Border Patrol Agent Caught Watching Porn On The Job Blames The Internet Filter For Not Stopping Him

from the nice-excuse-you-have-there dept

We talk about porn filters occasionally here at Techdirt. Usually those discussions revolve around how useless and easily circumvented those filters are, even as the more clueless in government insist that we need more of this non-filtering filtering. This is not one of those stories. Instead, it is the story of one of the most tone-deaf individuals with a penchant for excuse-making I've ever come across.

We start with Gizmodo, a website that used to be owned by Gawker Media until a rich guy decided to show America exactly what a rich guy with a lot of money could do and had Gawker shut down, presumably then diving into a pile of gold coins and rubbing hundred dollar bills on his nipples. Gizmodo recently filed an FOIA request to get at documents involving the misuse of computer equipment with the Department of Homeland Security. The site was hoping to see if there were any cases of overreach and abuse of technology by the department. Instead, it uncovered four cases of people watching porn, including one really special case involving a border patrol agent that simply would not stop looking at porn while on the job.

According to the report obtained by Gizmodo, this particular case, where names have been redacted to protect the privacy of the agent, involves thousands of attempts to access porn on government computers in 2015.

The government says the unnamed agent tried to access porn 644 times in just a two-day span in July of 2015. The DHS internet software filters denied him access 467 times during those two days. Some of the porn was accessed simply because it was hosted on sites that weren’t recognized as exclusively for porn, like Flickr and Tumblr.

644 instances of watching porn while at work is the kind of dedication one likes to see out of an employee actually doing his or her job. That kind of relentless drive to jacking it while on the clock, however, isn't generally smiled upon. An investigation was conducted, which included an interview with the man caught loving himself. The agent had an excuse, however, and it's glorious.

He said that he knew he shouldn’t have been accessing porn at work, but that part of the blame was really with the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office for not having “adequate web filters.”

Just drink that in for a moment. A border agent, part of an organization that is essentially a filter for those traveling across our borders, has said that part of the blame for his constant porn-viewing rests with the fact that the internet filter used didn't do a good enough job blocking his attempts to look at pornographic material. One immediately wonders if this excuse might be ported to the analog world of illegal immigration. Should an illegal immigrant caught by INS be able to simply shrug and say the blame for his or her illegal entry is really on the CBP for not stopping them? One might even imagine a caught illegal immigrant suggesting that CBP agents clearly didn't mind their entry if they spent so much time watching porn rather than, you know, catching those attempting to illegally cross the border. After all, if the filter isn't catching them, let's just blame that, right?

Are porn filters easily circumvented? Yes. Is that to blame for a CBP agent trying to find porn at work at a rate of near Olympic proportions? Mmm, no.


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  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 12:08pm

    Question possibly answered

    A couple of days ago there were some questions as to what the definition of a Fat Man Gadget was. This guy, I think, has the answer well in hand.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 12:20pm

    Just when we thought..

    ... there were no more heroes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 30 Sep 2016 @ 12:58pm

    "644 times in just a two-day span"

    Pfft. I hit that threshold by noon. Amateur.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 1:21pm

    These kinds of porn filters can get dozens of hits when loading a single webpage. Think of a porn site that loads images from another domain and makes dozens of requests to load a gallery of pictures.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    kallethen, 30 Sep 2016 @ 1:38pm

    I swear, sometimes I wonder if you guys at TechDirt are trying to see who can post an article that sends the most people to the hospital from facepalming too hard.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 2:17pm

    Customs and Boner Protection it is then?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 30 Sep 2016 @ 2:21pm

    "He said that he knew he shouldn’t have been accessing porn at work, but that part of the blame was really with the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office for not having “adequate web filters.”"

    In other news, burglar blames homeowner for not having a proper security system. "They deserved it!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 2:37pm

      Re:

      when they sue the homeowner because they got beat up when caught they usually win.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 10:56pm

      Response to: Pixelation on Sep 30th, 2016 @ 2:21pm

      Someone in my highschool tried this argument! After installing Netscape to circumvent the filters, something half the school did, he argued the schools usevof filters showed they accepted responsibility for what students could access, and if he could access it it was reasonable for him to assume he was allowes.

      It didnt work.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 3:13pm

    Talk about a new game of whack-a-mole!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 3:29pm

    Let's do the math here

    The government says the unnamed agent tried to access porn 644 times in just a two-day span in July of 2015.

    Presuming an 8-hour day, and without allowing for lunch or other breaks, this means he did so, on average, every 89.4 seconds.

    Well. On the bright side, he wasn't smuggling drugs, raping women, molesting children, stealing luggage, harassing citizens, or doing violence to the Constitution. He didn't have time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2016 @ 3:41pm

      Re: Let's do the math here

      are you sure? perhaps he can multi-task

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      wereisjessicahyde (profile), 1 Oct 2016 @ 4:34pm

      Re: Let's do the math here

      Actually he was downloading both bestiality and child porn, although he claims the latter was "by accident"

      Quite how you download images of children being abused by "accident" I can't really understand.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 Sep 2016 @ 11:57pm

    Personal Responsibility..... it's dead Jim!

    This is just fall out from the nanny state we currently are in. There ought to be a law to do X, even when X is common sense or something your parents should have taught you.

    My typical example follows...

    Its McDonalds fault my child is fat because the toy in the Happy Meal enticed them (to force me to go to the drive through and buy them what I knew was bad for them because parents should never say No.)

    Its not this poor mans fault that he was whacking away at work, it is the fault of the filter. If the filter had worked, he would have known that they REALLY didn't want him whacking off at work. He had to invest so much time to find new ways to see porn to whack off to, it slowed down what we were paying him to do.

    And because this is how the system seems to work for the cogs of the system... he still has his job, got promoted, if he was fired or suspended the union contract demanded an arbitrator decide the final outcome and they put him back to work with all backpay.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    timmaguire42 (profile), 1 Oct 2016 @ 3:45am

    Just because the filter says porn...

    I'm blocked from many sites at work because of filters that don't work--online dictionaries because they contain "adult content" (of course they do, they're dictionaries!). One of my favorite legal analysis blogs has been blocked for a couple months as pornography (for no reason I can fathom). I check it almost every day to see if they've fixed their problem.

    So if they're tracking my attempts to access porn, then I'm down for at least a hundred attempts, even though I have not once attempted to access porn at work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    dobbie606 (profile), 1 Oct 2016 @ 4:39am

    in days of yore

    uncle tom: chris, mr arkwright says you were in his shop & stole a candy bar
    chris: yes,father
    uncle tom: well,mr A, it's clear to me that my son is blameless...you,sir, are at fault...your display is within easy reach of the tyke.
    [chris grew up to be a not-so-upstanding-citizen]

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2016 @ 4:59am

    >We start with Gizmodo, a website that used to be owned by
    > Gawker Media until a rich guy decided to show America
    > exactly what a rich guy with a lot of money could do and had
    > Gawker shut down,

    Come on, that explanation only makes sense if a judical system is perceived as being corrupt and laws being only effective by means of money. Gawker itself used similar methods in its business model by emaciating the financial reserves of the people suing them. Practically they were hit by their own method and commited a breach of law. Financing someone elses lawsuit is not illegal. I would be more concerned that attaining justice is a question of how much money someone has, than that justice was attained by the aggrieved party.

    What Gawker has done was not reversible or seriously quantifyable, so there either is a breach of law or there is no breach of law. It takes a judge to decide and smearing those decisions with implications that the system is corrupt won´t change them, not if the business model around that media site has been running on comparable methods.

    Of course there are many examples in the U.S. of money being the deciding factor in lawsuits or in settling them, but i would not blame the judge or the court, but the attorneys salaries. It also raises questions in how much lawyers that work on the same law and took the same exam can differ so drastically in quality and salary that it would lead to a different outcome. Reports based on that expectation bias would need such a prejudice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      timmaguire42 (profile), 2 Oct 2016 @ 3:28am

      Re:

      That caught my eye too. It's a bullshit description of the Gawker case, but it's also common among Gawker defenders. Which is why politics is so divisive--shameless dishonesty from partisans.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2016 @ 7:03am

    Re: 644

    If that is based on file count (which it probably is) this number is likely less than ten clicks. Most porn sites are comprised of massive indexes of small files. (or so I've heard) :)

    As a web business TD does know that figures referring to browsing history are often bullshit. So I'm a little surprised at this article.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Glathull (profile), 1 Oct 2016 @ 8:10am

    This is a crock of shit.

    Do you people ever look at porn? Do you watch your network traffic while you open a single site? Some porn sites will generate 600+ network calls to other porn sites (and themselves) with just a couple of clicks.

    This guy probably clicked a naughty link on cragslist and maybe one or two others. Or maybe even a legit dating website. There's porn spam on OKCupid and Match that you can get sucked into if you aren't paying attention.

    That's basically it.

    Jeez.

    And honestly, if I were on a work computer and I clicked on something I shouldn't have a couple of times, I'd blame the filter too if the sys admin came after me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DNY (profile), 1 Oct 2016 @ 8:50am

    They also serve who only stand and wait.

    I have a feeling there would be no news story if the Border Patrol agent had been whiling way the hours with fantasy football or computer solitaire.

    The line from Milton was originally an expression of a particular form of protestant piety, but describes a great many government (and non-government) jobs in which merely being present in case something happens, in which case one must deal with it, is nearly the whole content of the job. I am guessing that the Border Agent in question had such a job.

    While we might hope that such Federal employees would do something more uplifting (of the mind, not the nether regions of the anatomy) than watching porn (for instance reading Milton's poetry) while waiting for something to happen that must be dealt with (e.g. an illegal border crossing), it seems churlish to deny them their preferred legal amusements as they while away the hours simply because a residual Puritanism persists in our generally libertine society. If other computerized amusements would have been acceptable pastimes for the employee during idle times, then, indeed, the fact he was not prevented from engaging in his favored amusement of watching porn is on the Federal agency.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2016 @ 8:56am

    I've heard better excuses such as "we didn't do it, the machine did".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    imlock (profile), 2 Oct 2016 @ 7:56am

    Porn Addiction

    This employee is probably addicted to porn. He probably works in a room alone, where he can get away with it, and the temptation is too great.

    It's easy to treat this person with contempt, but that is the low road. More likely, this person needs some help, much like a gambling addict or alcoholic. And he likely did rely on the internet filter to help him. The filter will not cure the addiction, to be sure. But it would have helped this person stay employed.

    I think Anthony Weiner is a similar situation. The man has an addiction or another psychological problem. While a filter would not have stopped the underlying cause, it would have likely stopped the outcome. A man could have saved a congressional career, a family, a marriage. But until the person actively seeks help, the underlying compulsions will not change.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 4 Oct 2016 @ 5:52am

      Re: Porn Addiction

      You may find that the contempt we have for such people is due to the fact that they know damn well they have a problem but they're enjoying their problem far too much to get the help they need.

      If you have an addiction you have a responsibility to make some kind of effort to get help with it. And you know you have an addiction when your pastime or poison interferes with your ability to operate normally in society or at your job.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    imlock (profile), 2 Oct 2016 @ 7:56am

    Porn Addiction

    This employee is probably addicted to porn. He probably works in a room alone, where he can get away with it, and the temptation is too great.

    It's easy to treat this person with contempt, but that is the low road. More likely, this person needs some help, much like a gambling addict or alcoholic. And he likely did rely on the internet filter to help him. The filter will not cure the addiction, to be sure. But it would have helped this person stay employed.

    I think Anthony Weiner is a similar situation. The man has an addiction or another psychological problem. While a filter would not have stopped the underlying cause, it would have likely stopped the outcome. A man could have saved a congressional career, a family, a marriage. But until the person actively seeks help, the underlying compulsions will not change.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 3 Oct 2016 @ 3:16pm

    His supervisor should be fired

    Yes, seriously- his supervisor should be fired. What kind of person has so little work assigned to them that they can try to access porn that much in a day? Where was his supervisor to make sure he was actually doing his work and meeting his deadlines? Or did the guy finish his work and then look at porn? Then why didn't the supervisor give him more work?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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