Marines in­ves­ti­gate nude-photo shar­ing

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Thomas Gib­bons-Neff Wash­ing­ton Post

The Ma­rine Corps is look­ing into al­le­ga­tions that an un­known num­ber of po­ten­tial Marines, as well as cur­rent and for­mer ser­vice mem­bers, shared naked and com­pro­mis­ing pho­tos of their col­leagues on so­cial me­dia, Ma­rine of­fi­cials said Sun­day.

The al­le­ga­tions were first re­ported by the War Horse and pub­lished Satur­day through the web­site Re­veal. The au­thor, a Ma­rine veteran and Pur­ple Heart re­cip­i­ent, as well as mem­bers of his fam­ily, have re­ceived nu­mer­ous death threats since the ar­ti­cle was first pub­lished. It is un­clear how many peo­ple are in­volved in the scan­dal and how many pho­tos were posted on­line.

The War Horse’s re­port fo­cuses on one Face­book group with more than 30,000 mem­bers called Marines United. In Jan­uary, a link to a shared hard drive con­tain­ing pho­tos of nu­mer­ous fe­male Marines in var­i­ous states of un­dress was posted to the group, ac­cord­ing to the War Horse’s re­port.

The hard drive con­tained images, as well as the names and units of the women pic­tured. Many of the pho­tos were ac­com­pa­nied by deroga­tory and ha­rass­ing com­ments.

The shared drive has since been taken off­line and the Naval Crim­i­nal In­ves­tiga­tive Ser­vice is in­ves­ti­gat­ing “in­ci­dents re­lated to the Marines United group,” said Capt. Ryan Alvis, a Ma­rine Corps spokesman.

The per­son who posted the drive was a for­mer Ma­rine work­ing for a de­fense con­trac­tor, said a Ma­rine of­fi­cial who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity to speak frankly about the pho­tos. The con­trac­tor has since been re­lieved of his du­ties.

Pho­tos of Ma­rine Lance Cpl. Marisa Woytek were taken from her Instagram ac­count and posted to Marines United mul­ti­ple times in the past six months with­out her con­sent.

“Even if I could, I’m never reen­list­ing,” Woytek said. “Be­ing sex­u­ally ha­rassed on­line ru­ined the Ma­rine Corps for me, and the ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Woytek said she was alerted to the hi­jacked pho­tos by oth­ers on so­cial me­dia and were shown the com­ments that ac­com­pa­nied them. She said that many of the com­ments in­cluded al­lu­sions to sex­ual as­sault and rape.

Many of her fe­male col­leagues have ex­pe­ri­enced sim­i­lar in­ci­dents, she said, and added that they have been re­luc­tant to speak out for fear of re­tal­i­a­tion from the group’s thou­sands of mem­bers. With the War Horse’s re­port Satur­day, Woytek said that she and oth­ers “have a voice now.”

On Sun­day, the Ma­rine Corps’ high­est-rank­ing of­fi­cer, com­man­dant Gen. Robert Neller, did not di­rectly ad­dress the in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Marines United.

“For any­one to tar­get one of our Marines, on­line or other­wise, in an in­ap­pro­pri­ate man­ner, is dis­taste­ful and shows an ab­sence of re­spect,” he said in a state­ment. “I expect Marines to give their all to be the best hu­man be­ings, team­mates, and Marines pos­si­ble.”

On Sun­day night, law­mak­ers be­gan to weigh in on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “This be­hav­ior by Marines and for­mer Marines is de­grad­ing, dan­ger­ous, and com­pletely un­ac­cept­able,” said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the rank­ing Demo­crat on the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee.

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