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The inspector general also told Congress about the problem. Porn-related investigations were mentioned in each of the inspector general’s semiannual reports to Congress covering activities since April 2007, the records show.

What’s more, the inspector general devoted nearly two pages in one 2008 report on the topic of porn-surfing SEC employees and contractors.

Mr. Grassley’s letter to the SEC also sought details about one case he said he learned about from an anonymous whistleblower, who reported confidentially on a Los Angeles area supervisor caught trying to access pornography about 1,800 times. The tipster said the supervisor received little but “a slap on the wrist.”

The whistleblower, in a letter released by Mr. Grassley’s office, said the supervisor received a reprimand, “got a free pass” and “must have felt bulletproof.”

“From a supervision standpoint, this porn-surfing matter has been handled very badly and has resulted in massive embarrassment to the agency,” the whistleblower wrote.

Memos on the porn viewing obtained by The Times show the activities occurred during both the Obama and Bush administrations. The SEC isn’t the only agency with workers who have looked up sex sites at work; cases have been surfacing at agencies across government over the years.

Last year, The Times reported on several cases at the National Science Foundation. In 2006, the Environmental Protection Agency’s inspector general announced the suspensions of two employees for looking at pornography at work. Earlier this year, the inspector general for the Department of Veterans Affairs reported on one employee caught looking at pornography.

The names of the SEC employees and contractors investigated were not released in the documents provided in response to The Times’ open-records request.

In a letter, the inspector general’s office said the names would not be released in part because doing so could subject individuals to “harassment and annoyance in the conduct of their official duties and private lives.”