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31st October

    Massive Damage from a Worthless Accusation


Adult industry photographer and content provider Mike Jones was attending a regional adult industry conference in Chicago back in 2000 when his life and business were suddenly thrown into disarray. Mike was attending the conference to promote his adult content site, His attorney, J.D. Obenberger of, was also attending the gathering. The event started off well enough, but Mike’s day was about to take a serious turn for the worse.

Obenberger was right next to Mike when the phone rings: He picks it up and he’s talking to a member of his family and he goes ashen and then his eyes just go completely catatonic, and it was somebody back at his house telling him that the police were all over his house and they were breaking the door in at his studios.”

Let’s back up for a moment. Mike Jones got started in the adult photography business back in the 1990’s. Photography had been Mike’s hobby for years, but the opportunities created by the mainstream’s arrival to the Internet suddenly provided Mike with a chance to take his hobby to a more professional level. His wife was not only aware of Mike’s business and supportive of his work, but she also was an active part of his business operations. Mike was well liked by those in the adult industry who knew him, and it seemed his business was off to a great start.

The village of Greenwood was a small village, however, and some people who lived there had old-fashioned, small town values. When a local woman with a history of initiating legal disputes against the village learned that Mike was operating an adult business, she quickly decided that she wanted Mike to leave the area; she took her objections about Mike’s presence to an acquaintance, who according to police reports that would later come out at court hearings, then began making calls to law enforcement to complain about Mike’s business and urge the local sheriff’s office to act.

Sometime before the police raided Mike’s home and studio, they paid him a visit to inquire about allegations they had received from parties, then undisclosed, that Mike might be taking nude pictures of underage girls. “When the police first came, they told me that it was an anonymous report that came in through Crime Stoppers, and they were investigating it,” explains Jones. “

Having nothing to hide, Mike invited the officers in to his home, sat them down, and explained to them candidly what he did for a living. The officers seemed to be unaware of the record-keeping requirements set forth by 18 U.S.C. 2257, so Mike explained that he kept age verification documents for all models that he shot, along with a signed model release. I told them that if they ever had a question about any of the performers, on any of our Web sites or on CD Babes, that they could feel free to come back to my house at any time and I would provide them with the information on the performer, copies of her ID, etc.

Mike’s explanation seemed to satisfy the officers, and when they left his home that day it appeared to all that the misunderstanding had been settled. In fact, the investigating officer closed the case in June of that year concluding that the accusations of child pornography were unfounded. Yet the locals who were intent on seeing Mike’s business shut down would call the sheriff’s office again, and even go so far as to convince the village attorney to call and suggest Mike be considered for charges of obscenity for some BDSM images that he sold through his adult content business.

When the police showed back up at Mike’s home for a second visit a few months after their initial visit, this time with a search warrant, it quickly became apparent that all hadn’t been settled as was previously thought, and that Mike Jones was in for a legal fight for his business, and for his very freedom.

The raid on Mike’s home occurred at a time when no adult was present to protect his teenage daughter and young son from a barrage of explicit questions from law enforcement officers. Mike’s fourteen year-old daughter, her boyfriend and his eleven year-old son at the house alone when the police arrived. With no adults to object, the invading officers took Mike’s daughter and son aside and asked them all kind of explicit questions.

They were asking [my children] questions like, do you do nudie pictures for your daddy? Have you ever posed naked for your daddy? Have you ever had sex for your daddy? Have you ever been pregnant? Have you ever had an abortion? Have you ever been married? Have you ever been divorced? That’s what they asked a fourteen year-old girl.

By the time Mike arrived back at his house, the police had left his home but were still going through his studio. The police took everything they could get their hands on that might store information about Mike’s business, even sifting through his daughter’s personal bedroom and taking her personal computer that she used for homework. They took financial records, and they also took adult video tapes that were for personal use.

Just down the road at Mike’s photography studio, another group of officers kicked in the door and seized all kinds of items including business records, photographs, floppy discs, computer equipment, CDs and more. They completely shut him down, he had no way to do email except the laptop that he had taken with him to the show. After about ten days, a portion of the materials that had been taken were returned to Mike, but much of his equipment was not returned – his primary business computer remains in police custody to this day.

Mike Jones was eventually arrested and charged with two crimes: distribution of obscene materials, and possession of child pornography. It was the second charge that would ultimately mean hard times for Mike’s business, CD Babes.

The charge of child porn actually was not related to Mike’s business at all. After seizing Mike’s work computer, investigators scoured its hard drive with forensics software designed to recover deleted files. Investigators found several images that they believed could be child pornography. The images were small thumbnail images found in an Internet browser’s cache folder; all of the images had filenames that started with “TN”, and all were downloaded in less than one minute at about 4:57 on August 5, 2000. The images had already been deleted. There was no evidence that Mike had ever sought out child porn, or intentionally stored it on his computer, or was even ever aware that the small thumbnail files had existed at all. No larger counterparts to these thumbnail images were ever recovered.

As for the charges of obscenity, that was an idea passed on to the sheriff’s department from the local village attorney, Anthony Nettis. Once it became clear that Mike wasn’t guilty of photographing underage girls, the issue of obscenity was indeed considered. An Illinois grand jury would eventually be asked to decide if Mike should be tried on charges of obscenity based on several explicit BDSM images that were pulled from his Web site; while the facts that were presented to the grand jury are confidential, and its understanding of obscenity law unknown, it was the grand jury’s ultimate decision that the state should proceed with charges of obscenity against Mike, as well as charges of possessing child pornography.

It would eventually turn out that law enforcement had made a number of mistakes in their investigation of Mike and his business. Proving to be a pivotal issue in Mike’s subsequent court hearings, law enforcement officers used questionable and overly broad methods in obtaining and carrying out the search warrant.

In order to obtain a search warrant, a law enforcement investigator took several pictures of legal-aged nude models off of Mike’s Web site (not to be confused with the thumbnail images that would later be found) and took them to a local emergency room doctor and asked for a professional opinion as to the age of the girls in the pictures. The doctor’s flawed age estimate proved to be enough for investigators to get a search warrant. They got a very broad warrant authorizing them to take everything , says Obenberger. “

Mike’s court battle has lasted for three and a half years, an awful long time to live in fear of a possible negative outcome in court. Fortunately for Mike Jones, the judge assigned to his case was fair and willing to listen to the facts of the case and abide strictly by the letter of the law.

The judge was very fair, says Jones. She did her job. She upheld the law … she was always very straight and very fair.

After several procedural hurdles, Mike’s attorneys filed a motion with the court to suppress the evidence obtained as a result of the broad search warrant. “Reed Lee [Obenberger’s associate] and I collaborated on the motion to suppress itself, and the hearing I did most of it, [Lee] cross-examined the forensic computer analyst, and then Reed substantially wrote the brief after the hearing,” explains Obenberger.

Last week the motion to suppress was granted in court, leaving the prosecution without any of the evidence it had obtained through the search of Mike’s home and studio. That of course included the recovered thumbnail images that were the basis of the child pornography charges. The state then dropped the prosecution.

Having sold in December of last year, Mike now finds himself trying to pick up the pieces and start over. He and his family moved out of Greenwood, the damage having already been done.

For adult Webmasters, the story of Mike Jones serves both as a cautionary tale, and, if charges are officially dropped as expected, as an inspirational tale. It’s a cautionary tale because it warns adult Webmasters that the adult industry brings legal risks. Anyone who works in the adult entertainment business needs to be aware of his or her legal risks prior to publishing adult works in any public medium. Having a business relationship with a capable adult industry attorney is vital. Webmasters need to keep impeccable records documenting the age of any models appearing in any sexually explicit images that they might publish. Even accidents and misunderstandings can lead to charges of child porn, an accusation that can destroy an individual’s business and reputation.


24th October

    Denial of Speech Attack

One can't help but think that the Americans have invested in sufficient Internet computing to target a denial of service at will. I think the Guardian should be congratulated for dreaming up such an effective strategy. As usual, those who are keenest to deny freedom of speech prove to be the keenest to kill  in the name of freedom of speech.

The Guardian, a London-based newspaper, ended a letter-writing campaign aimed at defeating U.S. President George Warmonger Bush after a Web site hosting the promotion was attacked by hackers.

Ian Katz, an editor at the British newspaper who thought up "Operation Clark County," said in a letter posted to the company's Web site on Thursday that despite garnering an overwhelming response from the public, the project was being scrapped. The campaign asked for non-American volunteers to pen letters to undecided voters in Clark County, Ohio--which the Guardian had identified as a crucial region in a battleground election state--urging them to vote against Bush in next month's presidential election.

According to Katz' letter, more than 4,000 people visited the Guardian's Web site to be matched with Clark County voters during the first 24 hours after the campaign was launched on Oct. 13. By the next day, the total had risen to 7,000, and by last Sunday some 14,000 individuals had volunteered to write to the U.S. voters.

However, Katz said the Guardian's Web site came under attack on Sunday, by "presumably politically inspired" hackers. The editor said he and 53 members of the newspaper's staff were also buried under an onslaught of more than 700 spam e-mails each, many of which promoted conservative political causes.

Katz wrote in his letter that the effort was launched as something of a joke, but took on a more serious tenor as angry letters began flooding into the Guardian from Americans incensed by the plan. Despite taking the turn for the worse, the editor said his project still had its intended effect, provoking discussion of the election.

We set out to get people talking and thinking about the impact of the U.S. election on citizens of other countries, and that is what we have done," Katz wrote. "For the Guardian to have experienced such a backlash to an editorial project is extraordinary, but the numbers of complaints are thoroughly outdone by the number of people who engaged positively with the project.


7th October

    Knicker Bacon Banned

I have borrowed a little BBC terminology for what they regard as excessively explicit female genitalia.

I guess there is no direct causal link but there seems a massive correlation between those that want to ban porn and those that are most trigger happy when it comes to war mongering, killing and maiming.

From The Register Guard

The US military Central Command have banned pornography in the Middle East. Military organizations have given two reasons for prohibiting pornography: It's a "good order and discipline" measure for the troops; and pornography is offensive to observant Muslims.

The main focus was ensuring good order in the close quarters where soldiers work and live, a spokesman said. In the states, there's home and there's work: You can go home at night and lock the door, " she said. When you're deployed, there's no distinction between work and home. Your tent is a public space. It's a work space.

Oregon National Guard, on the other hand, doesn't want its soldiers to give offence. Volunteers attend cultural sensitivity training before they're deployed, said Kay Fristad, spokeswoman at the Oregon Military Department. It's to alleviate any potential for conflict based on religion in an area that has enough strife already.

Religious prohibitions for Muslims include no drinking alcohol, no eating pork, no accepting of profits gained from interest payments, and a ban on pornography. However, since the ousting of Saddam Hussein's regime, the pornography trade has flourished in Baghdad's civilian population, according to news reports. Saddam Hussein suppressed pornography, but now merchants are peddling magazines and videos in the open marketplace - and some of these start-up enterprises have come under attack by fundamentalist fighters.

Timothy Gianotti, assistant professor of Islamic thought at the University of Oregon, said the Middle East is a sexually conservative region where modesty is connected to the honour, and not just a woman's honour. We're talking about the whole family's honour here, he said.


August 3rd

    American Airline Tits

From CNN

A couple returning home from a Costa Rican vacation was ejected from an American Airlines flight because the man was wearing a T-shirt depicting a bare breast.

Oscar Arela and his girlfriend were removed from Flight 952 on Saturday after he refused to change the shirt or turn it inside out at Miami International Airport.

The couple, who were making a connecting flight, said nobody on their earlier flight objected to the shirt and claimed the airline violated their constitutional right to free speech.

It's a picture of a man and woman, and the woman's breast is showing, said his girlfriend, The flight attendant basically walked up to us and yelled, 'You have to take off that shirt right now. '

American spokesman Tim Wagner said Sunday that crew members acted properly, and said the shirt was more graphic than the couple described. The airline gave them a refund, he said.

Wagner noted on American's Web site the policy clearly states that someone who is clothed in a manner that would cause discomfort or offense to other passengers can be removed from a flight.


May 16th

    US claps British tourists in irons

From The Times

The Foreign Office is investigating a surge in complaints about the heavy-handed treatment of British visitors to America by US immigration officers.

Tourists and business travellers have been detained for hours — sometimes in handcuffs or leg chains — and then denied entry into the country for minor transgressions, some of which have turned out to be unfounded.

Some have been deported after being falsely accused of having terrorist links. Dozens of other visitors have complained about aggressive behaviour from airport officials.

A security crackdown in the wake of the September 11 atrocities in 2001 has led to a general rise in the number of complaints about US immigration, but last week the Foreign Office said it had been contacted by about 100 concerned Britons in the past 12 months.

A number of British travellers who claim to have been mistreated have raised their concerns with The Sunday Times.

Savinder Bual, 28, from Merton, south London, flew to America at the end of March to make an educational film. On arriving at New York’s JFK airport, she was separated from her colleagues and quizzed by an immigration officer about a trip to San Francisco she had made in 1996.

He asked me how long I had been in San Francisco that time and I explained that I had stayed three months in my university holidays , said Bual. Then he said , ‘You do know how many days are in a month? A waiver is only for 90 days and you stayed three months.’ He seemed very smug that he had actually found something to pin on me.

The officer claimed Bual had overstayed by four days and ignored the fact that she had visited America again in 1998 without the issue being raised. Her feet were shackled and she was held in a detention room overnight.

The humiliating experience reduced Bual to tears and she was deported 12 hours after her arrival in New York. But she has since discovered from an old diary that she had not overstayed in 1996. “I was shocked to think this goes on and I hope that the Americans realise they cannot treat people like this,” she said.

Another victim is Neil Forrester, 33, chief technical officer of an IT firm in Brighton. He was held by immigration officers at Los Angeles airport in February 2003.

Forrester, who was travelling with his daughter and pregnant wife, had his passport stolen during a visit to America in 1996 which meant that the immigration services had no record of him leaving the country on that occasion.

Accused of overstaying, Forrester was handcuffed in front of his family and led to a detention room where he was photographed, fingerprinted and body-searched. He was not allowed to call his wife or a lawyer and was deported after 24 hours. He is now banned from entering America for 10 years. This is a real problem as my wife and daughter are both US citizens and I can’t visit our family over there , he said.

British citizens of Asian origin, particularly Muslims, appear to have been affected the most by the security clampdown. Adam Riaz Khan, 24, from Enfield, north London, was detained in February at Atlanta airport while in transit from Mexico to Britain.

They asked whether I had been to Iraq, Iran, Somalia or Afghanistan, and when they found the Koran in my bag I could see they thought they were on to something, They insisted that Bin Laden was my uncle and asked me if I thought America should be an Islamic state.

Riaz Khan, who had been on holiday in Mexico for a month, was also asked if he knew how to make bombs. He was deported to London after being questioned for seven hours.

The Foreign Office says it is seeking an explanation from the US authorities about each complaint. British officials and their counterparts from other European Union countries have also jointly raised concerns “at various levels” in America.

We take seriously complaints from British nationals about treatment they have received from American immigration, a spokesman said. But the Americans decide their policy. Some 4m Britons visit the US each year.

The US Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for immigration, said its officers were fair and professional and would correct any errors they had made. (reparations for Iraq maybe)


April 21st

    Worth the Wait...Not

From The Guardian

Transatlantic travellers may in future have to check in five hours early for their flights to answer detailed security questions, the travel industry warned yesterday.

Mounting anxiety among British tour operators about US plans to obtain advance information has prompted the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) to signal that it could lead to chaos at big British airports.

Abta believes the Advanced Passenger Information System (Apis), which the US wants to introduce would be unworkable and result in lengthy queues. It would deter many of the 4 million Britons who fly to the US every year, many tour operators claim.

The US homeland security department has not announced when it will introduce the scheme, which is supposed to identify terror suspects, nor has it decided how much information it will require. We don't know when it's coming in , explained Frances Tuke, an Abta spokeswoman.

Airlines would be asked to transfer information about passengers to the United States prior to departure. They would include passport details, country of residence and where the passenger will stay on their first night in the USA.  It has also been suggested that they may want passengers to declare where they are going to stay for their whole trip. There's obviously an issue about data protection in this. I doubt the US authorities will want to cause such huge delays at airports that they have to take aircraft out of the schedules.

The need for passengers to arrive five hours before take-off is based on a study which suggested it would take half a minute to extract the information from each passenger. If you are dealing with a full jumbo jet, that could add up to two or three hours more. Check-in is already two hours before departure."

Scheduled airlines have already prepared some of the technology to email such details to the US but few charter airlines are believed to have made preparations. [Abta is] concerned about this, Tuke said.

The Department of Transport in London yesterday said it was aware of the Apis proposals but was awaiting confirmation of what information would be required. We have lobbied [the US] to have the impact of these proposals mitigated, a spokesman said.

Washington has said it does not wish to discourage foreign travellers from taking holidays in the US. It has, however, admitted there could be delays when Apis is introduced.

The check-in threat emerged as MEPs in the European parliament prepared to vote to refer a parallel row over passengers' data to the European court of justice in defiance of the European commission, which is trying to negotiate a deal with the homeland security department. The dispute in Brussels is over the amount of information about passengers already being sent by European airlines to the US.

Suggestions that the information might be transferred to third countries has inflamed concerns about breaches of civil liberties and data protection regulations.

Information being obtained includes details about which passengers have requested kosher or halal meals. The Liberal Democrat group in Brussels fears the existing data transfers are illegal. We share the commitment to fighting terrorism but we will not ride roughshod over privacy rights of Europeans in this fight, said Graham Watson, MEP.


April 18th

    Welcome to the USA

From The Times

Most wanted: how the US visa cops nailed me.
David James Smith was one of many Britons put in a cell for not having the right papers for a visit to the States

Though I do not usually take pleasure from other people’s misfortune, I must confess I was rather happy to read that Ian McEwan, the novelist, had briefly been refused entry to the United States the other day because he did not have the right visa.

There has been a spate of similar cases in recent months — a couple of reporters from Australia, a large group of computer game journalists heading to a convention, some friends of friends who had the wrong visa, an expired visa or no visa at all. And me, glad of the company, relieved to find that I am not the only turkey in the coop.

I flew into Los Angeles International Airport at about 3pm on March 2. The immigration officer took my green visa waiver form and asked the purpose of my visit. I told him I was on assignment for The Sunday Times Magazine.

The officer asked me to follow him to the secondary inspection area where he handed my passport to a colleague. I wasn’t worried, I had nothing to hide.

Then I was called to the counter and told that the green waiver form was not intended for use by foreign journalists who were supposed to have an I-visa. Again, I was not concerned. I had been travelling to the States on assignments for nearly 10 years and had never had a visa. I had always been open about the nature of my visit and had never before been challenged, not even after 9/11.

I was told that the role of immigration had been subsumed into the Department of Homeland Security and that the rules had been tightened. Strictly speaking, as a journalist you should only ever have entered with the I-visa but in practice it had not been necessary. Until now.

After five hours of anxious waiting I was told I had been refused entry and would be going home the next day. I wondered if I’d be put up in an airport hotel. But no, I was told I would be handed over to a private security firm who would take me to a detention centre in downtown LA. I was laboriously fingerprinted, digit by digit, three times for three separate forms and photographed four times because one of the pictures didn’t come out.

When the private security officer came along he told me to empty my pockets and remove my shoe laces and my trouser belt. He told me to place my hands behind my head and frisked me. In the secure area I was offered a cold drink and an apple and a bun. I was too sick to eat. I wasn’t allowed a cup of coffee, presumably because I might have used it as a weapon. All my possessions were now in my bags which I could use only with permission. I was not allowed the use of my mobile or laptop or even a pen. I was given a red soft felt-tip and used it to make some notes.

Just before midnight another officer arrived to take me to the detention centre. He said he was not going to cuff me and I thanked him. He asked me if I wanted to bring anything. I said I didn’t know what was there, so couldn’t say what I might need. There was not much there, he said. Blankets? No. Could I take one? No, because then he’d have 200 other inmates all rioting for a blanket.

I was locked into a cage in the back of a van — a stray dog on his way to the pound. The detention centre was in the bowels of the regional field office of the Department of Homeland Security. I passed through the entrance into the secure area. It was a large open room with chairs and desks, surrounded by a series of locked rooms with reinforced glass windows. Each of the rooms had an incongruously large numeral painted on its facing wall. “I’ll put him in tank two, shall I?” asked the guard who took me in. No, he was told, use tank one.

I was kept in the room for the whole night. It was a square room of 15 paces width. Bright fluorescent lights remained on the whole time. I was told they could not be dimmed or turned off. Cold air blew constantly from vents in the high ceiling that were spattered with dried pieces of sodden toilet tissue that other inmates had obviously used to try to block the vents.

There was no bedding and no bed, just a bench fixed to the wall with a cold metallic surface; there was a stainless steel toilet and a drinking tap moulded from the same unit immediately above the toilet. There was no door on the filthy toilet, only a partial sidescreen. There was a television, which was off when I arrived and was switched on shortly after 6am.

There was a bank of telephones on the wall and several notices by the door, listing the phone numbers of consulates and immigration lawyers. The phones could be used only with special detention centre phone cards, purchased from a machine just outside my door. There was a list of rules about inmate behaviour which, in the absence of a pen, I tried and failed to memorise. I recall that horseplay was banned, as was knocking on the glass window. There was, however, no bell or any other means of calling for help or assistance.

After about an hour I began to feel a little panicky. Would I cope? I caught the eye of a passing guard and he unlocked my door. He let me buy a phone card. I told him I wasn’t sure that I could handle being locked up all night and he said you just have to try to get through it as best you can. I lay on the cold bench and read a book, using the plastic liner from the dirty dustbin for insulation and my unlaced shoes as a pillow.

I tried to call colleagues in London but it was out of hours by now and I couldn’t raise anybody. Reluctantly, but needing to speak to someone who cared about me, I called home and told my girlfriend, Petal, where I was and what had happened. I did my best to reassure her that I was okay but she was worried. I felt calmer after speaking to her and knew then that I would survive the experience. Still, it remained close to unbearable and I was unable to sleep.

At about 8am I was placed in another “tank” with 20 others. A man came and asked what a white boy like me was doing there. So I told him. He was Jordanian and had just finished a prison sentence for a firearms offence and faced deportation. I spoke to a Jamaican and a man from Belize who had both been caught trying to enter the United States on false passports. They had spent a month in prison and were about to be deported.

The door opened and the breakfast trolley pulled up. We were told to form a single file from the door and took it in turns to collect our breakfast. No coffee, of course. After breakfast I was called from the room and taken to wait in the lobby with a group of Chinese. As we sat there a party of young Mexican men arrived, all handcuffed together like a chain gang.

I wondered if I would be handcuffed for the return journey but I was locked in the van again, with the Chinese this time, and we drove back to the airport. One of the Chinese spoke English and said they had flown to Mexico from Europe and entered the US in a lorry. Now they were being flown to Beijing.

At the airport we drove across the runway and stopped at the foot of the Chinese group’s 747 and they were escorted onto the plane. I was taken back to the secure room inside the airport where I wrapped myself in blankets and fell asleep.

It was 26 hours after my arrival when two guards finally escorted me onto the plane home. They took me into the plane and gave the purser an envelope containing my passport, which was returned to me just before we landed at Heathrow. Inside it, someone had written in big letters in black biro: “Refused under sec 217.4 (a)b) of the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act). To depart foreign on VSOO8.”



    Land of the Not So Free

Do I take it that anyone critical of the United States of War Criminals is no longer welcome there?

Thanks to Malc for spotting this from the Independent's LA columnist

The Land of the Free? An unpleasant surprise on my return to the United States: a customs officer who chose to make me sweat and to threaten me with deportation, even though I have a valid journalist's visa that does not expire for another two years. A visa is not a guarantee of entry, he told me. We've been deporting quite a few British journalists recently. He then made a big song and dance about the distinction between simply being in the US on assignment and actually living there. Apparently, my California driving licence was in some way a damning indication that I was, in his words, circumventing the law . After a few anxious minutes, his superior let me through, but the message was unmistakable. In Bush's America, nobody - least of all a foreign journalist - can take anything for granted any more.


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