Probe links 20 defense workers to online child pornography

By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 24, 2010

Federal investigators have identified about 20 Pentagon employees and contractors who allegedly bought and downloaded online child pornography and in some cases used their government-issued computers to view the illegal material.

On Friday, the Defense Department's inspector general's office released a 94-page report that says some of those involved possessed top-secret security clearances and worked for such divisions as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office. Those agencies deal with some of the government's most sensitive intelligence and defense work.

The government auditors released the report -- with some names and other information redacted -- after the pornography investigation was first reported by the Boston Globe.

The exact number of Pentagon employees investigated was not disclosed in the report, but a Pentagon spokeswoman said the probe involved about 20 people who had an "affiliation with the Defense Department" as full-time employees, former military members or contractors.

Some of those people have been prosecuted, and some of their cases were dropped for lack of evidence. Other cases remain open. Gary Comerford, a spokesman for the inspector general, said the agency takes such cases very seriously. He would not comment on individual cases, saying the report "speaks for itself."

The cases are part of a wider probe, Operation Flicker, which was started by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement four years ago and which has identified more than 5,000 people who subscribed to child pornography Web sites.

The cases detailed in the new report include one involving an employee of Oracle Corp. who had a top-secret clearance and worked on a contract for the National Security Agency. The man subscribed to various child pornography Web sites and made 21 purchases. After authorities started investigating him, the report said, he attempted to tamper with computers at his office. He was put on administrative leave with pay. He later fled to Libya but was arrested and extradited to the United States.

Another case involved a government employee at the National Defense University in Norfolk who made two purchases from a child pornography Web site. He pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and was sentenced to five years in prison.

It is an illegal use of government property to access pornography with a government computer, officials say.

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