Pentagon drops the ball on investigating employees downloading child porn despite security risk

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In 2006, the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency presented a list to Pentagon officials of 5,200 employees it said had potentially purchased child porn from foreign websites.

Officials stopped investigating information provided by Immigration and Customs officials regarding employees that might be susceptible to blackmail because they had purchased child porn from overseas websites.

The names turned up in an ICE investigation called Operation Flicker, which looked at overseas credit card processing firms that handled payments for the purchase of child porn. Some of the employees on the list had the highest security clearance available, and many provided defense department and military email addresses.

Pentagon officials looked into about two-thirds of the names and found that 264 defense and intelligence officials had allegedly downloaded such materials. At some point, the Pentagon’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service dropped the investigation, failing to follow up on over 1,700 names.

On Wednesday, the Boston Globe reported that the Pentagon hasn’t yet begun reviewing the other names, despite exposing the lapse in July 2010.

Besides being a federal crime, members of Congress and other officials fear that downloading child porn makes employees with high-level security clearances more susceptible to blackmail, since possession of the material carries a five to 20 year prison sentence. Included in the 264 employees that investigators believed downloaded the child porn, nine had “top secret sensitive” security clearance, meaning they had access to the nation’s most sensitive materials.

Critics of the security issue, including Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), have been pushing Pentagon officials to get tough on identifying its employees who are downloading the porn on office and home computers. “These cases were not considered a priority by the Defense Department in the first place, and they should have been,’’ according to Grassley.

Responding to a letter Grassley sent to the Department of Defense Inspector General Gordon S. Heddell about the lapse in the investigation, Heddel admitted that the child pornography wasn’t one of the department’s priorities. Heddell said that his department is now working aggressively to move the investigation along, although was unable to provide any detailed information.

Of the 264 employees originally believed to have purchase the child porn, the DCIS investigated only 52 individuals, and criminal charges were brought against only ten of those employees.

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Comment (1)
  1. BritArmy says:

    All the 264 people must be charged regardless of their positions in the Pentagon under 18 USC 2252 (a) (2) (A), The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (as amended 1994 and 1996) and also violating the pentagon acceptable use policy and many more. It is a shame on US government to let the other people free by just charging 10 people(kind of scapegoat). Child pornography rules cannot bend for military sake and it is totally unfair and rude.

    If child Pornography is not in top priority for the department, addiction of these pictures can change the authorities to sell Pentagon secrets for indecent pictures. Also considering the risk assessment of Pentagon, these 264 people are potential threats to Pentagon at any point of time.

    Psychologically, these 264 people will live in anxiety(paranoiac) and some people can threaten them at any point of time and results in a disaster and also the factors like dissemination and defamation will not allow them to work for Pentagon like before.

    It is not about sending them to prison but making Pentagon free from paranoiac people.

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