SAN DIEGO — U.S. soldiers will have a much more difficult time viewing pornographic Web sites now that the Army has enlisted the aid of Websense, a Southern California company, to help in the battle to restrict unfettered Internet access by its troops.

The offensive against the inappropriate use of Army computers is definitely a good idea, said Janson Durney, a third-year cadet at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.

Durney told the Register that he supports the regulation of anything that does not support “the Army's mission of winning the nation's wars.”

The cadet also worries that the use of pornography by troops “can degrade the work atmosphere if men begin to objectify women as a means for pleasure, rather than fellow human beings who should be treated accordingly.”

Durney said there are additional problems with having pornography available in today's Army. “Pornography is especially a concern, because men and women are working together more often in today's Army,” he noted.

Nor has the military been immune from pornography-induced sex scandals. In 1998, for example, an Army major and an airman were at the centers of separate child pornography cases in North Carolina.

The Software

The $1.8-million deal between Websense and the Army will provide a software package to be utilized by more than 100 military facilities in the United States and abroad. The software works by allowing a manager “to select from 67 categories — anything an employer might not want [employees] looking at,” explained Phil Hill, a spokesman for Websense in San Diego.

Hill said the filtering system is updated daily, filtering our new Web sites both by electronic means and through input from people that Websense employs to surf the Web and find other sites containing problematic material.

Websense, which was founded in 1994, already works with over 12,000 customers worldwide, including 239 of the Fortune 500 companies and 75 government agencies. The most frequently blocked Web sites disseminating hate material and pornography. Said Hill, “No employer would want that in their workplace.”

While spokesman Timothy Rider stressed that the Army's computer filter program was targeted not at any one particular kind of Web site, but at all sites that can decrease military productivity, published reports indicate that the new system will likely spell the end of pornographic Internet surfing.

In addition to pornography, the system will be able to filter gambling, shopping, the downloading of MP3 music files and “anything that would give administrators a headache because [some] people are doing non-duty [activities],” Rider said. The new system is an improvement on current Army filtering devices, he added, because it “will give managers more flexibility in ensuring that more work gets done.”

Viewing Internet pornography is already against Army rules regarding use of its computers. According to Army regulations: “The Joint Ethics Regulations now allows users to make limited use of [Department of Defense] telephones, e-mail systems, and Internet connections for personal use, so long as such uses are on a not-to-interfere basis and are not for an improper purpose (such as conducting a private business or reviewing pornography).”

Rider explained that the new filtering software is not directly related to this army policy, but conceded that while he was recently stationed in Korea, some soldiers were accessing pornography on military computers. Said Rider, “I won't say that nobody went to such sites.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that: “[Pornography] offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act…. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials” (No. 2354).

The Archdiocese of the Military Services said that is strongly supportive of any moves undertaken to reduce the damaging spiritual, psychological and social consequences of soldiers viewing pornography. Msgr. Aloysius Callaghan, vicar general for the military archdiocese, told the Register, “We respect the value system [against pornography] being maintained by the Army.”

Andrew Walther writes from Los Angeles.