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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Porn-surfing feds blame boredom, lack of work for misbehavior, By Jim McElhatton

Porn-surfing feds blame boredom, lack of work for misbehavior
By Jim McElhatton - The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2014

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.

Lack of work has emerged time and again in federal investigations, and it’s not just porn, nor is it confined to the FCC. Across government, employees caught wasting time at work say they simply didn’t have enough work to do, according to investigation records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

“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.

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.
U.S. Gains 209K Jobs, July Unemployment Rate 6.2%

Aug. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Bloomberg’s Peter Cook breaks down the July employment report as the U.S. Unemployment rate climbed to 6.2 percent on 209,000 jobs added for the month. He speaks on “In The Loop.”

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.

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.

In a more recent and far more costly example, U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board paralegals received salaries and bonuses for years even though they spent much of their time watching television, shopping online, exercising and wasting time on their tablet computers, according to an investigation released this week by the Commerce Department’s inspector general. Investigators estimate that more than $4 million was spent paying employees for time they weren’t working.

The paralegals, who can’t create their own work, later told investigators that the reason was simple: Supervisors weren’t giving them any assignments. Some supervisors were reluctant to give paralegals special projects out of fear that the assignments could antagonize the labor union.

Brian Miller, a former GSA inspector general who is now managing director of the consulting firm Navigant, said executives may feel reluctant to let go of employees.

“Today, federal managers are under many constraints,” he said. “With hiring freezes and budget limitations, a federal manager may hoard resources, squirreling them away for fear of losing even unneeded resources.

“It takes a very strong manager to stand up and do the unpopular thing: to manage resources efficiently.”

No matter what evidence the inspector general turns up, he said, it’s ultimately up to the agencies to hold employees accountable.

“At the end of the day, an IG may recommend a course of action, but the IG has no power to make it happen,” he said. “An IG warns, reports, and recommends, but agency managers administer disciplinary actions and make changes in the agency.”

Pete Sepp, executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union, said there is no doubt that downtime contributes to federal workplace misconduct.

“There’s a reason that saying about idle hands has such a long lineage,” Mr. Sepp said. “Not everyone with excess time in the workplace will spend it helping their colleagues get caught up or knitting clothes for the less fortunate,” he said.

“There needs to be a balanced approach to reform here, one that provides more flexibility to reassign workers’ duties, aggressive enforcement of whistleblower protections, incentives for agencies and managers that save tax dollars, and penalties for those that fail to properly oversee them,” Mr. Sepp said.

Some administration officials have come under criticism for allowing workers to remain on the job even in the face of clear misconduct findings.

In March, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee railed against the Environmental Protection Agency for not firing several employees involved in misconduct investigations. The employees included a senior executive who investigators said hired friends and family and sold weight loss products from the office.

The Washington Times reported on other time and attendance issues at HUD this year. One case involved an auditor who worked on private business from the office and later said work sometimes was impossible because the department’s computers were frequently down.

Homeland Security official arrested in sting involving sordid Sacramento Craigslist ad, By Bill Lindelof

Homeland Security official arrested in sting involving sordid Sacramento Craigslist ad
By Bill Lindelof
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014 - 1:17 pm

A Homeland Security employee has been arrested in connection with a sting that alleges he used a Craigslist ad in an effort to get a mother and an underage daughter to have sex with him.

George Hristovski, 54, of Elverta, was booked into Sacramento County Jail on Monday after his arrest by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. His LinkedIn posting identifies him as an inspector for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

A federal court filing requesting an arrest warrant for Hristovski said that Placer County Sheriff’s Department detectives noticed an ad on Craigslist on July 14 in the “Casual Encounters” section of the Sacramento area part of the website.

The person who placed the ad sought a mother who wanted a man to teach a daughter about sex. Detectives, posing as a mother and a 13-year-old daughter, corresponded via e-mails with the person who took out the ad.

The correspondence from the man, later identified as Hristovski in the arrest warrant request, became increasingly lurid. During the course of the e-mails, the man switched to an e-mail address he would use many times.

Based on the conversations, a Placer County detective obtained a search warrant for records from Craigslist and Yahoo. An investigation of internet provider addresses led detectives to believe Hristovski was the man who had solicited an online sexual liaison with a mother and daughter.

The online jail booking said Hristovski was booked on federal child pornography charges. The FBI declined to comment.

Legalizing child pornography is linked to lower rates of child sex abuse, by Brain & Behavior

Legalizing child pornography is linked to lower rates of child sex abuse, by Brain & Behavior
Legalizing child pornography is linked to lower rates of child sex abuse, by Brain & Behavior

Sexting may be driving rise in children charged with pornography offences, by Helen Davidson

Sexting may be driving rise in children charged with pornography offences
Helen Davidson

Call for national response after threefold rise in children charged with child pornography offences in South Australia since 2009

State police forces have issued warnings to teenagers and parents about the potential consequences of sexting – including legal ramifications. Photograph: Alex Segre/Alamy

A threefold increase in the number of South Australian children charged with child pornography offences has prompted the state attorney general John Rau to seek a national response to what he believes could be the cause: a rise in sexting between teenagers and children.

Since 2009, the number of children under 18 charged with child pornography offences in South Australia has risen from 15 per year to 44. A further breakdown of the data is not available but Rau and South Australian police believe it may be linked to an anecdotal rise in sexting – sending explicit images via phone – among children.

Under current South Australian law, children can be convicted and placed on the child sex offenders register, although the attorney’s general office said this has not yet happened.

“It would have an impact on the nature of their employment, ability to travel, as well as where they could reside and who they could associate with,” Rau told Guardian Australia, adding that a judge may find it necessary in some cases.

Rau is calling for a multi-government response, including education campaigns targeted at parents and children, and has written to his interstate and federal counterparts encouraging them to address the issue at the next state and territory attorneys-general meeting.

“Ideally, a national approach to this issue would be preferred as there are complexities involving telecommunications law which can only be dealt with federally,” he said.

Over recent years, numerous state police forces have issued warnings to teenagers and parents about the potential consequences of sexting – including legal ramifications.

In 2012, WA police warned that children engaging in sexting may be committing an offence under a number of child pornography laws, many of which carry a maximum of 10 years jail. Similar laws are in place in other states.

NSW attorney general Greg Smith told Guardian Australia that he supports Rau’s initiative in raising the issue.

“With the increased use of technology by young people, the practice of sexting anecdotally appears to be widespread,” said Smith.

“In NSW this does not appear to have led to a significant increase in charges, and police retain discretion. However, I would be concerned if there is evidence innocent adolescent behaviour was routinely criminalised, leaving a young person with life-long consequences.”

In NSW, around four people under 18 have been charged with offences relating to child abuse material or child pornography each year since 2009. The charges may be related to a number of criminal acts, including sexting.

In 2010, the state’s Crimes Act was changed so that related crimes are no longer referred to as “child pornography”, as the language was thought to be inaccurate.

“The NSW Crimes Act has been changed to refer to it all as child abuse material. It’s not pornography, it’s a crime,” detective inspector Michael Haddow, manager of the child exploitation internet unit at the NSW police sex crimes squad, told Guardian Australia.

Haddow said young people need to be aware that when they engage in “sexting” they are committing an offence and could be subject to charge, although he believed that would be rare as NSW police have alternative options to deal with young offenders, including cautions and conferencing with police.

“The more important message is that young people need to be aware of this because when you send images of yourself, whether by email or social media, they are out there and out there for good,” said Haddow.

New Victorian laws are expected to come in some time this year after the state government agreed in December to change its legislation and to make non-consensual distribution of explicit images an offence, and to ensure that children would not be charged.

The modifications – a national first – were the result of a parliamentary inquiry into sexting, and give children a defence against charges if they were sexting with someone of no more than two years’ difference in age.

A new summary offence will also be enacted of forwarding an intimate image without consent, which seeks to address incidents of jilted partners forwarding messages in apparent revenge.

Coalition MP Clem Newton-Brown, chair of the Victorian parliament’s law reform committee, told Guardian Australia very few children have been convicted of offences, unless it was warranted by aggravated circumstances.

“The evidence from Victoria was that police were exercising their discretion widely,” he said, however “the committee and now the government thinks that now it’s appropriate there be defences so that children who are caught sexting are not at the mercy of a policeman’s discretion.”

Rau told Guardian Australia he would like to see the outcomes of Victoria’s approach, but “we need to be very careful that any loosening of the legislation does not allow more serious offenders off the hook.”