Judge Won’t Order SEC to ID Porn-Viewing Workers

     DENVER (CN) – A federal judge ruled that the Security and Exchange Commission does not have to identify those of its workers who were found in a government report to have spent their workdays looking at pornographic websites.

     Steese, Evans & Frankel PC – with offices in Denver and Washington, D.C. – filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for detailed information on 24 SEC employees and seven contract workers found to have looked at sexually explicit websites between 2005 and March 16 of this year.
     In response to Steese Evans’s request, the SEC released the same information it previously released to the Washington Times. The names and titles of those the SEC investigated were not included in the releases.
     U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello said the firm’s request “would be a clearly unwarranted invasion” under an FOIA exemption that prohibits disclosure of private personnel and medical information.
     The SEC argued that the complaint filed by the firm for more information sought materials never requested under the original FOIA, including the SEC offices in which the employees worked, the amount of time the employees spent looking at pornographic websites, and the names of the contractors companies whose employees were involved.
     Arguello agreed with the SEC, finding that a great deal of information on the misconduct, including 16 reports from Office of Inspector General, has already been released to the public.
     “The reports were redacted to withhold identifying information, yet in some instances, provide the office location in which the investigation took place,” the ruling states. “The SEC has further disclosed the grade level, supervisory level, and discipline suggested and imposed for each of the employees, as well as informed plaintiff that the violations were ‘spread across several offices of the agency.'”
     One of the 31 employees intervened anonymously as a defendant.
     “Moreover, one employee has testified that, should his identity become known, he would be subject to ‘severe personal and professional harm including embarrassment and disgrace, … possible loss of my current job [and] future employment opportunities’ and ‘certain, immediate and severe’ harm to his family,” the ruling states.
     Arguello wrote that “the sexual nature of the misconduct reinforces the need to protect the privacy interests of these individuals.”
     “The court, therefore, agrees with the SEC and Doe that the disclosure of the individuals’ names will do little, if anything, to further the public understanding of what the SEC ‘is up to,'” the ruling states.

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