Nude photo-sharing scandal at Marines expands to other branches

The scandal involving allegations that Marines shared naked photos of female service members online has extended to all service branches, after the discovery of another secret site.

The latest illicit forum is known as Anon-IB, the same site that shared nude photos of Hollywood stars like Jennifer Lawrence. It has a military chat room in which members of other services have been sharing such photos.

The discovery comes after the Defense Department launched an investigation into pictures being shared of female Marines and others – some taken without their knowledge – on the Facebook page “Marines United.”

“These allegations undermine everything we stand for as Marines,” Marine Corps commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller said at a briefing Friday. He said the Marines have set up a task force to investigate the matter, following on the Naval Criminal Investigative Service opening a criminal investigation.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in a statement Friday, also said the “chain of command is taking all appropriate action to investigate potential misconduct and to maintain good order and discipline.”

Mattis decried the “lack of respect” and said the Pentagon “will not excuse or tolerate such behavior.” He said: "The purported actions of civilian and military personnel on social media websites, including some associated with the Marines United group and possibly others, represent egregious violations of the fundamental values we uphold at the Department of Defense.”

NotInMyMarines, a group of female Marines that formed in response to the controversy, is now seeking legislation to make sharing nude photos and sex videos without someone's permission a federal crime.

In response to the latest allegations, the group said: “The publication of this new information has only solidified our belief that the nature of the military must fundamentally change in order to provide equal opportunities, a safe work environment free from harassment and assault, and end the mentality in which women are considered substandard.”

The Marines United Facebook page was widely used, with about 30,000 active-duty and former Marines frequenting the group chat space.

Reporters were tipped that the site was being used for predatory behavior to share nude photos -- some of them purely pornographic images of female Marines. Marines stalked the women on social media and egged each other on to find and share photos, some taken in locker rooms and showers when the women were not aware, others shared by former boyfriends.

The story was broken by Thomas Brennan of The War Horse.

Neller issued a stern rebuke in a video to his troops.

“When I hear allegations of Marines denigrating their fellow Marines, I don't think such behavior is that of true warriors or warfighters,” he said. “Right now we all need to be focused on getting better. Not hiding on social media, participating in or being aware of actions that are disrespectful and harmful to other Marines.”

Erika Butner, a former Marine radio operator whose nude photos were shared on the site in question, says she was disgusted when she found out and encourages others to speak out.

“We will not be silenced. As a rape survivor I can tell you that this exact behavior leads to the normalization of sexual harassment and even sexual violence,” she said.

Marine Corps commanders have been called before Congress to explain this breach of discipline, which is seen as a serious recruiting issue for the Marines.