The scandal over the publication of photos of naked marines in a private Facebook group already extends to all divisions of the United States Army . The Pentagon says the problem “affects the whole organization” and that the guilty parties are expected to respond for their actions, even though no formal charges have yet been filed against any suspects. Several media outlets reported on Friday that the images appeared on numerous pages outside the social network and remain accessible even after the first forum, the Marines United, was closed.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday in a statement that the activities “represent a grave breach of fundamental values” in the department. “We will not tolerate or forgive this behavior,” said Mattis, calling the publication of images “unacceptable and contrary to the unity of our ranks.”
“They are not helping”, he said on Friday the General Commandant of the Marine Corps , Robert Neller, referring to members of the army who participated in the first forum and continued publishing the images. Neller added that this type of “misogynistic and derogatory” behavior against soldiers “does not allow us to fulfill the mission this country has given us.”
Commander Neller has reported that the Pentagon has identified nearly a dozen victims so far, but that the journalist who has revealed the scandal has evidence implying a higher number. “It affects the entire organization,” he said, inviting the soldiers whose images were posted to report so the culprits could be identified. Neller denied that the scandal was a symptom of a major problem in the American ranks, but said that “it is ours and we assume it.”
The Pentagon says it is studying the possible breach of the Army’s code of conduct by the perpetrators, although Neller has voiced doubts about the implications of those acts. “The investigation will help us understand how far the problem goes and the culprits will respond for their actions,” he said. No one has been accused so far of posting photos.
The groups put on the Internet several images of naked solders or underwear, made without their consent or shared without permission. The comments also had violent and degrading language about the victims. After accessing several online forums, the CNN network confirmed that both the welders and those responsible for posting the photographs belong to all areas of the US Army, which expands the phenomenon beyond the marines.
The Business Insider portal revealed that in the Anon-IB portal, which allows photo sharing and commenting anonymously, the same photographs appear in the Marines United group, which closure was required by the Pentagon. The images are accompanied in some cases by the identities of the soldiers, as well as their destiny in different American bases throughout the world.
The case surfaced last week when the Center for Public Integrity’s Reveal News blog revealed the existence of a Facebook group shared by more than 30,000 US Marines users in which the images were shared. The phenomenon coincided with the arrival of the first battalion of women to this division of the Army and provoked a new polemic because of cases of harassment and aggression against the American soldiers.
Since then, the Navy’s Criminal Investigation Service has begun to act to determine the scope of the case as well as the identity of all persons involved. The Sergeant Major Ronald Green, primarily responsible for the marines on active duty, expressed to Congress that the United Marines group was the “spearhead” of a wider phenomenon.
The Air Force has also confirmed its own investigation and Department of Defense officials will appear next week before the Senate Armed Services Committee to inform lawmakers on the progress of the investigations.
The Pentagon said this week that this conduct “does not match the values” of the US Army. The Department of Defense ordered in 2015 that all military posts be open to the participation of women, including combat stations. Harassment of the Marines represents yet another episode in the battle to end sexual assault in the US ranks, where accusations have skyrocketed in recent years.