IRS Employees Using Computers For Personal Mail, Pornography

Treasury Department inspectors have found that Internal Revenue Service employees are using government-provided computers for sending and receiving personal e-mail, reading the news, listening to music, and visiting pornography Web sites.

During one one-week period last October more than 19 million government computers were used by IRS employees while working on government time to access more than one million so-called questionable items on the Internet. "The magnitude of the results clearly indicates significant misuse of the Internet in the IRS," said Treasury inspector Gordon Milbourn III in a memo to the tax collection agency.

Close scrutiny of the computer abuses showed that more than one-fourth of the computer misuse occurred on only 122 IRS computers, suggesting that only a small percentage of IRS employees regularly abuse their computer rights. Some of the employees who were found to misuse their computers regularly have been fired, others have resigned.

The Treasury Department has tried to crack down on abuse of computers by IRS employees in the past. An investigation in 2000 showed similar abuses and prompted the IRS to create a written policy setting out rules for computer usage while on the job.

Senator Charles Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee which oversees the IRS, referred to the abuses as "stunning" and recommended that the IRS take further measures to correct employee behavior. Mr. Grassley recommended the IRS use blocking programs to prevent employees from viewing inappropriate Web sites while at work.

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