Sex files found on academy computer Navy investigating graphic text on office's machine

February 05, 1997|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

A trove of sexually explicit computer files accidentally discovered last week on a U.S. Naval Academy computer has prompted a military inquiry into the school's public-safety office.

Computer specialists from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in Washington arrived in Annapolis Sunday to analyze more than 600 files found on a personal computer assigned to the office of Lt. Cmdr. Michael E. Braley, the security officer supervising the academy's police and fire departments.

According to sources who have seen them, between 50 and 100 of the 602 computer files contain graphic material, mostly in the form of letters to women, describing sexual acts, preferences, and sexual encounters on government-sponsored business trips.

"There is an investigation going on," Braley said yesterday. "I can't talk about it."

Capt. Tom Jurkowsky, an academy spokesman, confirmed that the NCIS had "been called in to see if there was any inappropriate material on there, if there was any criminal activity."

He said the computer was assigned to the academy's security office, and that some of the files predate Braley's arrival at the academy in July 1994 by two years. He would not say whether those files contained sexual material.

Jurkowsky said late yesterday that NCIS investigators had worked through the hard drive and found personal letters.

NCIS investigators will file a report answering two questions: How did the alleged pornography get onto the hard drive? And is the material illegal?

Depending on those findings, the initial review could evolve into another embarrassment for the academy, which over the past two years has confronted a rash of drug, cheating and car-theft scandals involving midshipmen but none implicating commissioned academy personnel.

"It could be a relatively simple thing that's just pretty stupid," said one NCIS source, who asked to remain anonymous. "Or it could get more complicated. But it will take more than dirty letters to get us involved."

The inquiry, which Jurkowsky described as "ongoing," is expected to determine whether Braley or someone else in the security office wrote the material, or whether it was downloaded from the Internet. That would make the offense more serious because it involved using government equipment to collect the material, according to NCIS sources.

Text filed

But the files are WordPerfect text entries, not pictures, making it unlikely the Internet was the source of the material, the sources say.

Academy personnel sign a statement based on a standard-issue manual, called the "Ethics of Computer Use," which employees receive when they are issued a computer account. By signing it, they pledge not to use the equipment for unauthorized activities. Also, stickers placed on many government-owned computers warn that unauthorized use is illegal.

NCIS guidelines require a full investigation when allegations involve a felony carrying a penalty of at least one year in jail. If findings do not support those charges the academy will be left to deal with the case itself.

Jurkowsky said penalties could range from "a slap on the wrist to counseling" to discharge. In addition, Braley, who is married, could face charges that he violated the military law against adultery.

"But we are going to have to wait and see," Jurkowsky said. "It's premature to speculate."

The case started late last week after a routine upgrade of Naval Academy computer equipment in the security office. The Naval Academy fire department was set to receive 12 old computers from the police department.

The computers were sent to the academy's Computer Services Department where the hard drives were supposed to be erased. But one terminal, in what Jurkowsky called an oversight, was not purged.

Firefighters find files

That computer was delivered to the Annapolis Fire Department on Taylor Avenue where academy firefighters share space until their on-campus headquarters are renovated. Firefighters discovered the files and called the NCIS.

A 22-year Navy veteran, Braley arrived at the academy after a sea tour on the nuclear-powered cruiser USS Long Beach. He is 40 and began his career as an enlisted man, rising steadily through the ranks.

"He's a tough-nosed guy," Jurkowsky said. "He's had a very distinguished career. You're not assigned to a position as security officer unless you have a flawless record."

But his 2 1/2 years supervising the academy's 83 police and fire department personnel has been rocky. He has repeatedly angered against leaders of the 32-member Naval Academy Professional Firefighters, Local F-254. He tried to reprimand several members of the union's management, including president Michael Austin, in recent months over a dispute about union business.

Yesterday, the academy's fire chief, Jim Nicholes, briefed firefighters about the investigation. NCIS investigators are expected to questions several firefighters who discovered the files in the coming days.

Full support

"The union is in full support of the ongoing investigation that the NCIS and the academy are conducting," Austin said yesterday in a prepared statement.

Jurkowsky said the NCIS will withdraw in the next few days, most likely leaving the academy to decide whether to call in the Navy Inspector General, conduct a Judge Advocate General review, or handle the matter administratively.

"You do personal work on personal computers," Jurkowsky said. "You don't do it on a government computer."

Pub Date: 2/05/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.