Lawmakers grill U.S. military leaders over nude photo sharing scandal

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By Idrees Ali | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON U.S. Senators grilled the Navy and
the Marine Corps’ top leaders on Tuesday amid a growing scandal
involving a private Facebook group and its surreptitious
distribution of explicit images of women in the armed forces –
often with obscene, misogynist commentary.

The Facebook group, called “Marines United,” is reported to
have nearly 30,000 followers, including active-duty U.S.
Marines, Marine Corps veterans and British Royal Marines.

“If we can’t crack Facebook, how are we supposed to be able
to confront Russian aggression and cyber hacking throughout our
military?” Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand asked during a
Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing.

Gillibrand said online harassment had become evident as
early as 2013 and military leaders were made aware of it but
have still been unable to stop

“I don’t have a good answer for you,” the Commandant of the
Marine Corps General Robert Neller said. “We’ve got to change,
and that’s on me.”

Neller has vowed to hold those responsible for the photo
sharing accountable and change the culture behind it.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that the scandal
could have an impact on recruiting women, and called it “devastatingly bad.”

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) has opened
an inquiry into the matter.

Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley said more than 50 calls
had been received on an NCIS tip line so far and that the
scandal could involve more websites.

U.S Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a statement last
week that personnel involved in any alleged sharing of nude
photos of female colleagues were guilty of “egregious violations
of the fundamental values.”

The U.S. Code of Military Justice explicitly outlaws
distribution of sexually explicit photos of others without their
consent as an offense punishable by court-martial.

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