A former American Civil Liberties Union executive, who once argued that Internet filters in libraries that limited children’s access to pornography would interfere with their ability to learn and communicate, is facing a federal court hearing today on charges he possessed child pornography.

The preliminary hearing is scheduled in court in the Eastern District of Virginia for Charles Rust-Tierney, 51, of Arlington, Va., who has been held in custody in the case since his arrest. According to report on the case, Rust-Tierney admitted to investigators he had downloaded videos and images from child pornography websites onto CD-ROMS, which reportedly depicted graphic forcible assaults on young girls.

Rust-Tierney, who served as president of the Virginia ACLU chapter for several years, was the lawyer who argued against Internet filters in libraries in the early 2000s when the ACLU was opposing the Children’s Internet Protection Act, which later was approved by Congress.

Donna Rice Hughes, president of Enough is Enough, a website dedicated to protecting children from the dangers on the Internet, had worked on CIPA, and then served as an expert witness for the defendant when Tierney and the ACLU sued over the filters.

“That Mr. Rust-Tierney, a leading proponent of unrestricted access to the Internet, has now been arrested for receiving and possessing graphic child pornography should serve as testimony to the injudicious and baleful outgrowth of the legal challenges launched by the ACLU questioning the constitutionality of important legislation that protects children from Internet exploitation and content harmful to minors,” the organization said in a statement released by Enough is Enough spokeswoman Cris Clapp.

“When Mr. Rust-Tierney argued before the Loudoun County Library Board that unrestricted access to the resources of the Internet was essential for our children’s ability to learn and communicate, and when groups like the ACLU contend that acceptable use policies alone are capable of protecting children online, they fail to acknowledge the tragic and devastating effects to children and families of both intentional and unintentional access to online pornography,” the statement said.

CIPA was stricken by a lower court, but that decision was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, providing what Enough is Enough describes as “a landmark victory for child Internet safety protection.”

The investigation that resulted in Rust-Tierney’s arrest was conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, as well as Arlington County police as part of the Northern Virginia and District of Columbia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

The explicitness of the offending videos is evidenced by the reports that in one of the scenes a prepubescent girl is “seen and heard crying” and another is described as “bound by rope.”

Rust-Tierney’s arrest was announced after his initial appearance before United States Magistrate Judge Barry R. Poretz, who ordered him held until a subsequent hearing.

Rice Hughes had advised Congress on the CIPA proposal, but her organization confirmed that an analysis shows that still more than 20,000 images of child pornography are posted on the Internet every week.

“Studies have demonstrated that early exposure to pornography is related to greater involvement in deviant sexual practices, particularly rape. Additionally, studies have confirmed that among child molesters incited, over half deliberately used the stimuli of pornography as they prepared to offend,” the group said.

“The addictive qualities of pornography combined with the fact that habitual consumption of pornography can result in a diminished satisfaction with mild forms of pornography and a correspondingly strong desire for more deviant and violent material poses a direct threat to the safety of our children,” the group said.

The group also noted that the fact Rust-Tierney “was serving as a youth sports leader is highly concerning.”

“Groups like the ACLU, which in the ACLU Policy Number 4 ascribes to the belief that child exposure to explicit material and juvenile delinquency have never been carried to the point of definitive proof, and which ultimately propounds the legality of child pornography, represent an incredibly radical and malevolent agenda that clearly results in the exploitation of our children,” the group said.

Rice Hughes is an internationally known Internet safety expert and advocate, and a leader of national efforts to protect children from sexual predators and Internet porn. Her book, “Kids Online: Protecting Your Children in Cyberspace” was called a “powerful tool for parents” and has been translated into Spanish and Korean.

The Washington Times reported that an ICE agent said in a sworn affidavit that Rust-Tierney had subscribed to various child-pornography web sites in recent years.

The overall national ACLU’s stance on pornography was made clear when in 1985 Barry Lynn told the U.S. Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography that child pornography was protected by the First Amendment.

A StopTheACLU website notes that the organization still represents such groups as the North American Man-Boy Love Association and John Roberts, of the ACLU’s Boston branch, said, “Mere possession should not be a crime.”

Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly called it a “horrifying” case. And he noted that the two “biggest left-wing outfits in the country – the New York Times and NBC News – ignored the story entirely.” CBS News, CNN and most of the big city liberal newspapers also failed to cover the Rust-Tierney arrest, Fox said.

“Now the failure of most media outlets to cover this colossal embarrassment to the ACLU contrasts vividly with the coverage of preacher Ted Haggard, which embarrassed conservative Christians. You remember when Haggard was accused of immorality by a male prostitute, the story was all over the place.”

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