First posted here nine years ago today. I’ve made a couple of minor edits.
The news item “Recruits Sought for Porn Squad” reminds NewMexiKen of one of the things I don’t list on my résumé. I’ve already served on an FBI “porn squad.”
About 30 years ago, a lawsuit was brought against the National Archives and the FBI for violating the Federal Records Act. The Archives, it was alleged, had allowed the Bureau too much independence in deciding which records to keep under the Act. As a result of the litigation, the Court ordered the Archives to exert much more oversight. In practice it was almost as if the Bureau couldn’t empty its wastebaskets without the Archives sifting through to make sure there were no valuable records.
Things began to pile up at Bureau offices. Among the heaps were whole warehouses full of confiscated pirated copies of popular films and music, particularly in Los Angeles (that is, Hollywood) where I was the National Archives’ regional archivist. Ultimately I was dispatched to the Los Angeles FBI field office to “review” these tapes and affirm they were not legally records and that they could be disposed of consistent with the court order. I’d slap a cassette into the VCR, watch enough of it to attest that it was in fact just another copy of “Patton” or “The Empire Strikes Back,” sampling my way through endless boxes and palettes. Then I’d go back to the office and draft a document saying such-and-such was trash. The Deputy Archivist of the U.S. would sign the affidavit and file it with the court. We cleaned out a large warehouse this way. (Keep in mind that this was just bulk confiscated material. A sample was retained with the case materials to serve as evidence and to provide a historical record.)
[I was not, however, allowed to apply my sampling process to the confiscated cars in the FBI garage. Even then, L.A. drug distributors drove some fancy automobiles.]
It turned out about this time that there was a big bust of audio-visual materials in Honolulu and the FBI field office there was bursting at the seams with worthless junk. “Could I go out to Hawaii for a week and help them out?” “Well,” I said, “OK. If I have to.”
But, in Honolulu, the pirated copies of popular movies were interspersed with confiscated pornography — and in those days at least, the pornography the FBI confiscated wasn’t smut. It was animals and kids and stuff. So there I was in a darkened room at the FBI offices in Honolulu putting cassettes into the VCR and sampling enough to attest that it was in fact just another pornographic film and not a federal record.
Take it from NewMexiKen, there are better ways to spend one’s day than on an FBI porn squad.