As military officials and lawmakers hold hearing after hearing to assess the nude-photo-sharing scandal that rocked the armed forces in early March, the servicemen who engaged in the disgusting behavior have a message for investigators: You can’t catch us all.
Despite the threat of the ongoing NCIS investigation into the “Marines United” Facebook group at the heart of the scandal, servicemen continue to upload and distribute explicit photos of servicewomen, female veterans, and civilians in apparent defiance of authorities, journalist and Marine veteran James LaPorta reported for the Daily Beast on Tuesday. From his report:
A female Marine reservist is the newest victim of an ongoing effort by current and former Marines to share nude photos of fellow servicemembers without their consent.
A Facebook group called Marines United 3.0, taking its name from the original Facebook group shut down in January for sharing nude photos, continues to flout the Marine Corps and Congress by circulating photos, including at least one new cache. The group has resorted to extreme vetting of members—including a demand that aspirants post a nude photo—to prevent infiltration, according to a source within the group.
“This is not what normal people do to each other,” the female Marine reservist, identified here as Kim to protect her privacy, said. The men sharing the pictures and videos “must have some need for vengeance toward somebody. I mean, why is this fun? What makes this so fun? If you want to see naked people, go to porn sites. I don’t understand the logic behind it. It’s to the point now that I’m just numb.”
According to LaPorta, NCIS has identified at least 17 smaller offshoots of the original Marines United page engaged in the distribution of the explicit material. As Task & Purpose reported earlier this month, Marines United is comparable to a digital hydra: When one group shuts down, several more rise from the ashes to take its place.
The veterans who run these groups, no longer subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, don’t seem at all worried about invading the privacy of unsuspecting women. “I don’t see a legal issue with it,” Former Marine Lance Cpl. Cody Fielder, an administrator of a new Marines United group, told LaPorta. “I do think there’s a moral issue with it, but there’s a lot of difference between the law and your own moral code… If the law wants to get involved, show me the passage that says this is illegal.”
“Keep it organized and post only the nastiest shit,” Fielder posted to Marines United 3.0 on Thursday. “Nothing illegal (underage), is all I ask.”
The Daily Beast report comes days after military leaders issued new social media guidelines to commanders. The core message is relatively simple: Don’t embarrass us.
"Marines must never engage in commentary or publish content on social networking platforms or through other forms of communication that harm good order and discipline or that bring discredit upon themselves, their unit, or the Marine Corps,” according to the new Marine Corps guidelines issued by Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller last week.
But as the Daily Beast report makes clear, it will take more than a few sternly worded guidances to change the fundamental causes of the Marines United scandal: the culture of sexism and misogyny that appears to permeate almost every level of the armed forces. During a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Monday, Rep. Jackie Speier of California, who has led the charge on revenge porn in the military since 2013, reiterated that military leaders are missing the point with their updated social media guidelines.
“No one has ever gone on Facebook, looked at non-consensually posted intimate photos, typed a rape threat and then stopped and said, ‘Oh, I better not make rape threats. That’s against the military social media policy,’” Speier said.
“We don’t need to talk about social media policies,” she added. “We need to talk about how to end this hatred and misogyny.”