U.S. Missile Defense Staff Ordered to Stop Watching Porn at Work

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Aug. 2 2012 9:44 AM

U.S. Missile Defense Staff Ordered to Stop Watching Porn at Work

Missile Defense Agency
Apparently missile defense gets boring after a while.

Photo by the U.S. Navy via Getty Images

Most of the time, no doubt, our nation’s missile defense staff is hard at work—ooh, poor word choice.

Most of the time, no doubt, our nation’s missile defense personnel are working diligently to protect us from whoever might be plotting to fire missiles at us. But sometimes, well, they get a little off-task.

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In a July 27 memo obtained by Bloomberg News, Missile Defense Agency Executive Director John James Jr. warned his team about inappropriate use of the agency’s computer network. “Specifically, there have been instances of employees and contractors accessing websites, or transmitting messages, containing pornographic or sexually explicit images,” James wrote, according to Bloomberg News. “These actions are not only unprofessional, they reflect time taken away from designated duties, are in clear violation of federal and DoD and regulations, consume network resources and can compromise the security of the network though the introduction of malware or malicious code.”

An agency spokesman told Bloomberg the memo was prompted by “a few people downloading material from some websites that were known to have had virus and malware issues.”

Good to know it’s only a few. Because, for missile defense staff, porn-surfing is more than just a distraction from the job of figuring out how to intercept and neutralize any ballistic explosives that might otherwise kill large numbers of Americans. (Not that there are a lot of people firing missiles at us on a daily basis, but hey, you never know.) It’s also, as James noted, a great way of contracting malware or exposing the agency’s computer systems to infiltration by hackers, including from countries such as Russia. Not as dangerous as surfing church websites, perhaps—but still, pretty risky.

Cryptically, Bloomberg's report closes by noting that an agency spokesman "denied the memo was intended to intimidate agency employees from reading the IG report." The IG report is a report by the Office of the Inspector General on its investigation of the agency's chief, Lt. Gen. Patrick J. O'Reilly, whom employees have called, among other things, "without a doubt, the worst leader I've ever worked for." The report, according to Foreign Policy, found that O'Reilly's brow-beating had crushed staff morale, and it recommended that Pentagon brass take "corrective action" against him. The Washington Post notes that the Missile Defense Agency ranked 223rd out of 224 small government agencies in a 2011 "Best Places to Work" survey.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

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