What am I not allowed to read in the US?

Wandering through a book store yesterday I had one of those simple moments where I marveled at how cool it is to be able to read about anything I wanted to. Perhaps this isn’t as true as I think though.

What books, if discovered in my home along with the absence of any illegal motive, would I be in trouble for owning? Bomb making? Hate literature? Drug cook books? Propaganda from “enemy nations”? I realize that there are certain types of pornography I would get in trouble for owning, but I was wondering more along the lines of reading material rather than pictures of abused minors/victims.

That makes me wonder if narratives of kiddie pron are illegal. After all, one can legally read endless stories of murder, rape, destruction and whatnot.

IANAL, but I believe they are. ISTR a case where a convicted child-porn user had written some fantasies down in his diary/journal, and was charged again with possession of child porn because of it. Pretty sure these were not pictures, just simple, hand-written text.

Possession of bomb-making manuals isn’t illegal in itself, but may be used as evidence against you if you are suspected of actually making/using a bomb.

bbs2k said:

Strictly speaking, I don’t believe mere ownership of those materials would in itself be illegal. Having them might be evaluated as evidence of intent, but without some other overt action on your part would only be cause for suspicion, not actual offenses.

Classified/Top Secret documents.

One nice thing about the USA is we really have Freedom of Speech and the Press. It’s the Number One Amendment after all.

Child pornography is the only literature that I know of that is expressly illegal to possess, and merely possess in the USA. Child meaning anyone under the age of 18.

A bomb making book would not be illegal. Making a bomb would be. The USA does not have laws against racist/hate literature. The Westboro Baptist Church has not been held liable for defamation of people died in funerals. One father of a soldier tried and ended up having the case go against him because of the First Amendment and him having to pay the Phelps Church for court costs and other expenses.

Drug cookbooks? Look at the internet.

What enemy nations? Iranians? North Koreans? Cubans? Belgians? No problem there.

If you were a mad bomber, but are protesting innocence at trial, the possession of bomb making books could be used against you in a legal search to show cause and intent.

I think, and I am going from memory here, that this was because of his status as a parolee. I believe that pure text is never considered obscene, and is fully protected by the First Amendment.

I think this is only true if you have a clearance, based on what you agreed to in order to get it, or if you used some illegal means to obtain said documents. If your friend with the top secret clearance left his classified papers in your house by accident (:rolleyes:), even if you then read them, I’m not sure what you’d be charged with.

I believe the crime is in disseminating the classified info, not having it. So if you accidently read top secret info, your idiot friend who provided access to it would be arrested, but you would only be told in the strongest possible terms that it would be a crime for you to pass that info on to anyone else.

Last I heard, the father appealed.

It is not against the law to own hate and propaganda literature, as far as I know.

(not legal advice)

When I was a high school student in a public school in Virginia (1990’s), one of the teachers shared what was presented as a North Korean propaganda book (primarily consisting of beautiful pictures of their country), entitled, I believe, “Pyongyang”. I have no reason to doubt that it was an actually printed in North Korea.

I’m pretty sure that even the Cuban embargo includes an excemption on “Informational” materials (as a first amendment matter).

(please talk to a competent attorney before attempting to import from Cuba or any embargoed nation to the US)

I don’t know one way or the other, but in a thread from a few months back, there was discussion of a book that was pretty explicit, and quite controversial. Apparently it was a first-person account of a young boy being passed around among men for sex. I remember it had a one word title, though I don’t remember what it was. And apparently it’s still in print and quite possible to purchase.

I don’t see how this can be so, since Nabokov’s Lolita is widely available at any library or bookstore in the US. Perhaps what he was actually charged under an obscenity statute?

Child porn stories can be found all over the net. There have been many print book with children as sexual partners. They are entirely legal. The child pornography laws prohibit the depiction of real children in sexualized situations. “Depiction,” “real,” and “sexualized” sometimes get misused by prosecutors wanting publicity, but I don’t remember any cases that have help up purely for the writing, purchase, or possession of print child pornography.

Back in the day when pornography of many kinds was illegal, I believe there were arrests for trying to smuggle banned books into the country, even if if were just a single copy for your own reading. Most arrests were for sellers, however. In fact, that how most of the pornography laws were overturned. Courageous booksellers would create a test case, and by the 60s had won full freedom. Again, full freedom is not respected by every prosecutor and there are occasional reports of somebody being busted for selling indecent literature, but I’d be surprised if this included buyers.

As for classified documents, I’m pretty sure that mere possession is arrest-worthy. It’s rare and I didn’t find any recent cases, but it’s a penalty that can be held over someone’s head.

In the modern-day U.S. print is as close to sacrosanct as anything gets. Except for national security issues, you are protected for anything you want to read, no matter how distasteful that may be to others.

Physical violence is something else. I love sharing this anecdote. Back in high school I wrote editorials for the school newspaper. When Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, railed against student protesters carrying the North Vietnamese flag because the First Amendment didn’t cover that, I wrote an editorial stating that this was exactly what the First Amendment protected. A teacher - a teacher! - came up to me in the hallway and told me he wanted to punch me in the nose for that.

Today that would be a national blogging sensation and a firing offense. Then I was just glad he didn’t follow through.

Possession of obscene material is not illegal, and laws making it so are unconstitutional. I can’t remember the case that said this, sorry. Federal law controls the importation and interstate sale or provision of obscene material, whereas state law deals with in-state distribution of it.

Child pornography is illegal to possess, but not because it is obscene.

The writing on the label of a Cuban cigar? :stuck_out_tongue:

Not true. You can still have Cuban cigars as long as they were bought before the embargo.

And the SCOTUS case invalidating laws against possession of obscene material was Stanley v. Georgia.

That would be Hogg. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

I seem to remember reading various books in school, The Giver, Brave New World. That would talk about sex with kids, even prepubescent ones, this was required reading, where is the line drawn for porn? Is it all about purpose? I know CGI and cartoon kiddy porn is treated the same as actually kiddy porn