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 McCaskillDemocratic-linked group runs ads in Kansas GOP Senate primary Trump mocked for low attendance at rally Missouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties 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 FischerCongress botched the CFPB's leadership — here's how to fix it White House, Senate GOP clash over testing funds Prioritizing access to care: Keeping telehealth options for all Americans MORE (Neb.), Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Dan Sullivan (Alaska) and Democratic Sens. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Overnight Defense: Embattled Pentagon policy nominee withdraws, gets appointment to deputy policy job | Marines, sailor killed in California training accident identified | Governors call for extension of funding for Guard's coronavirus response Controversial Trump nominee placed in senior role after nomination hearing canceled MORE (R.I.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William Nelson Trump, facing trouble in Florida, goes all in NASA names DC headquarters after agency's first Black female engineer Mary W. Jackson NASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon MORE (Fla.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani says DC policymakers need to do more to support ventures and 'solo-preneurs'; Federal unemployment benefits expire as coronavirus deal-making deadlocks Overnight Defense: Pompeo pressed on move to pull troops from Germany | Panel abruptly scraps confirmation hearing | Trump meets family of slain soldier Shaheen, Chabot call for action on new round of PPP loans MORE (N.H.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandExpanding our health force can save lives and create jobs simultaneously Sanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic MORE (N.Y.) Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineHillary Clinton roasts NYT's Maureen Dowd over column Ex-USAID employee apologizes, denies sending explosive tweets USAID appointee alleges 'rampant anti-Christian sentiment' at agency MORE (Va.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic OVERNIGHT ENERGY: 20 states sue over Trump rule limiting states from blocking pipeline projects | House Democrats add 'forever chemicals' provisions to defense bill after spiking big amendment | Lawmakers seek extension for tribes to spend stimulus money Lawmakers seek extension for tribes to spend stimulus money following Treasury delays MORE (N.M.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden campaign says no VP pick yet after bike trail quip Biden edges closer to VP pick: Here's who's up and who's down Democratic convention lineup to include Ocasio-Cortez, Clinton, Warren: reports 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.