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Investigation reveals gambling, porn site access at Stars and Stripes

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — A Stars and Stripes internal investigation found that “a considerable number” of the news organization’s Pacific employees have accessed gambling and pornography sites using government computers, officials confirmed this week.

The suspected improper use was discovered during the past month after Pacific bureau managers received a monthly report that monitors employees’ Internet usage.

Pacific Stars and Stripes general manager John Panasiewicz did not disclose how many of the roughly 200 Pacific workers who use government computers are suspected of improper Internet use, but he said the number was considerable.

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“It was more than I would have anticipated,” Panasiewicz said.

U.S. civilians and servicemembers, as well as both Japanese and South Korean civilian employees, are suspected of accessing prohibited sites from various Stars and Stripes offices across the Pacific region, Panasiewicz said.

No one has yet been punished as part of the ongoing investigation, said Lt. Col. Autum Whalen, the commander of the Stars and Stripes Pacific operation.

“We’re in consultation with the [Judge Advocate’s office], the publisher and personnel offices to ensure we proceed in an appropriate manner,” Whalen said.

Stars and Stripes is still investigating whether some of the incidents were cases of workers inadvertently viewing prohibited material, or were even part of legitimate business and newsgathering.

Each month, Stars and Stripes reviews employees’ Internet usage worldwide to ensure the organization has sufficient bandwidth, publisher Max Lederer said.

Those reviews also look into whether employees are visiting destinations that are inappropriate or illegal, such as gambling, day-trading and pornography sites, Lederer said.

“Sometimes we do find employees — not very often — but sometimes we find employees who make bad decisions in any of those kind of areas,” Lederer said. “When we do, then we address it appropriately through the personnel system, whether it’s a termination, suspension, a reprimand, a warning, whatever is appropriate for that particular case.”

The reviews into Internet usage are entirely internal, Lederer said. Stars and Stripes has not increased its ordinary scrutiny of employees’ Internet usage, according to John Allio, director of technical operations.

“This is self-policing our usage,” Lederer said.

By congressional mandate, Stars and Stripes is editorially independent from the Department of Defense. But the organization does receive a subsidy from the Defense Department to help defray the extraordinary costs of delivering a daily newspaper to troops on the front lines overseas, and is subject to many military personnel regulations.

Last month’s Internet usage review did not find any unauthorized use in Stars and Stripes’ central editorial and administrative offices in Washington, Allio said.

The organization’s European offices have only recently begun using the monitoring software that discovered the suspected improper computer use in the Pacific, said Rick Braun, the general manager for the Europe theater. No instances of gambling or pornographic site use have been found in Europe, Braun said.

slavine@pstripes.osd.mil

 

 

Stars and Stripes reporter Jeff Schogol in Washington contributed to this report.
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