know what really grinds my gears? (1)

thedletterman (926787) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749058)

Where in the Bible does it say a man shouldn't have the right to knock out a couple knuckle babies in the privacy of his public library because he doesn't have a DVD player?

Re:You know what really grinds my gears? (1)

anoack (649361) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749101)

No where! Because the bible is too long to read!

Cheers! (5, Insightful)

MMC Monster (602931) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749059)

Cheers to the librarian who had the guts to stand up to defend the rights of the people.

As the article mentions, the library system in that county includes privacy screens so that people can view whatever they want without disturbing anyone else. A very reasonable alternative to blocking sites based on content.

But is it just the people? (1)

WebHostingGuy (825421) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749071)

(flame on hold)

Is the real problem the law, homeland security or just the people in the position?

I think the problem here is that you have individuals who went outside the boundry of what they are supposed to do. Yes, it is wrong. However, do you know blame the law or the agency they work for? Isn't it just a problem with these knuckleheads? They were doing something they were supposed to be doing. I think it is more of a people problem, rather than a problem with the law. If they were doing what they were supposed to do, and their manager making sure they are doing what they are supposed to do none of this would have happened.

People make mistakes all the time, but it seems nowdays we blame the law or organization for the actions of a few. I think we should blame the law or the organization in certain cases but this isn't this just the case here. We all have *quasi-idiots* working around us at times. Just as they do not define who we are I don't think it is fair to say Homeland Security is therefore bad.

(/flame on hold)
(flame on begin)

Re:But is it just the people? (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749167)

>We all have *quasi-idiots* working around us at times. Just as they do not define who we are I don't think it is fair to say Homeland Security is therefore bad.

It is Homeland Security responsibity to tell them what they should be doing. It is Homeland Security responsiblity to train them correctly and tell them what they can do and what they cannot. It is Homeland Security's responsiblity for hiring professional and intelligent people, ie not hiring "quasi-idiots".

Even Homeland Security knows this. From the article:
Still, Montgomery plans to train its homeland security officers "so they fully understand library policy and its consistency with residents' First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution," Romer said in his statement.

Retroactive training (1)

NorbrookC (674063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749073)

FTA: "Still, Montgomery plans to train its homeland security officers "so they fully understand library policy and its consistency with residents' First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution," Romer said in his statement."

How about doing that before you send them out? It's one of those little points the rest of us would call: "obvious".

I'd be the first to say that you shouldn't be viewing porn sites on a library computer, and no, I don't think you have the "right" to use a publically funded, public access computer to do so. Get your own computer, a broadband connection, and go to town if you want to do that.

I do have a problem when you get to the terms "obscene" or "offensive." An amazing number of things can get rolled into those terms. I also find the idea that some "official" person is going to harass me even more offensive than any material on a computer screen. This seems to be a new extension of an old battle. Remember when the fight was over what books were in a library? That some government bureaucrat can tell me what I'm allowed to see or know is the most dangerous thing of all.

county level, not federal (1)

JeffSh (71237) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749078)

this only moderates the seriousness of the issue, but i feel it is fair to point out that this is some County's homeland security department, that is seemly unrelated to the federal homeland security agency.

that said, it's still a farce and needs to be dealt with, but in my experience with local government, it's much easier for stupid/retarded things to happen at the local level than it is at higher levels.

its all stupid, just varying degrees of it.. this happening with a county level department is just alittle bit easier to understand HOW it could happen... not why.

Speaking of Porn: www.kybe.com (0, Offtopic)

user1010 (953589) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749087)

I recently ran upon a pretty low-key adult search engine that works pretty well with no annoying pop-ups or phishing... www.kybe.com

Hand them your ACLU Card (3, Interesting)

RedHatLinux (453603) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749094)

Most MD police are yocals and bullies, who will try to bully or dick you around if you let. I've found that handing them my ACLU card deters them. Even better was I knew some of these commanders, and there was nothing funnier than watching an officer explain to division/area commander, why he trying to get the county sued.

You really think this is DHS policy? NO! (4, Insightful)

jdwclemson (953895) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749112)

The article states nothing about these employees actually trying to enforce Homeland Security regulatinos, they were clearly speaking on their own behalf. This was irresponsible, as they were in uniform and on duty. Keep on mind that they were also part of a subsidiary of the DHS. This is the same thing as if a fey Marines still in uniform did the same thing. It isn't Department of Defense policy to enforce indecency, but that doesn't mean they can keep every one of their thousands of employees from doing this kind of thing out of personal ignorance. Homeland Security is only focused on the safety of people, look at their site and look into their operations(http://www.dhs.gov./ [www.dhs.gov] They are not investigators, they are not crime stoppers, those guards were sent there to patrol and they stepped out of bounds. Look into the matter more and you can be sure they got in trouble for this irresponsible move on their part. Some people just are not aware that playboy is available at the library for its articles. If this mess was actually caused by a Homeland Security rule, I would say it might be a big deal, but clearly it had NOTHING to do with them except for that two employees stepped out of bounds while in uniform, and they need to be reprimanded.

Re:You really think this is DHS policy? NO! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749199)

If these Yahoo's thought they were doing the "Right thing" it speaks volumes about the DHS hiring policies and procedures. I mean come the hell on, someone with even basic understanding of law enforcement protocals would know this sort of thing was not appropriate. This points to a poor training program, and apparently a lowest common denominator hiring program.

Which brings up an interesting point, what exactly is required to be qualified to work for the DHS in this role or similar?

This surprises me... (4, Interesting)

Billbapapa (866975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749128)

I'm not upset in the least that a regular police officer stopped this, but I am surprised that they were able to.

I admit I don't know too much about these Homeland Security officers but I somehow imagined they would outrank the police. From the article it sounds like they are no more powerful than your run of the mill mall security guard - at least those guys are given flashlights.

Terrorist have won (5, Insightful)

8400_RPM (716968) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749135)

When people are standing in the libraries monitoring what we read, the terrorist have won.

They haven't killed any more people, but they've killed what makes America, America. Our freedom.

.

Re:Terrorist have won (1)

pl1ght (836951) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749181)

Please move to another country if you do not care for our level of freedom anymore.

Re:Terrorist have won (1)

8400_RPM (716968) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749186)

We're not allowed to live where we want anymore either. Nice....

No porn in the libraries please. (-1, Troll)

pair-a-noyd (594371) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749141)

Computers are cheap.
Let people do their porn viewing in the privacy of their own home and foot the bill themselves.

I object to the public financing the vehicle for perverts to get a FREE thrill at taxpayers expense. These sickos go wank off in the library then leave the mess behind for someone else. BS to that. That's just flat out wrong.

And doing it where other people passing by, women and children for instance, that's very, very wrong. There has been a trend of people driving around with porn running on LCD's in their SUV's with the intention of other drivers seeing their porn shows. KIDS are seeing this stuff too.. The police in some cities are pulling these people over and ticketing them but I think they should be arrested, same as a flasher would be.

You want porn? Do it at home behind closed doors but don't do it on the taxpayers tab.

As for DHS intervening, good for them. They are law enforcement officers are they not? I'm sick of this "hey, it's not MY job" attitude everyone has now.
A cop is a cop is a cop. Or should be.

And since the porn in the library problem isn't being handled I think they should simply remove the computers from the library. Let people go buy their own, they're cheap now.

I'd kind of like it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14749149)

...if Homeland Security protected against threats to lives and property rather than personal morality. Of course, I'd also prefer to have the police do the same thing, rather than worry about what hookers or druggies are doing to themselves.

I live in Montgomery County, this isn't a surprise (0, Flamebait)

stupidpuppy (955515) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749152)

There's a reason why they call my state "The People's Republic of Maryland".

Montgomery County is one of the most liberal counties in one of the most liberal states in the country. The "Homeland Security" people in question work for the county, not for the US gov't. And I'm not surprised that they would stoop to bullying library patrons, although I doubt it's authorized, and the perpetrators will probably be disciplined (but not fired, oh no).

Although, you have to wonder if it's another hoax [boston.com] , like that other "Damning Homeland Security Library Story".

Although this was done by people working for a liberal county, in a liberal state, and the whole idea of "Homeland Security Departments" was hatched by liberals and just adopted by Bush after 9/11, I'm sure everyone here will blame Bush. Go Slashdot!

Do something about it (1)

77Punker (673758) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749203)

I blame Bush as much as I blame everyone else in charge. The only difference between the two major parties is how they talk before the election. Once in control, they both expand government power at the cost of the liberty of the citizens. After such a mediocre Republican president, as long as the Democrats don't fuck it up and send in another Al Gore, they'll have the presidency. Just watch and you'll see that they do the same stuff once they're in control. On a related note, if you want to end all of this, help the Libertarians [lp.org] . I do and I enjoy it.

Obscenity vs. Sexual Harassment (1)

stupidpuppy (955515) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749175)

I'll also say that no library can really allow people to peruse pornography on a terminal the public can see, free speech or no.

They might think they can, but after a few expensive sexual harassment suits I think they will "learn" that free speech doesn't protect public viewing of pr0n.

The summary is wrong (1)

Nate B. (2907) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749179)

Instead of writing "two uniformed men" it should have been written as "two uninformed men"...

Petty Tyranny (3, Interesting)

daigu (111684) | more than 8 years ago | (#14749204)

No tyranny is so irksome as petty tyranny: the officious demands of policemen, government clerks, and electromechanical gadgets. - Edward Abbey

Amazing the effect any authority has on small minds. Invariably, it leads to attempt to usurp new power and tyranny. It would have been better if the librarian would have immediately asked the Homeland Security people to go outside and state that such declarations - even from police officers - was illegal and inappropriate.

Interesting that they were merely reassigned, rather than fired for their stupidity.

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