MoD agency admits Net porn scandal

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The Independent Online
MINISTERS WILL come under fire in the House of Commons today following disclosures that tens of thousands of pornographic images were downloaded from the Internet at a Ministry of Defence research laboratory.

The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (Dera) at Malvern, Worcestershire, confirmed yesterday that two employees are being investigated following the discovery of large quantities of explicit material by MoD Police last year.

The MoD said that the downloaded material contained images involving children and animals.

More than 170,000 explicit images are reported to have been found by investigators following an initial discovery by a security guard.

A Dera staff member was found not guilty on eight counts of possessing indecent material at Droitwich Magistrates' Court earlier this month. Two Dera employees are subject to an internal investigation.

A spokesman for the MoD Police said yesterday: "We presented files on five people to the Criminal Prosecution Service, two of whom were Dera employees and three of whom were contract workers. The CPS decided to go ahead only with one who was a Dera employee."

Investigators are reported to have found that a key computer had spent more than 70 per cent of its on-line time downloading and distributing pornographic images.

Menzies Campbell, foreign affairs and defence spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said yesterday: "The real issue here is not the fact that it was porn that was downloaded but the fact that the MoD computer system could be manipulated so easily.

"So far as we know, security was not compromised on this occasion but it is absolutely essential that suitable procedures be put in place to prevent abuse of this kind in the future. Defence ministers face the House of Commons [today] at Question-Time. They had better have some answers ready."

Workers are believed to have used a special program called "Sucker" which downloaded thousands of explicit images. More than 3,500 Dera employees across Britain are said to have had access to the material.

Rupert Cazalet, a spokesman for Dera, said yesterday that accessing or downloading material which is not work-related is a disciplinary offence.

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