FBI in Md. cautions 31 abortion doctors Names on Web site cause alarm in wake of N.Y. sniper slaying

October 31, 1998|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

Thirty-one doctors who perform abortions in Maryland got a phone call from the FBI yesterday, informing them that their names are on an anti-abortion Web site that some believe is a list that implicitly encourages violent acts.

The World Wide Web site, which lists hundreds of doctors who perform abortions, clinic workers and their family members under an image of dripping blood, has lines drawn through the names of those who've been slain by anti-abortion extremists. Among them is Dr. Barnett Slepian, the Buffalo, N.Y., obstetrician killed by a sniper's bullet Oct. 23.

"We're not trying to instill a panic and have people looking over their shoulders, but we felt that they should be contacted as a courtesy and told that their names are on the site," said Special Agent Peter A. Gulotta Jr., a spokesman for the Maryland FBI office.

Gulotta said that the FBI has no authority to take any action against the Web site, put up by a Georgia-based group called the Creators' Rights Party, since the page does not advocate violence.

"There's no overt statement on the site that any of the people listed should be dealt with violently," Gulotta said. "It's their First Amendment right to publish the list. But they've gone to great pains to do background investigations of the doctors, and we feel that we ought to let them know that."

One passage on the Creators' Rights Party page reads that the site's goal "is to record the name of every person working in the baby slaughter business across the U.S.A."

It includes not only the doctors' names, but often photos of them, their home and work addresses, social security numbers, the cars they drive -- complete with license tag numbers -- and the names of their children.

The site, which has been up for about two years, is one of many on the World Wide Web that has sparked controversy because of perceived links to violent goals. Lawmakers and prosecutors around the country have been trying to distinguish the fine line between constitutionally protected electronic speech and that which illegally incites violence.

The Creators' Rights Party is run by Neal Horsley, a 54-year-old computer programmer from Carrollton, Ga., whose site has attracted widespread attention from watchdog groups.

'Tools for murderers'

"He is providing the tools for murderers," said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes and anti-abortion extremist activity. "He's not specifically advocating

the murder of people, but he's coming as close as you can while staying legal."

Horsley, whose site has also advocated the seizure of nuclear weapons by groups looking to secede from the United States, didn't return a phone call yesterday. But in a recent interview on CNBC's "Upfront Tonight," he defended his Web site.

"It's not against the law for me to keep a list of people who are making a living killing babies," he said on the show. "That's all I've been doing. What I care about is that there are 3,000 babies being slaughtered every day, and I'm going to do my best to see it stopped."

David N. O'Steen, executive director of the National Right to Life Committee, said in a prepared statement that violent methods aren't the answer to stopping abortion.

"The NRLC unequivocally condemns any acts of violence used by individuals regardless of their motivation," O'Steen said. "The pro-life movement works to protect the right to life and restore respect for human life. Violence opposes that goal."

While the FBI says Horsley's site is within legal boundaries, other sites have been challenged for stepping over the line. This month, the Pennsylvania attorney general's office filed a complaint seeking to block a Philadelphia-based group, ALPHA HQ, from publishing threatening messages on the Internet.

ALPHA HQ's Web page displayed an artist's rendition of the bombing of a local human relations council office and denounced one of the council's leaders as a "race traitor" who should beware.

Group hires lawyer

Susan Dudley, the deputy director of the National Abortion Federation in Washington, said her organization has hired a lawyer to look into what can be done about Horsley's anti-abortion listing.

"I think any law-abiding person who takes a look at this site would have no question in their mind that it is inciting violence. It's not subtle," Dudley said.

Dudley said most of the physicians the FBI called yesterday were probably already aware that their names are on the site.

xTC "I'd be surprised if the Maryland FBI is giving anybody any news that they don't already have," Dudley said.

Pub Date: 10/31/98

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