Had lunch last week with an old friend, a career agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He’s considering early retirement because he just can’t handle what’s happening to his agency, the federal law enforcement apparatus and the country.

“I didn’t sign on for this,” he said. “The bureau has gone to hell in a hand basket.”

He tells a disturbing story of an agency ripped apart internally by turf battles, emasculated by an attorney general who believes Constitutional rights get in the way of a poorly-managed war on terror and an administration whose focus is marginal at best.

“Our number one priority in law enforcement is supposed to be fighting terrorism,” he says. “So what’s the latest initiative by Justice and the bureau? We’ve declared war on pornography.”

That’s right. At a time when the focus of every federal law enforcement agent is supposed to be keeping this country safe from terrorists, attorney general Alberto Gonzales is diverting time, agent and resources into a war on dirty books and movies.

Not child pornography mind you but the kind of titillation aimed at consenting adults who, the last time we checked, are supposed to be free to do what they want in the privacy of their homes.

According to a job posting that went up at the FBI’s national headquarters and in all 56 field offices, the bureau plans to assign eight field agents plus a supervisor and “all necessary resources” to a porn war that the posting calls “one of the top priorities” of AG Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Agents joke about the posting and make comments like “I already gave at home” or “we have met the enemy and he is us” but the gallows humor does little to mask a growing morale problem within the bureau.

My friend shook his head: “We’re supposed to be taking down people who want to destroy this country and Alberto wants to turn us into a tittie squad?”

The “T&A Squad,” as it is known among agents, got its start under former attorney general John Ashcroft, a bible-thumping anti-pornography zealot who tried to prosecute a Missouri couple for selling a sex education video for adults. Ashcroft’s case was so laughable it took a jury of mostly middle-aged women less than 45 minutes to acquit the couple. The judge lectured the Justice Department for wasting the legal system’s time with such a “frivolous case.”

But Gonzales, armed with a mandate from the rabid right-wingers who control Congress and the White House, plans to push forward in a quest to rid the world of dirty movies and other sexy stuff.

Ironically, such a move could target some of the GOP’s major supporters – big business and conservative ideologues like Rupert Murdoch, owner of the conservative pseudo-journalistic Fox News Network.  Murdoch and General Motors, for example, are part-owners of DirecTV, the satellite broadcasting network that delivers explicit sexual programming to customers.  DirecTV offers three channels of XXX-rated movies from Spice Networks, owned by Playboy Enterprises, along with Playboy’s own channel which recently began offering hard-core sexual programming.

In fact, hard-core programming is such big business that Time-Warner owns a piece and hotel chains like Hilton, Sheraton, Hyatt and even Mormon-based Marriott offers the sexy material to guests as a “valued added” service.

The FBI’s recruiting memo says the bureau is going after “manufacturers and purveyors” of pornography. Does this mean they plan to arrest Rupert Murdoch and the CEO of General Motors? Will J.W. “Bill” Marriott, Jr., chairman and CEO of Marriott International get tossed into the slammer?

Somehow I doubt it. General Motors executives and their political action committee gave more than $2.5 million to Republican Party causes last year. Marriott is a major player in GOP circles. When fatcat donors put out that kind of money, politicians are more than willing to hand out the K-Y Jelly, drop their pants, grab their ankles, close their eyes and say “please, sir, may I have some more?”

That is the real obscenity in today’s America.