Dept. of Common Sense: Don’t Watch Porn on a Government Computer

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., introduced the bill, which he said should not be necessary. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., introduced the bill, which he said should not be necessary. J. Scott Applewhite/AP file photo

A House committee on Wednesday approved legislation that bans federal employees from accessing pornography on government computers.

Seems like common sense, right? Well, the bill -- also introduced in the last Congress -- was prompted by the case of an Environmental Protection Agency employee who allegedly spent an average of two-to-six hours per day watching pornography at work. The agency discovered those viewing habits in May 2014. As of September 2014, the employee – who stored more than 7,000 pornographic files on an agency server – had not been fired, but was put on paid administrative leave, according to Greenwire. The EPA did not immediately respond Wednesday to questions on the prolific porn watcher’s current employment status.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee reported out H.R. 901, the Eliminating Pornography from Agencies Act, along with several other bills on Wednesday. H.R. 901 requires the Office of Management and Budget to issue guidelines to prohibit porn-watching and accessing explicit websites on federal devices. It would not apply to federal computers that are used to access pornographic websites for investigations.

“It’s a shame that we would even have to be considering a piece of legislation to address this issue,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., the bill’s sponsor. “Healthy, safe workplaces is what all of us want. It is a bipartisan issue.” Meadows said that his legislation ensures what is “common sense for the vast majority of Americans that you should not be watching pornography on the taxpayer dime.”

House Oversight and Government Reform Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said he did not oppose the legislation, but pointed out that such behavior already is prohibited under the ethics standards for government employees. Federal employees cannot use government property for any unauthorized purpose; watching porn on a government computer would fall into that category. “I just don’t think it [H.R. 901] is necessary, but if we want to make sure that we send a message -- and I think that’s what it does -- I have no objection,” Cummings said.

The committee’s chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said the panel had talked with the head of the EPA about the issue. “We asked why they couldn’t fire this person, [and] she said she needed help, assistance, a strengthening in the law,” Chaffetz recounted. “And to that end, if that will help her, I think this is a much needed bill.”

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