Pubdate: Tue, 09 May 2000
Source: Wired News (US Web)
Copyright: 2000 Wired Digital Inc.
Contact:  660 3rd Street, 4th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94107
Author: Declan McCullagh


Opponents of a bill to restrict drug-related information online are asking 
members of the House Judiciary Committee to reject it at a scheduled vote 
Tuesday morning.

The panel is set to consider the Methamphetamine Anti-Proliferation Act, 
which makes it a federal crime to publish or link to information related to 
illegal drugs or drug advertising.

"You have all sorts of First Amendment problems with that," said Marv 
Johnson, legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Civil libertarians said the measure should be rewritten to remove 
restrictions on Web publishing and eliminate a controversial section that 
would allow police to conduct secret searches and seizures.

Johnson has lobbied both Democratic and Republican members of the Judiciary 
Committee, arguing that the bill is so vague it could put even mainstream 
publishers at risk.

"Nobody knows what part is going to get you in trouble," he says. "If you 
teach someone how to use a Bunsen burner, is this sufficient to get you 
indicted? Nobody really knows."

The American Booksellers Association also has cautioned Congress about 
approving the restrictions.

One portion of the bill would make it a crime "to teach or demonstrate the 
manufacture of a controlled substance." Another section would allow police 
to surreptitiously enter someone's house with a warrant without telling 
them about it -- a notification that currently is required by law.

Representative Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), a member of the committee, may 
introduce an amendment to the anti-methamphetamine bill to remove some of 
the more controversial sections.

"There's a possibility we will, but we haven't made any internal 
decisions," an aide to Baldwin said.

Proponents of the methamphetamine bill -- the Senate has already 
unanimously approved a similar measure -- said it's necessary to shut meth 
labs and combat the illegal drug market.

"Meth ensnares our children, endangers us all, and causes users to commit 
other crimes," Senator John Ashcroft (R-Missouri) said when introducing the 
Senate bill last year. "In 1998, the percentage of 12th graders who used 
meth was double the 1992 level. Meth-related emergency room incidents are 
up 63 percent over that same period."

Since the House version, sponsored by Representative Chris Cannon and 19 
other members of Congress, is different from the Senate bill, a conference 
committee would be necessary to reconcile the two pieces of legislation.

To avoid that possibility, some House Judiciary Committee members are 
considering replacing Cannon's bill with the Senate legislation.

But the Senate bill is even more far-reaching. It says Internet providers 
and hosting services must remove any website within 48 hours after the 
government objects to it -- and no court order is necessary.

"If an interactive computer service receives a notice ... that a particular 
online site residing on a computer server controlled or operated by the 
provider is being used to violate this section, the provider shall within 
48 hours, not including weekends and holidays, remove or disable access to 
the matter residing at that online site that allegedly violates this 
section," the bill says.

If the House Judiciary Committee does not vote on the meth bill on Tuesday 
at its 10 a.m. hearing, which will be cybercast, the vote is scheduled to 
take place Wednesday.
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