05 March 2003
Congressman Pickering on Children's Internet Protection Act
(USA Today 03/05/03 op-ed) (440)
(This column by Congressman Chip Pickering, Mississippi Republican who
is assistant House majority whip and sponsor of the Children's
Internet Protection Act, was published in USA Today March 5. The
column is in the public domain. No republication restrictions.)
Freedoms Are Not At Risk
By Chip Pickering
The Children's Internet Protection Act uses well-established
definitions and constitutional precedents to address a funding issue,
not a free-speech issue. Attempts to define this law as censorship are
misguided. It provides a reasonable means of guarding children against
pornography and sexual predators as their minds are free to wander the
halls of knowledge called libraries.
This is no different from a community zoning "adult entertainment"
away from schools, churches and residences. The community does not ban
"red light districts." Rather it is the common sense of the community
that they be inaccessible to children.
This law does not restrict Internet pornography. We aren't saying
libraries can't have pornography; we're just saying we won't pay for
pornography in libraries with taxpayer dollars. It is the common sense
of the American community that we zone a "green light district" in
libraries, a safe haven of learning.
In regard to security, some use twisted logic to criticize the USA
Patriot Act as threatening freedoms. The Patriot Act gives
investigators authority, only under court subpoena, to search business
records, including libraries and booksellers.
If someone detonates a truck bomb, investigators need to access the
records of who rented the truck. They need to determine who purchased
the materials to construct the bomb. Investigators should be allowed
to determine who checked out or purchased books instructing how to
build a bomb. These are reasonable investigations.
If investigators track terrorist communication to a library computer,
yet are prevented from knowing who used that computer, we may miss
clues that could prevent destruction in our cities and forfeit
evidence that could convict those killers.
We do not let thieves meander through banks. We do not allow
pedophiles to roam schools. We guard against spies at the Pentagon.
Yet some would ask us to open our treasure vaults of knowledge to
terrorists and not use the records available to convict the guilty, or
prevent their mayhem.
Libraries have been called "arsenals of liberty." We must not allow
terrorists or sexual predators to use our own arsenals to rob us of
our liberty and security, or our children of their innocence.
(Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., is assistant House majority whip and
sponsor of the Children's Internet Protection Act.)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)