Armed Services Dem: Social media hearing 'misses the point' on nude photo scandal

Armed Services Dem: Social media hearing 'misses the point' on nude photo scandal
© Greg Nash

A key Democrat on Tuesday slammed the House Armed Services Committee for limiting its public hearing on the military’s ongoing nude photo sharing scandal to a subcommittee hearing on social media policies.

“Framing the issue as military social media policies misses the point,” said Rep. Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierOvernight Defense: House to vote on military justice bill spurred by Vanessa Guillén death | Biden courts veterans after Trump's military controversies House to vote on 'I Am Vanessa Guillén' bill Overnight Defense: Trump's battle with Pentagon poses risks in November | Lawmakers launch Fort Hood probe | Military members can't opt out of tax deferral MORE (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee’s subpanel on personnel.

“No one has ever gone on Facebook, looked at non-consensually posted intimate photos, typed a rape threat and then stopped and said, ‘Oh, I better not make rape threats. That’s against the military social media policy.'"

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Speier was making her comments at the top of a subcommittee hearing with testimony from personnel officials from each of the military services, as well as the acting under secretary of Defense for personnel.

The hearing on social media comes in the wake of the scandal over “Marines United,” a Facebook page where service members were allegedly sharing nude photos of female Marines without their consent and making crude and disparaging comments including rape threats. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating, and the investigation has reportedly spread to other branches of the military.

Speier and other Armed Services Committee Democrats have requested a full committee hearing on the issue with Marines Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and other service chiefs.

Following a closed briefing to the committee from Neller and others last week, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the committee, told reporters the panel has no plans for an open hearing with Neller since lawmakers need to be cautious of what they says publicly about an ongoing investigation.

Thornberry also highlighted Neller’s public testimony in the Senate Armed Services Committee and said it would be redundant for Neller to publicly testify before the House committee when he’s limited on what he can say.

Speier, though, called the topic of Tuesday’s subcommittee hearing “appalling,” especially after Neller has said the issue is not limited to social media.

“It is appalling that the committee is treating it as such in this hearing,” she said. “And it is appalling that we are not hearing from any service members or veterans who have been victimized by nonconsensual pornography.”

“We don’t need to talk about social media policies,” she concluded later. “We need to talk about how to end this hatred and misogyny.”

Following Speier’s statement, a committee staffer said on background that the committee will have a hearing in May on sexual assault in the military, with testimony from victims.

The staffer also said the committee was open to having victims testify at Tuesday’s hearing “so long as we could identify witnesses whose testimony would not jeopardize any investigations or prosecutions.”