Senators demand Pentagon action after nude photo scandal

Senators demand Pentagon action after nude photo scandal
© Keren Carrion

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee are pushing the Pentagon for details on its plan to combat sexual harassment in the military following the nude photo-sharing scandal rocking the Marine Corps.

A bipartisan group of 12 lawmakers led by Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillEx-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Ocasio-Cortez blasts NYT editor for suggesting Tlaib, Omar aren't representative of Midwest Trump nominees meet fiercest opposition from Warren, Sanders, Gillibrand MORE (D-Mo.) sent a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis this week asking him to detail the "proactive steps the Department of Defense will take to discover and eliminate all forms of service members’ online harassment."

The letter, dated Wednesday, notes that “this is not the first time the Department has dealt with this kind of inappropriate behavior of service members. We are disappointed that the Department once again must react to reports of online harassment."

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Lawmakers have pressed for action after it was revealed earlier this month that service members allegedly shared nude photos of female Marines without their consent in the Facebook group “Marines United.”

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) launched an investigation, which has reportedly spread to other branches of the military. The scandal was first reported by nonprofit military news outlet The War Horse.

"The lack of success of the Department of Defense’s efforts to curb service member involvement in these kinds of groups before it became a serious problem demonstrates a fundamental flaw in the way that military leaders view and address the problem of online harassment," the letter states.

The lawmakers noted that eliminating online harassment is “a daunting challenge,” but added that the Pentagon should have addressed the issue already after similar scandals in 2013.

Adding their signatures to the letter were Republican Sens. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerStatue of Chief Standing Bear to be unveiled in Capitol The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal Landmark US-Russia arms control treaty poised for final blow MORE (Neb.), Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Dan Sullivan (Alaska) and Democratic Sens. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedNegotiators kick off defense bill talks amid border wall, Iran debates Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet Senate Democrats introduce legislation to limit foreign interference in elections MORE (R.I.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonMedia and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity Al Franken says he 'absolutely' regrets resigning Democrats target Florida Hispanics in 2020 MORE (Fla.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenCruz endorses GOP candidate for Senate in New Hampshire Meghan McCain: Lewandowski Senate run would be 'an absolutely ridiculous crap show' Super PAC targets Lewandowski with ad amid Senate speculation MORE (N.H.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandBooker aide sounds alarm about campaign's funding O'Rourke gun confiscation talk alarms Democrats Gillibrand relaunches PAC to elect women MORE (N.Y.) Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Missouri Republican wins annual craft brewing competition for lawmakers Sen. Kaine: No reason for US to 'engage in military action to protect Saudi oil' MORE (Va.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichO'Rourke gun confiscation talk alarms Democrats Senate panel advances Trump's nominees to lead Air Force, Army Overnight Defense: Dems grill Trump Army, Air Force picks | House chair subpoenas Trump Afghanistan negotiator | Trump officials release military aid to Ukraine MORE (N.M.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren overtakes Biden in Iowa for first time: poll Warren avoids attacks while building momentum Sanders unveils plan to eliminate Americans' medical debt MORE (Mass.).

McCaskill told The Hill last week she hopes the letter will help deter those in the military from future online harassment.

“[We want] those in the military to know that this stuff’s being watched. It’ll change behaviors,” she said.

The letter from senators follows another one sent to Mattis last week by a group of 11 House lawmakers, who asked the Defense secretary for an update on the NCIS investigation and any action taken by the Marines, Navy and Defense Department, including support services or counseling offered to affected women.

Mattis has condemned the scandal since it broke, calling it “unacceptable and harmful” behavior in a statement earlier this month and saying that "all appropriate action" is being taken to investigate the issue.