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The Pentagon’s Child Pornography Problem

By September 9, 2010Blog, Sexual Exploitation
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How about protecting the children?

Inter-agency cooperation has always been vital to stemming the flow of child pornography and bringing the victimizers to justice.  So, when the Pentagon’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) received a report from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that 264 individuals — military and civilian employees working at the Pentagon — had purchased child pornography online, it was nothing out of the ordinary.

What was out of the ordinary was the fact that 76 of those individuals had Secret or higher security clearances — nine of them holding “Top Secret Sensitive Compartmentalized Information” clearances, meaning they had access to our military’s most sensitive information.

Of the 264 named by ICE, 212 never even came under investigation.  Of those who were investigated, including an Army lieutenant colonel assigned to the Secretary of Defense’s office, the vast majority were never even charged.  It didn’t help that these cases dated back to 2006, making the seizure of evidence difficult.

These folks were buying and using child pornography at work, right under the noses of the Pentagon’s own IT department.  The severe security risk that child pornography poses from both malware and extortion alone — not even touching on the harm it does to children — was reason enough for the nation’s highest military office to be more vigilant.

Whether it was a matter of blocking access to known child pornography sites or the use of software tools that flag large data files potentially containing pornography, these cases should have been prevented or detected by the Pentagon’s security and IT housekeeping.

DICS’s own report says that the bulk of these cases were closed without any investigation because of “the need to focus more resources on other DCIS investigative priorities.”  Other priorities?  Our military forces in Afghanistan have “other priorities” too, but that hasn’t stopped their prosecution of individuals downloading child pornography.  The criminal investigative offices of the individual services, Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI),  and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command — sister organizations to the DCIS that are equally short on resources — routinely investigate and prosecute child pornography cases at military installations around the globe.

What gives those assigned to the Pentagon a pass?

It’s time that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates call for a reassessment of the Pentagon’s IT policies, from the detection of illegal material to the information about policy violations reaching the appropriate commander and DCIS for action.  Users of child pornography should not be allowed to continue with unblemished careers.