Report: Pentagon Declined to Investigate Kiddie Porn Purchases

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John Cook (formerly of Gawker) has a real blockbuster over at Yahoo’s “The Upshot” news blog. Cook used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain Pentagon records that show the military investigated “only a handful” of the 250 military and civilian Defense Department employees who purchased child pornography online. The 250 names came out during a 2006 investigation by the US Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement that focused on Americans who used credit cards or PayPal to buy kiddie porn overseas. Here’s Cook:

As part of the probe, ICE investigators gained access to the names and credit card information of more than 5,000 Americans who had subscribed to websites offering images of child pornography. Many of those individuals provided military email addresses or physical addresses with Army or fleet ZIP codes when they purchased the subscriptions.

In a related inquiry, the Pentagon’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) cross-checked the ICE list against military databases to come up with a list of Defense employees and contractors who appeared to be guilty of purchasing child pornography. The names included staffers for the secretary of defense, contractors for the ultra-secretive National Security Agency, and a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. But the DCIS opened investigations into only 20 percent of the individuals identified, and succeeded in prosecuting just a handful.

The documents that Cook acquired seem to indicate that 212 of the 264 Pentagon employees that DCIS identified were never investigated. Cook’s sources say the problem may have been a lack of resources—DCIS only has 400 staffers, most of whom are supposed to focus on contracting fraud and security breaches. But if that’s the case, DCIS should have forwarded its list on to outside authorities—the FBI or local law enforcement—that are better able to prosecute the individuals involved. There’s no indication in Cook’s story as to whether that happened. Anyway, this is a great piece of online investigative journalism, and one that will undoubtedly be picked up by national media. Read it.

 

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