Military investigators have identified 27 individuals they believe engaged in “criminal activity” involving the non-consensual sharing of explicit photos of female servicewomen and veterans in the “Marines United” Facebook group, Naval Criminal Investigative Service director Andrew Traver announced on Friday.
Of the suspects identified by NCIS, 15 are active-duty Marines. Another 29 servicemen “could be disciplined for non-criminal behavior online,” according to Marine Corps Times.
Another junior enlisted service member and non-commissioned officer were also demoted under the Corps’ new social media guidance, updated by Commandant Gen. Robert Neller after the revelations surrounding the 30,000-strong “Marines United” group. Task & Purpose confirmed Friday that the punishments for those two Marines were not directly related to the NCIS investigation into the “Marines United” group and its role as a digital underbelly of a culture of sexism and misogyny festering within the Corps.
Rather, the two were disciplined for posting derogatory comments about senior enlisted officers on a social media page entitled “United States Grunt Corps,” according to Marine Corps Times. The two Marines were demoted a pay grade and saddled with 45 days of military restrictions and punitive duties.
They won’t be the last: At least 700 active-duty Marines had been identified as members of “Marines United” by NCIS as of March 17, according to Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier of California.
The other cases are "working their way through the pipe,” NCIS investigators told ABC News on Friday.
"This is about actions that are disrespectful to or intended to harass, demean, and degrade Marines," the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Glenn Walters, told the media in a statement Friday. "These actions are attacks on our core values, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline. We are committed to holding those who commit such acts appropriately accountable."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps as Gen. Glenn Waters. His last name is Walters. (Updated 4/10/2017; 9:30 am).
An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington, June 15, 2005. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the Guantanamo prison against critics who want it closed by saying U.S. taxpayers have a big financial stake in it and no other facility could replace it at a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday. (Reuters/Jason Reed JIR/CN)
The Pentagon is sending nearly 1,000 more troops to the Middle East as part of an escalating crisis with Iran that defense officials are struggling to explain.
The Marine lieutenant colonel removed from command of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May was ousted over alleged "misconduct" but has not been charged with a crime, Task & Purpose has learned.
Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, 42, who was removed from his post by the commanding general of 1st Marine Division on May 7, has since been reassigned to the command element of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and a decision on whether he will be charged is "still pending," MEF spokeswoman 1st Lt. Virginia Burger told Task & Purpose last week.
"We are not aware of any ongoing or additional investigations of Lt. Col. Zavala at this time," MEF spokesman 2nd Lt. Brian Tuthill told Task & Purpose on Monday. "The command investigation was closed May 14 and the alleged misconduct concerns Articles 128 and 133 of the UCMJ," Tuthill added, mentioning offenses under military law that deal with assault and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.
"There is a period of due process afforded the accused and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.
When asked for an explanation for the delay, MEF officials directed Task & Purpose to contact 1st Marine Division officials, who did not respond before deadline.
The investigation of Zavala, completed on May 3 and released to Task & Purpose in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that he had allegedly acted inappropriately. The report also confirmed some details of his wife's account of alleged domestic violence that Task & Purpose first reported last month.