The Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) has opened an investigation into a secret Facebook group.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) has opened an investigation into a secret Facebook group where an unknown number of Marines were allegedly posting nude photos of current and former female Marines and other service members, often taken without their knowledge, CNN reports.
The story first appeared on the website Reveal Saturday night, and was reported by Thomas Brennan, a former Marine and the founder of the nonprofit news organization The War Horse.
The page, called “Marines United," linked out to a Google Drive folder where the photos were stored, according to CNN.
That folder has now been taken down by the military and Facebook has deleted the accounts of those responsible for posting photos, according to Reveal.
It remains unknown to the Defense Department how many current and former Marines were involved.
The group's 30,000 members were reportedly encouraged to post nude photos of women without their knowledge.
Brennan reported the account and its activity to the Marine Corps on January 30, after which the accounts that shared the photos were deleted and the formal investigation was first launched by the NCIS. According to his report in Reveal, since the investigation launched, more than two dozen women were identified by rank, full name, and military duty station in photos posted to the group.
Brennan told the Washington Post that he and members of his family have recieved death threats since breaking the story.
Sexual harassment and assault is an ongoing problem in the military—an estimated 22 percent of active duty women were harassed in 2014, and an estimated 5 percent of active duty women were sexually assaulted in 2014, according to a report by the RAND National Defense Research Institute.
“We are exploring what actions should be taken to best address this form of harassment in the future,” said Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Ryan Alvis in a statement.
The Marine Corps commandant, Gen. Robert B. Neller, refused to directly comment on the investigation, but stated, “For anyone to target one of our Marines, online or otherwise, in an inappropriate manner, is distatesful and shows an absence of respect.”
Sgt. Maj. Ronald Green, the Corp’s top enlisted officer, stated in an emailed response to Reveal’s request for comment, that it is the responsibility of the Corp to be “a voice of change” during this time.
“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.”