Report says 33 SEC staff members viewed pornography at work

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dozens of Securities and Exchange Commission staff members used government computers in the past five years to access and download pornographic images, according to a summary prepared by the agency's watchdog.

Most of the reported incidents have occurred in the 2 1/2 years since the global financial meltdown began, according to the SEC's inspector general.

According to a summary requested by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), SEC Inspector General H. David Kotz investigated 33 employees and contractors for illegal computer usage. The agency has around 3,800 staffers.

Three incidents were reported this year. Ten occurred in 2009, 16 in 2008, two in 2007 and one each in 2006 and 2005.

The discovery of an employee surfing the Internet for porn is nothing new, whether in a federal agency or a private entity. But the SEC revelations sparked a broader question about how well federal agencies block such activity.

The General Services Administration said Friday that each federal agency is responsible for setting an Internet usage policy.

The SEC uses Blue Coat Secure Web Gateway software and McAfee SmartFilter to block inappropriate Web sites, agency spokesman John Nester said. In some cases, workers apparently evaded the blocking software, he said.

Each instance of inappropriate computer use was detected by the SEC's office of information technology and referred to the inspector general, Nester said. Kotz became SEC watchdog in December 2007.

All the employees have been disciplined or are facing discipline. Most of the employees in the cases earned $99,356 to $222,418 a year, which is the compensation range for 70 percent of SEC staff members, the agency said.

"We will not tolerate the transgressions of the very few who bring discredit to their thousands of hardworking colleagues," Nester said.

Grassley released the SEC watchdog summary less than a week after the agency announced its decision to file fraud charges against Goldman Sachs and amid reports that two Republican commission members sharply questioned senior investigators about their evidence.

Senate Democrats are also poised to move forward Monday on a bill calling for overhauling the U.S. financial regulatory system.

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