Pentagon workers purchased child porn via Paypal

WASHINGTON — Federal investigators have identified several dozen Pentagon officials and contractors with high-level security clearances who allegedly purchased and downloaded child pornography, including an undisclosed number who used their government computers to obtain the illegal material, according to investigative reports.

At least two of the cases were contractors with top secret clearances at the National Security Agency, which eavesdrops on foreign communications, according to the documents. When one of the contractors was indicted two years ago, he fled the country and is believed to be hiding in Libya, according to a summary of the investigation from last year. The other was sentenced in 2008 to more than five years in prison and lifetime probation.

The investigations have included employees of the National Security Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — which deal with some of the most sensitive work in intelligence and defense — among other organizations within the Defense Department.

Purchasing child pornography is a crime; accessing it on a government computer is also a violation of laws governing the misuse of government property.

The number of offenders is a small percentage of the thousands of people working for sensitive Pentagon-related agencies. But the fact that offenders include people with access to government secrets puts national security agencies “at risk of blackmail, bribery, and threats, especially since these individuals typically have access to military installations,’’ according to one report by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service from late 2009.

Some of the individuals have been prosecuted and other cases have been dropped, while more have languished several years without resolution, according to the previously undisclosed documents about the investigations.

The more than 50 pages, compiled by the investigative service, part of the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s Office, contain summaries of investigations initiated since 2002, including some cases that remain open.

The uneven discipline reflects difficulties in bringing prosecutions, according to specialists. The evidentiary standards are high for prosecution in child pornography cases, according to child welfare specialists, including positively identifying victims as underage or known victims of abuse. In others, evidence was lost or misplaced and investigators said they lacked sufficient resources to complete all of them.

Gary Comerford, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s Inspector General, said the agency takes such cases very seriously but said he could not comment on individual investigations.

Many of those apprehended were swept up in a much broader probe initiated by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency in 2006. Operation Flicker identified an estimated 5,000 people who had paid money over the Internet to access websites operated overseas. But until now, it has not been disclosed that a sizable number of cases were referred to the Defense Department for investigation because they involved military personnel, intelligence officials, or defense contractors.

The investigative documents were provided to the Globe by a government official after they were approved for public release.

The exact numbers of cases involving Defense Department personnel were not contained in the reports and officials at DCIS could not immediately provide statistics. But the official reports indicate that more than 30 government employees were investigated.

via Pentagon workers tied to child porn – The Boston Globe.

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