The US Defense Department has launched an investigation into release of hundreds — possibly thousands — of naked photographs of women service members and veterans.
The announcement was made after members of the Marine Corps recently posted the photos in a Facebook group called “Marines United,” with around 30,000 followers.
More than two dozen women have been identified as being Marine officers and enlisted service members.
The photographs, published since January 30 via a Google Drive account, have caused yet another scandal for the US military, underscoring ongoing problems of sexual harassment.
“The success of every Marine, every team, every unit and command throughout our Corps is based on mutual trust and respect,” Commandant Robert Neller told the Marine Corps Times. “I expect every Marine to demonstrate the highest integrity and loyalty to fellow Marines at all times, on duty, off-duty and online.”
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service launched an investigation into the photos as Google and Facebook blocked the accounts posting the pictures to the group.
The scandal was initially reported by the Center for Investigative Reporting and was completed by the nonprofit news organization The War Horse later.
“We need to be brutally honest with ourselves and each other: This behavior hurts fellow Marines, family members, and civilians. It is a direct attack on our ethos and legacy,” Sergeant Major Ronald L. Green, the most senior enlisted Marine on active duty, wrote in an email response to the Center for Investigative Reporting. “It is inconsistent with our core values, and it impedes our ability to perform our mission.
According to a document provided to generals, “The story will likely spark shares and discussions across social media, offering venues for Marines and former Marines who may victim blame, i.e., ‘they shouldn’t have taken the photos in the first place,’ or bemoan that they believe the Corps is becoming soft or politically correct.”
Meanwhile, Democratic Washington Representative Adam Smith, a ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, called for a complete investigation into the matter.
“This behavior by Marines and former Marines is degrading, dangerous, and completely unacceptable,” said the congressman in a statement.
In its annual report in 2016, the Pentagon said it received about 6,000 reports of sexual assault in 2015 alone.