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October 5, 2006

Interior Department Employees Surf for Porn, Games, Auctions

Here's the first, and with luck, the last Mark Foley reference on this blog.  Former Congressman Foley's indiscreet email and instant messages are notable beyond the outrage generated over prurient communications to a 16 year old boy by the fact that they used current technology as the medium for the messages.  Usually members of congress are among the least tech savvy of humans, especially if Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska is a measure.  The Senator,chairs the Commerce Committee and is currently considering, if that's the word for it, the latest overhaul of telecommunication laws.  He did describe the Internet as a series of tubes at one point, probably a Monty Burns-esque reference to pneumatic tubes of, oh, say Senator Stevens day.  In that sense, ex-Congressman Foley is way ahead of him in understanding the (ab)uses of the Internet.

But now that Mr. Foley is out of a job, he might find that he could feel right at home at the Department of the Interior.  Employees of that department seemed to have caught on to the possibilities of the Web.  The Inspector General for Interior, Earl E. Devaney, studied the Internet habits of the Department's employees.  What did he find?  In his words:

We discovered that computer users at the Department have continued to access sexually explicit gambling web sites due to lack of consistency in Department controls over Internet use.  While not specifically prohibited, we also discovered that computer users spent significant time at Internet auction and on-line gaming web sites, costing an estimated 104,221 hours in potential lost productivity over the course of a year.

That's the equivalent of 2605 and a half work weeks at 40 hours per week.  To be fair, those hours are spread over 80,000 employees, some of whom are probably not wasting tax dollars while homing from work.  The sex and gambling sites apparently do violate government policy, although the shopping and game sites only interfere with work productivity.  A department employee normally works 2,080 hours per year, and the lost time due to auction and games sites is the equivalent of 50 FTE.

Other notes from the report:

* A number of computers accessed sexually explicit websites for approximately 30 minutes to nearly 1 hour; 

* One computer had 2,369 computer log entries at two Internet game sites for approximately 14 hours;

* 406 computer log entries indicating another computer accessed an Internet game for approximately 12 hours;

* 2,949 computer log entries indicating a third computer accessed an Internet game site for nearly 10 hours; and,

* 12,597 computer log entries indicating a fourth computer accessed an Internet auction for nearly 8 hours.

In a review of OIG investigative files, we found that our investigators routinely discover evidence that employees access sexually explicit websites.  Pornography, and in some cases child pornography, have been discovered during forensic examinations of Department computers.  Often, the discovery of pornography is incidental to the purpose of the forensic examination.  For example:   

* A DOI employee was sentenced to 8 years in prison for possession of approximately 30,000 images of child pornography, which was discovered on his government computer during an examination for a computer virus.

So, come on down Mr. Foley.  Once the scandal clears, you may be the right person to work at Interior. 

The OIG's web site (which is not part of the Interior site) is here.  The report is available in text and PDF from the main page.

October 5, 2006 | Permalink


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Is it true that the Department of the Interior has now installed blog blocking software that only blocks conservative blogs? This is what I've been reading, and wonder if it's true.

Posted by: Margaret | Oct 14, 2006 8:48:03 PM

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