By Frederick Clarkson
Friday, December 5, 2003
An Internet service provider yanked a threatening anti-choice Web site in late November as Women's eNews was investigating its latest incarnation. If the site resurfaces, some see a fresh round of legal battles.
(WOMENSENEWS)--For 10 years, the Nuremberg Files, an anti-choice Web site notorious for celebrating violence against abortion providers has walked--and some say crossed--the legal line between free speech and threats of violence and intimidation.
With its crossed out names of murdered doctors and blood-dripping graphics, the site came to symbolize for pro-choice activists andembattled physicians, the violent war of attrition against abortion providers.
In the face of allegations that it served as a "hit list" against abortion providers, the site has been evicted from the Web by numerous Internet providers that found it in violation of their "Terms of Service."
In late November, the site's latest Internet service provider--the Houston-based EV1servers.net--joined the ranks of providers that have unplugged the Nuremberg Files created by Neal Horsley of Carrollton, Ga. This time, however, the provider not only removed the renamed "New Nuremberg Files" but all of Horsley's related anti-choice sites, including his "AbortionCams" site, which features thousands of photographs and videos of abortion clinic staff, patients and escorts.
"It has come to our attention that your server . . . christiangallery.com . . . is in violation [of their terms of service] by way of threats, harassment and collection of personal data," declared EV1's "abuse team." The notice continued: "We must require that this entire domain be removed from our network immediately."
Horsley forwarded EV1's message along with an e-mail to his supporters soliciting funds. Horsley insisted that his Web sites are "Constitutionally protected communications about matters of servious (sic) public concern. The Corporation called ev1servers.net . . . for some unknown reason decided to censor news sites accessed on a regular basis by hundreds of thousands of abortion abolitionists in the USA and across the world."
The site has not reemerged as of this report and EV1 did not respond to requests for comment on its action. However, since Horsley has bounced back so many times on the Web, his opponents are braced for his return.
"I assume that Horsley and his cohorts intend by any means to accomplish their illegal goals," says Maria Vullo.
Vullo, a subject of one of the site's recent postings, was the lead attorney for Planned Parenthood in a major federal lawsuit: Planned Parenthood vs. American Coalition of Life Activists. The case was brought by several abortion providers and organizations to stop the distribution of Old West-style "WANTED" posters of abortion providers called, the "Deadly Dozen." The posters, which included personal information such as home addresses, phone numbers and children's school locations, followed similar poster campaigns against three abortion providers who were subsequently murdered. The Deadly Dozen then became the basis of Horsley's "Nuremberg Files."
The three-month trial ended in 1996 with U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jones issuing an injunction against further publication of the Deadly Dozen material and a jury award of $109 million in actual and punitive damages. The American Coalition of Life Activists subsequently folded, though most of its leaders remain active anti-choice militants.
The permanent injunction proscribed any threats against the plaintiffs, their families or their attorneys and any further publication of the Deadly Dozen data.
The injunction noted the role of the Nuremberg Files in the threatening campaign, but did not specifically enjoin Horsley, who was not, for technical reasons, named in the suit. Nevertheless, court records indicate that the Nuremberg Files began as part of the Deadly Dozen campaign since it used the same data about the doctors and that Horsley got the material from the American Coalition of Life Activists. Horsley took the Deadly Dozen materials down following the verdict.
Horsley subsequently added to the Nuremberg Files the names of hundreds of other doctors, staff, pro-choice celebrities and public officials, from former Attorney General Janet Reno to then-president Bill Clinton and six justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1998, Horsley began crossing out the names of murdered doctors and grayed out the names of the wounded on his site, provoking widespread public outrage and media attention.
On the "New Nuremberg Files," renamed in September, pro-choice advocates saw a renewed round of threats, albeit in an almost tauntingly obvious, yet slightly encrypted fashion. The tone of overt hostility toward abortion providers shifted to something that sounded more like sarcasm.
Gone were the crossed-out names of murdered doctors and the calls for Nuremberg-style trials of other abortion providers. (Horsley and others view abortion providers as culpable in "crimes against humanity," which is why the site is named after the city that hosted the post-World War II trials of Nazi war criminals.)
Instead the site claimed to take a "happy and loving" approach and called on followers to pray for the "Dear Abortionists."
"We'll visualize the faces of the dear abortionists," he wrote, "and we'll pray and pray and pray some more!!! That way all the Dear Abortionists will quit killing the Dear Little Babies. Now is that a really, really, really, great plan! Or What!"
The site purported to want to make these visualizations more "specific" by soliciting and posting pictures of abortion providers including two of the plaintiffs protected by the judge's order. Horsley also requested photos of their homes and details of their daily routines such as where they stop for gas. In the text, the words "head shots" and "targets" were in bold type. He had already posted photos of Dr. George Tiller of Wichita, Kan., as well as his home and his clinic. Tiller is one of the most well-known abortion providers in the United States, who performs procedures after the first 13 weeks of a pregnancy.
But some saw Horsley's latest postings as a transparent effort to escalate the psychological warfare against abortion providers. They also saw them as possibly illegal threats against not only the former plaintiffs, but also others featured by Horsley, including Vullo and Planned Parenthood President Gloria Feldt.
Vullo told Women's eNews that the 1996 injunction "prohibits the defendants, or any of their agents or persons acting in concert with them, from republishing the threats and from providing information about the plaintiffs for purposes of the Nuremberg Files. Thus, anyone who acts in concert with defendants to threaten, including Neal Horsley, could be subject."
After reviewing the site's latest postings, Susan England, an Orlando-based attorney and a veteran of litigation with anti-choice militants saw the message of the New Nuremberg Files as unambiguous. "From a legal standpoint, it's a threat," she said.
England was the lead attorney for the 1994 landmark Supreme Court case Madsen vs. Women's Health Center that established that a fixed 36-foot buffer zone around a clinic did not jeopardize the First Amendment rights of militant clinic protestors. She was struck by Horsley's repeated mention of wanting information about where his "targets" stop for gasoline.
"I thought it was an interesting parallel with the Washington area snipers," she said. "Because several of the victims were shot at gas stations."
Frederick Clarkson has written widely about anti-abortion violence. He is the author of "Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy," Common Courage Press.
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