Investigation Reveals More Incidents of Pornography Viewing by Federal Employees

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By on May 15, 2018 in Human Resources with 0 Comments

Another recent investigation conducted by the News4 I-Team, an NBC News affiliate in Washington, DC, found that federal employees in at least 12 agencies were watching pornography and going to great lengths to cover their tracks in some cases.

The I-Team reviewed investigative records obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request and gathered a sampling of cases at 12 federal agencies since 2015. The investigation focused on cases investigated by agency inspectors general which they said included large-scale or illegal incidents discovered inside of offices.

Some of the cases involved arrests of the complicit employees because of child pornography. In other cases, the employees acknowledged spending a significant portion of their work days viewing porn.

The investigation the I-Team conducted is a followup to one that they did a year ago that got the attention of Congressman Mark Meadows (R-NC) who has been pushing for legislation to ban porn viewing at agencies by federal employees. (See Is a Law Needed to Prevent Federal Employees from Watching Porn at Work?)

Last year’s investigation found that almost 100 federal employees across numerous agencies had either admitted to or were caught viewing pornography in the previous five years.

What About Firewalls?

When we have written about this subject in the past, one frequent comment we see from readers basically says that this should be a non-issue because agency IT departments can just block pornography sites. For example, this is one comment from a past article that is representative of the sentiment from quite a few commenters:

The latest I-Team investigation looked specifically at why more agencies aren’t blocking pornography on their networks. It noted that Congress requires agencies to have firewalls to prevent this very sort of thing from happening. Turns out, however, that it is not quite that simple.

“Do you think you’re catching all of it?,” asked reporter Scott MacFarlane, who was leading the I-Team investigation, when he interviewed Jason Metrick, an investigator for the National Archives and Records Administration Office of Inspector General.

“No, and we’re not fooling ourselves by thinking that,” he replied.

“It’s expensive, it’s time consuming, it takes money,” said computer forensics expert Brian Dykstra in an interview with MacFarlane. Dykstra was referring to the inherent difficulty in monitoring computer use among thousands of federal employees.

Dykstra also said that it becomes a cat and mouse game in which the offending employees go to great lengths to hide their browsing activity and get around the agency firewalls by using software such as Backpage, Tumblr, or even through social media. Ironically, the backpage.com website was recently seized by federal authorities for its role in promoting sex trafficking.

Other employees would use file shredding software or erase their browsing history on a regular basis to conceal their activity.

A Morale Problem

The investigation noted that an unfortunate downside to these incidents is that it hurts morale.

“They’re [the offending employees] creating morale issues for others who see them not working,” said Metrick. “We expect these people to put in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.”

The video above contains the details of the investigative report, and the article on the News4 Washington website also contains each of the cases reviewed with details of what the IG offices found.

© 2018 Ian Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ian Smith.

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About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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