Privacy SOS

Who are the watchers? At least 5,000 are alleged child pornographers, report finds

NSA, FBI, CIA and private contractors have access to the private communications and associational information of hundreds of millions of people. Oversight is practically nonexistent. Seventy percent of the 'intelligence' budget is farmed out to private war and spy contractors, an industry that has been implicated in various obscene scandals over the years, among them the 'Afghanistan Butt Shots' crisis and torture lawsuits, to name just two.

Very rarely do we get a glimpse into the lives of the people who monitor us. It's a one way mirror, for the most part. But we do get some insights into this secretive world, and what we find can be horrific. One breathtaking federal investigation gives us plenty of reasons to worry about the people who sit behind monitors, headphones in, watching and listening in the shadows.

AP reports:

A major federal investigation has found that dozens of military officials and defense contractors, including some with top-level security clearances, allegedly bought and downloaded child pornography on private or government computers.
The Pentagon on Friday released investigative reports spanning almost a decade that implicated individuals working with agencies handling some of the nation's most closely guarded secrets, including the National Security Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates U.S. spy satellites.
Defense workers who purchased child porn put the Department of Defense, "the military and national security at risk by compromising computer systems, military installations and security clearances," a 2007 investigative report said.
The US government wants to capture Edward Snowden to prosecute him under the Espionage Act of 1917, so it no doubt took a hard line against intelligence community and DoD employees who downloaded child pornography on government machines, right?
Because none of the children in the images could be identified, as required for prosecution through the Federal system, the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to take action.
One case in California involved more than a dozen individuals with ties to the Defense Department, including contractors and active members of the military – several of whom had top secret clearances. At least nine cases were closed because investigators lacked "current, relevant evidence," the documents state.
Ok, maybe the US won't prosecute child pornographers in the military and intelligence institutions, but surely these are just a few bad apples, right?
Wrong again!
Because many important details are blacked out in the documents, it is impossible to determine precisely how many individuals with ties to the Pentagon were either charged with or suspected of receiving child pornography.
The federal investigation of military workers was part of a broader effort initiated in 2007 under the code name "Operation Flicker." That project had identified more than 5,000 individuals who subscribed to child pornography websites.
The surveillance state: even creepier than you ever could have imagined. 

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.