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Pentagon pledges investigation into nude photo scandal

Media caption‘There is no honour in denigrating a fellow Marine’

The Pentagon has pledged a full investigation into a nude photo scandal hitting the American armed forces.

Defence Secretary James Mattis said “all appropriate action” was being taken in all branches of the armed forces.

The scandal began when nude photos of female Marines were published online by male colleagues.

But fewer than 10 female Marines have come forward to make a formal complaint, a top Marine official said.

General Robert Neller said he hoped more women would come forward to help the investigation.

The scandal initially broke when current and former members of the US Marines were discovered sharing naked photos of female servicewomen on Facebook, in a group called “Marines United”.

It reportedly had over 30,000 members before being shut down. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has begun an investigation into the practice in the Marines.

Since then, it has emerged that other anonymous online message boards have been soliciting and publishing hundreds of nude photos of female personnel from other armed forces.

Speaking at a Pentagon news conference on Friday, General Neller said he did not know how many Marines were involved in the posting, or how many have been targeted.

“If you’re participating in this type of behaviour in any way shape or form – you’re not helping me or your Marine Corps,” he said.

“You know we claim that being a Marine is a special title and something that you earn. There’s honour here. But there is no honour in denigrating a fellow Marine in any way shape or form.”

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Getty Images

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The nude photo sharing scandal appears to extend far beyond the Marines

One online message board seen by the BBC – which remains publicly accessible – indicates that such practices extend throughout the military.

Many posts were requests containing clothed photos of women taken from their public social media profiles, asking for nude photographs of them.

Often, such posts included names and personal details of the women, including where they were stationed.

“Just heard [name redacted] and her bf [name redacted] broke up,” reads a comment on 19 December from an anonymous user on a post that appears to involve personnel at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska.

“Maybe he would post some.”

Another post from a different anonymous user on 12 September reads: “Any wright patt wins? I’ll start off with some.” The post refers to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

The user then posts self-taken images of a woman in a bikini, and then topless. There are many more explicit images on the message board.

On Wednesday, two women who said they were victims spoke out publicly alongside their lawyer, urging others to come forward.

“I can tell you that this exact behaviour leads to the normalisation of sexual harassment and even sexual violence,” said Erika Butner, 23, who served in the Marines for four years until last June.

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Reuters

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Marine Marisa Woytek (L) and former Marine Erika Butner (R) made their experiences public

The US Department of Defense said in a statement that it had issued “policy guidance” to prevent and deal with “sexual harassment and hazing”.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is due to hold a hearing on the issue next week.

Marines United’s activity was first uncovered by The War Horse, a non-profit news organisation run by Marine veteran Thomas Brennan.

Some of the photos are believed to have been taken surreptitiously. Other images are thought to have been consensual, but posted without permission.


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