Washington D.C. – On March 5th an investigative journalist and former Marine, Thomas James Brennen posted a startling and deplorable expose for Reveal News on an organized secret Marine Corps Facebook page that’s sole purpose is to post nude pictures of fellow Marine females. The secret group known as “Marines United” hosted possibly terabytes of pictures and videos over several Google Drive accounts in which both active duty and veteran Marines were encouraged to comment and also submit their own pictures of fellow female Marines. Some of the targeted females even had dossiers made up of them with personal information and social media accounts to further assist the Marines in stalking their prey.
If that wasn’t enough, some Marines have taken to social media and began threatening, Mr. Brennen. The veterans at Marines United were not stopping there and soon began posting Mr. Brennen’s contact information for not only himself but for his entire family to include his young daughter. The below examples, which are on the more cleaner side, are just a small example that the author and his family are receiving from both active duty and veteran Marines.
The 18th Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sergeant Major Ronald L. Green made a statement earlier this morning in regards to Reveal News article saying: “There is no place for this type of demeaning or degrading behavior in our Corps. Let me be perfectly clear; no person should be treated this way. It is inconsistent with our Core Values, and it impedes our ability to perform our mission.” Yet some didn’t seem to have gotten that memo as not 24 hours after the article was dropped a U.S. Navy Corpsman posted this:
Below is the story in its entirety:
The U.S. Department of Defense is investigating hundreds of Marines who used social media to solicit and share hundreds — possibly thousands — of naked photographs of women service members and veterans.
Since Jan. 30, more than two dozen women – many on active duty, including officers and enlisted service members – have been identified by their rank, full name and military duty station in photographs posted and linked to from a private Facebook page.
In one instance, a woman corporal in uniform was followed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina by a fellow Marine, who surreptitiously photographed her as she picked up her gear. Those photographs were posted online in the Facebook group “Marines United,” which has nearly 30,000 followers, drawing dozens of obscene comments.
One member of the Facebook group suggested the service member sneaking the photos should “take her out back and pound her out.” Others suggested more than vaginal sex:
“And butthole. And throat. And ears. Both of them. Video it though… for science.”
Senior officials with Headquarters Marine Corps have verified that incident as well as the distribution of photographs of other active duty and veteran women through the page and links out to a Google Drive.
The photo sharing began less than a month after the first Marine infantry unit was assigned women on Jan. 5. It underscores ongoing problems of sexual harassment within the military ranks and could hurt recruitment of women. Officials within the Defense Department confirmed it also puts service members at risk for blackmail and jeopardizes national security.
The activity on the Marines United page was uncovered by The War Horse, a nonprofit news organization run by Marine veteran Thomas Brennan. Within a day of Brennan contacting the Marine Corps headquarters on Jan. 30, social media accounts behind the sharing had been deleted by Facebook and Google at the Corps’ request and a formal investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service has been launched.
However, it is clear that the actions taken so far have not fully stopped the activity: photos of the woman followed at Camp Lejeune were posted on Marines United on Feb. 16, more than two weeks after the linking accounts had been shut down. The Marine who shot those photos has been discharged from active duty, Marine Corps officials confirmed.
“We need to be brutally honest with ourselves and each other: This behavior hurts fellow Marines, family members, and civilians. It is a direct attack on our ethos and legacy,” Sgt. Maj. Ronald L. Green, the most senior enlisted Marine on active duty, wrote in an email response. “It is inconsistent with our core values, and it impedes our ability to perform our mission.
The service is deeply concerned about the damage the incident could do to the Marines, according to a document provided to generals yesterday warning them of the upcoming story.
The 10-page “Office of Marine Corps Communications Public Affairs Guidance” lists resources for victims, including a website to report crimes, and provides talking points for other media and members of Congress – who, it suggested, will want answers. It also outlines another possible blow to come: inappropriate responses from Marines.
“The story will likely spark shares and discussions across social media, offering venues for Marines and former Marines who may victim blame, i.e., ‘they shouldn’t have taken the photos in the first place,’ or bemoan that they believe the Corps is becoming soft or politically correct,” it said.
Facebook messages seeking comment sent today to Marines United’s current administrators were not returned. At least three of those listed on the page were aware of the activity: two participated in comment strings about the photos and another “liked” one of them.
More than 2,500 comments about the photos were left by group members, many of whom used their personal Facebook accounts that include their names, ranks and duty stations. Some invited others to collect, identify and share photos of naked or scantily clad servicewomen. Based on their profiles, service members who participated in the photo sharing are stationed across the world — from Japan to North Carolina — and across military branches, from air wing to infantry.
Dozens of now-deleted Google Drive folders linked to from the Facebook page included dossiers of women containing their names, military branches, nude photographs, screenshots of their social media accounts, and images of sexual acts. Dozens of other subfolders included unidentifiable women in various stages of undress. Many images appear to have originated from the consensual, but private, exchange of racy images, some clearly taken by the women themselves.
After the accounts were deleted, the Marine Corps contacted the employer of the Marine veteran who initially posted the Google Drive link on Marines United. He was fired from his position as a government subcontractor in the United States, according to Maj. Clark Carpenter, a Marine Corps spokesman.
The War Horse has spoken with five of the women in the photographs. Two of them said they believe former partners may have leaked images. Some said they worry their own accounts might have been hacked or poached. One said a co-worker, a male Marine, alerted her to the fact that the photographs had been posted.
The corporal photographed at Camp Lejeune learned she had been stalked only after The War Horse sought comment from military officials. But she thinks she remembers the man. She spoke on condition of anonymity, nervous about reprisal and becoming more of a target.
“He was standing close enough to smell my perfume,” she said. “This is going to follow me – just like he did.”
The Marines United Facebook page has been around since 2015 and limits membership to male Marines, Navy Corpsman and British Royal Marines. The group has a code of conduct pinned to the top of its page: no discussing Marines United; no threats, harm, or harassment; and no racist and illegal posts.
The initial link on the page to the image collection read:
“Here you go, you thirsty fucks …this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is more coming.”
Within one minute, commenters began posting:
“Holy fuck, there is a god.”
The federal employee – the one who has since been fired – posted a response:
“Anyone can contribute. They just have to (private message) me for their own personal upload link.”
Some Marines promised free beer to contributors. Many tagged friends. One seemed to be tracking the number of photos submitted, writing, “Over 400 more pictures added,” to which he received the response, “Well Done Marine!”
“I know one of these chicks, her name is…” read another of the hundreds of comments. “Check her out boys.”
This distribution of photographs without the women’s consent can threaten their mental health, according to Dr. Frank Ochberg, a psychiatrist, founding board member of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and former associate director of the National Institute for Mental Health.
“It impairs the ideal of a brotherhood and sisterhood, being able to count on somebody,” said Ochberg, who pioneered the Post Traumatic Stress diagnosis in 1980. “Within the military, this is a violation of family. …There are few organizations held to such esteem as the Marine Corps. They stand for honor, courage, and commitment.
“This destroys honor. …This is sadistic. …This is disloyalty.”
In recent years, the Armed Forces have implemented programs and protocols to respond to reports of sexual harassment, assault and equal opportunity violations. But Marine Corps officials confirmed that none include procedures for dealing with sexual exploitation of this nature.
In 2013, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, brought a similar problem to the Marines’ attention, an incident noted in the public affairs document sent to generals on March 3. In that case, comments denigrating women were posted on a Facebook page. Gen. James Amos, then Commandant of the Marine Corps, responded by citing the difficulties in monitoring and tracking social media to investigate offensive content as well as inadequate funding.
Speier would have none of it, saying his response was “frankly unacceptable.”
Subsequently, the Marines posted an article defining Marine social media misconduct and mined Facebook, identifying “12 additional Marines allegedly linked to racist, sexist, and/or otherwise inappropriate social media misconduct,” the public affairs document says. “Information about these incidents were provided to unit commanders for appropriate action.”
The Marine Corps and the Department of Defense aren’t the only federal agencies battling sexual exploitation.
Julia Pierson was the first woman to be appointed as director of the U.S. Secret Service, in 2013. During her tenure, Pierson faced Congressional criticism for a security breach at the White House in 2014, and she worked to improve the agency’s image following a prostitution scandal involving 11 agents.
Pierson told The War Horse that her experiences with civilian law enforcement and the Secret Service have proven that “there’s always a double standard.” These images, she said, “aren’t going away and (next time) they’re going to have an entry fee.
“This is way beyond stupidity and boys being boys,” she said.
The Marine Corps needs to take steps to restore the credibility of their organization, Pierson said.
“They need to realize that this is an entirely new threat,” she said. “This is a coordinated attack on the organization. …This is a hunting club.”
The War Horse submitted multiple requests for additional comment to the Secretary of Defense and commandant of the Marine Corps. Both declined to comment on specifics of the situation, citing the ongoing investigation.
However, in his email, Green added additional perspective, repeatedly denouncing the “degrading and demeaning behavior” of Marines United members and encouraging Marines — and all service members — to be “a voice of change” for the better.
“As Marines, as human beings, you should be angry by the actions of a few,” Green wrote. “Ultimately we must take a look in the mirror and decide whether we are part of the problem or the solution.
“We need to realize that silence is consent — do not be silent.”
Article was used with permission and all credit should go to the author, Thomas James Brennen and RevealNews.org, The Center for Investigative Reporting.
Feature Image: United States Marine Corps