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 McCaskillIranian attacks expose vulnerability of campaign email accounts Ex-CIA chief worries campaigns falling short on cybersecurity Ocasio-Cortez blasts NYT editor for suggesting Tlaib, Omar aren't representative of Midwest 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 FischerFormer Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey endorses Biden Lawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show Statue of Chief Standing Bear to be unveiled in Capitol MORE (Neb.), Joni Ernst (Iowa) and Dan Sullivan (Alaska) and Democratic Sens. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedThis week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington Fury over Trump Syria decision grows Democrats warn Trump's Turkey sanctions don't go far enough MORE (R.I.), Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonBottom Line Bottom Line Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity MORE (Fla.), Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenUS envoy insists Syria pullout doesn't affect Iran strategy GOP senators say Erdoğan White House invitation should be revoked Overnight Energy: Advisory panel pushes park service to privatize campgrounds | Dems urge Perry to keep lightbulb efficiency rules | Marshall Islands declares national climate crisis MORE (N.H.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandOvernight Defense — Presented by Boeing — House passes resolution rebuking Trump over Syria | Sparks fly at White House meeting on Syria | Dems say Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' | Trump, Graham trade jabs Senate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick Lobbying world MORE (N.Y.) Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael Kaine2020 general election debates announced Senators call for Trump administration to testify on Syria Schumer: Transcript 'absolutely validates' Trump impeachment inquiry MORE (Va.), Martin HeinrichMartin Trevor HeinrichSenate confirms Trump's Air Force secretary pick Commerce Department to develop stats on income inequality Senators take fundraising efforts to Nats playoff games MORE (N.M.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenButtigieg tweeted support for 'Medicare for All' in 2018 Overnight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — House Dems change drug pricing bill to address progressive concerns | Top Republican rejects Dem proposal on surprise medical bills | Vaping group launches Fox News ad blitz Hillicon Valley: FCC approves T-Mobile-Sprint merger | Dems wrangle over breaking up Big Tech at debate | Critics pounce as Facebook's Libra stumbles | Zuckerberg to be interviewed by Fox News | Twitter details rules for political figures' tweets 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.