House panel to be briefed on Marines nude photo scandal

House panel to be briefed on Marines nude photo scandal
© Greg Nash

The House Armed Services Committee will be briefed next week by the commandant of the Marine Corps on the nude photo scandal that's rocking the service.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) told reporters the committee will get a closed briefing a week from Thursday, rather than have an open hearing, to allow Gen. Robert Neller to speak to what the Marines know so far while the investigation is ongoing.

“Clearly, degrading fellow service members is unacceptable in all circumstances,” said Thornberry, chairman of the committee. “So it is a matter which needs to be taken seriously.”

The War Horse, a nonprofit military news organization, reported over the weekend that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is probing 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.

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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.

In addition to outrage over the photo sharing, some lawmakers have criticized the Marines for not responding to the scandal forcefully enough.

The sergeant major of the Marines said Wednesday that the Marines have been careful about how they respond publicly to avoid the appearance of unlawful command influence, citing a judge’s rebuke of a former commandant on the issue.

Thornberry said he is “very sensitive” to the issue of the Marines or lawmakers saying something that could impede future prosecutions or disciplinary actions.

Thornberry added that he's spoken personally with Neller since the scandal broke. 

“I have no doubt the Marine Corps is taking this very seriously,” Thornberry said. “I’m sure they’re being guided by their lawyers on what they can say publicly. I have talked personally with the commandant about it, and I have no doubt they’re taking it very seriously.”

On Wednesday, Armed Services Committee member Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) called for firings over the scandal.