It's sometimes hard to believe, but government employees are people. And like most people who have access to an internet connection, they occasionally go surfing for porn. Perfectly normal. Except… well, except for many things.
Only the truly unemployed would be likely to go searching for porn as often as one SEC employee did
, when he ran into the agency's anti-porn firewall 1,800 times during a two-week period, without ever once considering this was how the system was designed, rather than just an indication that he wasn't trying hard enough. Multiple employees at the agency were reprimanded for watching porn on their work computers for "98% of the workday."
A state official in Oregon infected the government's computer system with a nasty trojan hitchhiker
picked up while surfing for porn. This resulted in a data leak, but the employee was reprimanded solely for using a work computer inappropriately.
An investigation by the EPA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found one employee had downloaded and viewed more than 7,000 pornographic images
while on the clock. When OIG investigators went to ask the employee about the images, they found the employee "actively viewing pornography."
Recent investigations are finding more of the same. Government employees apparently can't seem to separate work and [self] pleasure
, using both tax dollars and work computers to facilitate their porn habits. But it's not so much the habit that's truly infuriating It's the excuse.
For one Federal Communications Commission worker, his porn habit at work was easy to explain: Things were slow, he told investigators, so he perused it “out of boredom” — for up to eight hours each week.
“He stated he is aware it is against government rules and regulations, but he often does not have enough work to do and has free time,” investigators wrote of another federal employee, this one at the Treasury Department, who viewed more than 13,000 pornographic images in a six-week span.
In another recent case, a GSA employee who spent about two hours a day on a computer looking at pornography and dating sites “sometimes became bored during these long hours at the computer and would often use the computer for personal use to pass the time,” according to a case report by the GSA inspector general last year.
Now, I don't know about you, but I've had boring jobs before, where not every minute of the day was spent working. And I've had access to the internet at the same time. And not once
did I think the lack of work meant I should use work computers to access porn. Not once. But for these government employees, it's apparently a legitimate excuse. Boredom is all the justification needed to break the universal rule that work computers should not
be used to access NSFW sites. And they didn't just do it a couple of times. They did it constantly
. It's completely disingenuous to blame your job for your porn habit, especially
when your employment is funded by money taken from people directly out of their paychecks without their explicit consent.
But what's worse is that those farther up the food chain at these agencies are treating this piss poor excuse as though it's valid -- or at the very least, refusing to take the situation seriously.
Investigations at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Commerce Department and the General Services Administration have turned up similar cases, though memos show the employees rarely face criminal prosecution for time and attendance fraud.
A spokesman for the FCC declined to comment on what, if any, action the agency took after the FCC’s inspector general singled out the eight-hour-a-week porn peeper.
FCC spokesman Mark Wigfield said only that the agency follows Office of Personnel Management guidelines on disciplinary matters and officials could not comment on specific cases.
So, bored federal employees will continue to surf for porn or otherwise waste tax dollars because there's zero accountability. These stories surface so frequently because an OIG investigation only uncovers wrongdoing. The reports are almost always scathing indictments of federal money being misspent and mismanaged and yet, all the OIG can do is make recommendations. The agencies themselves have to change and they almost universally refuse to do so. The problems are so ingrained at this point that no one wants to make the effort needed to enforce some level of decorum and accountability. Only rarely does external pressure
have any influence, and legislators have been hesitant to create additional means of enforcement or deterrence.
The government mantra seems to be "if it's broke, don't fix it." There's nothing wrong with viewing porn, but there's plenty wrong with using government computers and punching the clock while doing it. If we can't expect lower-level agencies to be accountable to the public, why should we be surprised the administration itself feels exempt from this crucial aspect of democracy as well?