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Bush Signs KIDS Act

President Bush signed the KIDS Act into law today, restricting sex-offenders' access to computers. We wrote about the struggle to pass the bill back in May. A few things were at work, some nakedly political and some related to civil-liberties concerns.

The bill was the work of Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Democrats seemed in little mood to give McCain something to trumpet.

It faced policy opposition in the House, however. The bill, as the Senate passed it, would have required sex-offenders to register e-mail addresses and IM screen names in an effort to keep them off social networking sites.

Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), who chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, thought that went too far and could inadvertantly constrain sex-offenders' ability to obtain employment or otherwise function in an online society. Scott stripped the registration requirement out of the House version of the KIDS Act before it passed on a 417-to-0 vote in November, and Conyers said he supported Scott’s views.

The compromise that appears to have been reached scraps the registration requirement but mandates that sex offenders "obtain access to the Internet only from computers approved by the probation officer" and "consent and fully cooperate with periodic examinations of the computers by the probation officer, including the retrieval and copying of all data from those computers and removal of the computer equipment for a reasonable period of time for the purpose of conducting a more thorough inspection."