Illustration by Jim Cooke

Working for the US Department of Homeland Security can be stressful. But no matter how difficult your job is, looking at porn is usually frowned upon during work hours. So when a US border patrol agent was recently busted for watching porn at work, he got into trouble. But he had an interesting defense. He said at least some of the blame should be on the internet filter software, which should have saved him from himself.

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I recently filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Homeland Security regarding four specific investigative cases that were only identified as “computer misuse.” I was hoping to uncover some alluring tales of espionage and double agents getting caught in the act of hacking some super secret files. Instead, all I’ve gotten back so far is porn.

I haven’t been able to find any reliable numbers, but I’m going to guess that watching porn at work is something that almost every office has to deal with. Most people hate their jobs, and porn is fun. So it’s really no surprise that a border patrol agent was busted. What’s shocking, and frankly amusing, is his defense.

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According to the report obtained by Gizmodo, this particular case, where names have been redacted to protect the privacy of the agent, involves thousands of attempts to access porn on government computers in 2015.

The government says the unnamed agent tried to access porn 644 times in just a two-day span in July of 2015. The DHS internet software filters denied him access 467 times during those two days. Some of the porn was accessed simply because it was hosted on sites that weren’t recognized as exclusively for porn, like Flickr and Tumblr.

Excerpt from a Department of Homeland Security OIG report involving misuse of government computers

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General took on the case and verified through video surveillance footage that it was indeed the unnamed agent who had been accessing porn, including child pornography (though he said that was unintentional) and beastiality (which was consistent with “multiple search queries”). It’s not clear if the video surveillance captured him, um, doing what people usually do when they look at images that sexually arouse them.

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But again, what I found so interesting about this case was the agent’s defense. He said that he knew he shouldn’t have been accessing porn at work, but that part of the blame was really with the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office for not having “adequate web filters.”

Excerpt from a Department of Homeland Security OIG report involving misuse of government computers

If you’ve been looking at porn during work hours for months on end, it’s pretty ballsy to claim that the web filters should’ve prevented you from viewing it.

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And it wasn’t just once. This guy had multiple meetings with his bosses where he claimed that the work internet filters should have been “more robust,” as the government put it.

[Name redacted] opined that the CBP IT filter should have been more robust, to prevent him from accessing any of the sites, and that because he accessed some of the sites, he thought that CBP bore some responsibility for not stopping him entirely.

The best part? Apparently the guy learned that the best way to get around the filter was to search using Bing instead of Google.

[Name redacted] stated that he was able to access more pornographic content by utilizing the Bing search engine, than when he employed others such as Google.

So there you go. If you want to get around your employer’s porn filters, remember to always try Bing first.

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It’s not clear what the consequences were for this particular agent, but looking at the rest of the file, this guy was clearly struggling with some personal demons and acting recklessly. And if he was fired from the Department of Homeland Security, hopefully his next employer blocks access to Bing.