Washington, July 24 (ANI): Dozens of Pentagon officials and contractors have been caught purchasing and downloading child pornography on government computers in a sting operation.
The US Department of Defence's inspector general's office disclosed in documents released on July 23.
It said the investigation, which led prosecutors to the government workers, was actually part of a larger Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency sting called Operation Flicker, which was aimed at identifying individuals who paid money over the Internet to access child pornography overseas.
The sweep collected information on more than 5,000 people in 60 undercover stings involving 18 child porn websites. Among those were several dozen who worked for Pentagon intelligence services.
According to the documents, offenders include people with highly sensitive security clearances who have the potential to blackmail the government using closely held military and intelligence secrets.
Some of the people involved have such high-level clearance, that identifying characteristics about them were blacked out in the report.
Among those investigated are employees of the National Security Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and other offices at the Defense Department.
"Some are in high-ranking positions, in positions of trust," Fox News quoted John Sheehan, executive director of the exploited child division at the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, as telling The Boston Globe, the first newspaper to report the IG's conclusions.
The centre has been consulted, which has reviewed 36 million images of alleged child pornography since 2002 at the request of law enforcement agencies, consulted the government as part of the investigation.
"There isn't a profile or stereotype, which makes it even more challenging for law enforcement," Sheehan added. (ANI)