SEC porn investigation nets dozens
(Washington Post) -- by Ed O'Keefe --
Dozens of Securities and Exchange Commission staffers used government computers to access and download explicit images and many of the incidents have occurred since the global financial meltdown began, according to a new watchdog investigation.
The SEC inspector general conducted 33 probes of employees, 31 of which occurred in the last two and a half years, according to a summary of the cases requested by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) that first surfaced Thursday evening.
Several of employees held senior positions, earning between $99,300 and $222,418 per year, the inspector general's summary said. Three of the incidents occurred this year, ten in 2009, 16 in 2008, two in 2007 and one each in 2006 and 2005.
In one instance, a regional office staff account admitted viewing pornography on his office computer and on his SEC-issued laptop while on official government travel. Another staff account received nearly 1,800 access denials for pornography Web sites in a two-week period and had more than 600 images saved on her laptop’s hard drive, the report said.
A senior attorney at SEC headquarters in Washington admitted he sometimes spent as much as eight hours viewing pornography from his office computer, according to the report. The attorney’s computer ran out of space for the downloaded images, so he started storing them on CDs and DVDs that he stored in his office.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said it was “nothing short of disturbing that high-ranking officials within the SEC were spending more time looking at pornography than taking action to help stave off the events that brought our nation's economy to the brink of collapse."
"This stunning report should make everyone question the wisdom of moving forward with plans to give regulators like the SEC even more widespread authority," Issa said in a subtle jab at ongoing financial reform efforts.
Grassley’s decision to release the summary comes as SEC investigators have filed a fraud case against Wall Street powerhouse Goldman Sachs. But a spokeswoman cautioned against reading too much into the timing.
"The IG findings that Grassley released underscore the importance of good IG work," said Grassley spokeswoman Jill Kozeny.
The behavior exposed in the watchdog report violates government ethics rules, but illegal pornography access by federal workers is nothing new:
• A senior executive at the National Science Foundation spent at least 331 days looking at pornography on his government computer and chatting online with nude or partially clad women without being detected. The problems reportedly were so pervasive they diverted the agency's watchdog from its main mission.
• National Park Service employee John A. Latschar, who oversaw the Gettysburg National Military Park, used his office computer over a two-year period to search for and view more than 3,400 sexually explicit images. He was later reassigned to an unspecified desk job.
• Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, established a Web site that featured sexually explicit photos and video. He later acknowledged posting images, defended the content as "funny" (no, really) and said he thought the site was for his private storage. All of this while he was presiding over an obscenity trial...MORE...LINK