Report: NSA, Pentagon officials linked to child porn

red_light_pentagonBy Declan McCullagh

Dozens of National Security Agency, DARPA, and other Pentagon officials purchased and downloaded child pornography over the Internet, according to a report in The Boston Globe on Friday.

The newspaper said it obtained more than 50 pages of documents revealing that the government workers identified in an internal probe included NSA contractors with top secret clearances, one of whom has fled the country and is believed to be hiding in Libya.

Another involved a person working at the supersecret National Reconnaissance Office, which operates the military’s spy satellites, who was transferred to a field office and has not been charged with a crime.

In the United States, it is legal to possess obscene materials, which are generally defined as hardcore pornography involving consenting adults. It is also legal to posses non-obscene pornography.

But the knowing possession of child pornography is a federal felony. In the last few decades, the definition of child pornography has been expanded to include not only depictions of minors being sexually abused, but even images of clothed girls in leotards and, as CNET reported in 2006, photographs of clothed minors in what prosecutors claim were overly “lascivious” poses.

Some, but not all, of the Pentagon workers were charged as a result of the internal investigation, which had not previously been made public. In one 2007 case, the Globe said, a national security official possessed 8,400 pictures, and 200 movies “that were evidence of receipt of child pornography” and was sentenced to five years in prison.

After a series of other recent reports highlighted how federal employees were using taxpayer-funded computers to watch porn at work, the House of Representatives voted 239 to 182 earlier this month to require federally-funded networks to block the viewing or downloading of pornographic materials.