Marines defend response to nude photo scandal

Marines defend response to nude photo scandal

A top Marine on Wednesday defended the Marine Corps’s subdued response to a nude photo-sharing scandal, saying that a stronger statement could jeopardize potential future prosecutions.

Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green told a House Appropriations subcommittee that the service was taking into account a judge’s 2012 rebuke of former Marines Commandant Gen. James Amos, who was found to have exerted apparent unlawful influence when he questioned the lack of convictions and discharges in the wake of sexual assault allegations throughout the Marine Corps.

“I understand how everyone wants us to come out and be outraged, and we are outraged,” said Green, the highest-ranking noncommissioned officer in the Marines.

“There are some things we’d like to say, but due to the legal situation when [Amos] came out and he made bold statements about how he felt about sexual assault, the judicial system said that the statements he made could actually have a negative impact on where they wanted to go with the prosecution.”

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The War Horse, a nonprofit military news organization, reported over the weekend that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating hundreds of Marines on allegations that they shared nude photos and personal information of female Marines and veterans in a private Facebook group. The Facebook group, called "Marines United," had nearly 30,000 followers.

Some photos were allegedly taken and posted without the women’s knowledge or were meant to remain private. Comments on the page reportedly included rape threats.

Current Marines Commandant Gen. Robert Neller released a video statement Tuesday saying that the Marines accused of sharing the nude photos “acted selfishly and unprofessionally.”

“It’s embarrassing to our Corps, to our families and to the nation,” Neller added.

But some lawmakers and others have accused the Marines of not responding forcefully enough to the allegations. In a House floor speech, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said “heads should roll.”

In Wednesday’s hearing, Green said the Marines will take further action once the investigation wraps up.

“We will do what’s right, and we will do what’s legal to take action on these individuals,” he said.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the top Democrat on the subcommittee, said she was “incredulous” over Green’s explanation of the Marines’s “muted” response. 

“That makes absolutely no sense to me,” said Wasserman Schultz, the top Democrat on the subcommittee. “I will tell you it doesn’t send the right message to your women in the Marine Corps when there is as a muted reaction from their leadership, as I certainly interpreted there was.”