Republican offers bill in response to Marines nude-photo-sharing scandal

Republican offers bill in response to Marines nude-photo-sharing scandal
© Greg Nash

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) this week will introduce legislation meant to fight nonconsensual sharing of “private, intimate media” in the military, following outcry over the Marine Corps’ nude-photo-sharing scandal.

The Protecting the Rights of IndiViduals Against Technological Exploitation, or PRIVATE Act, “defines when photo sharing is a crime, which is not clear in current law, and addresses questions related to freedom of speech and intent,” McSally said in a letter seeking cosponsors for the bill.

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

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The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) launched an investigation, which has reportedly spread to other branches of the military.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice already has two broad articles to address unprofessional conduct. McSally’s bill aims to strengthen the language by “clarifying the intent that makes these actions a crime, and allow commanders greater flexibility to clearly and efficiently discipline members of the military who participate in this shameful act.”

McSally, a retired Air Force colonel, said the bill will give the Pentagon the tools to prosecute military members “who betray their fellow service members,” protects whistleblowers who tip off media or law enforcement to such wrongdoing and “ensures a modern standard of expected behavior — one of respect and decorum — for our Armed Forces, regardless of where they are stationed or deployed.”

This is the second bill introduced in the last month to attempt to curtail and fight back against sharing of sensitive, personal media. 

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) in March introduced legislation to close a loophole in military law that could allow some perpetrators of the Marines' nude-photo-sharing scandal to go unpunished.

Speier, who has led the fight in Congress to legislate against the sharing of nonconsensual pornography known as revenge porn, last year introduced legislation targeting those who share such media.

Also last month, a bipartisan group of 12 lawmakers led by Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) sent a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis asking him to detail the "proactive steps the Department of Defense will take to discover and eliminate all forms of service members’ online harassment." 

House lawmakers sent their own letter to Mattis, asking for an update on the NCIS investigation and any action taken by the Marines, Navy and Pentagon to help the affected women.