Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating hundreds of Marines for allegedly sharing unauthorized nude photos of women in “Marines United,” a closed Facebook group.
Since January 30, 2017, less than one month after the first Marine infantry unit was assigned women on January 5, members of Marines United have been soliciting and posting photos of naked female colleagues, female veterans and unaffiliated women without their consent to the Facebook group which has nearly 30,000 members.
Intended for men only, Marines United is comprised of active duty and retired Marines, as well as Navy Corpsman and British Royal Marines. A link to a Google drive of the nude photos was also provided to the group’s membership. The Google drive folders included dossiers on the female victims that included their: full name, rank, military duty stations, and personal social media profile snapshots. The link to the collection of images initially read:
“Here you go, you thirsty fucks … this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is more coming.”
Thomas Brennan, a Marine veteran and Purple Heart recipient who founded The War Horse in 2016, exposed the group’s activity to the Marine Corps and NCIS before authoring this report. “We are thankful that Thomas Brennan, a Marine veteran, notified the Marine Corps and NCIS about what he witnessed on the ‘Marines United’ page,” said Capt. Ryan E. Alvis, Marine Corps spokesperson. “It allowed us to take immediate action to have the explicit photos taken down and to prepare to support potential victims.”
Images were obtained a variety of ways, including hacking service members accounts, unauthorized shares from intimate partners, and stalking. Members also solicited images, some even promised free beer for photos. The War Horse spoke with five of the women in the photographs.
“Two said they believe former partners might 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.”
One incident took place at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, where a female corporal in uniform was followed and photographed by a service member while picking up gear. Members of Marines United also promoted sexual violence and left dozens of obscene comments on the photos suggesting sexual acts for service members sneaking the photos to commit against the victims:
“And butthole. And throat. And ears. Both of them. Video it though … for science.”
Over 2,500 comments were left on the naked photos by members of the group, many of which used their personal Facebook accounts.
Marine Corps released a statement on Sunday about what the Corps calls “social media misconduct.”
“A Marine could potentially be charged for violating Article 133 (for officers) or Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). If a Marine shared a photo of another person that was taken without that person’s consent and under circumstances in which that other person had a reasonable expectation of privacy, the Marine may have violated Article 120c, UCMJ, for broadcasting or distribution of an indecent visual recording. A Marine who directly participates in, encourages, or condones such actions could also be subjected to criminal proceedings or adverse administrative actions.”
Marine Corps officials confirmed that the Google Drive accounts have since been deleted and the Marine veteran who initially posted the Google Drive link to Marines United has since been fired from his position as a government subcontractor after his employer was contacted by the Marine Corps.
The service member who took photos of the female corporal at Camp Lejeune has also been discharged from active duty. According to officials at the Defense Department the nude photo ring puts service members at risk for blackmail and jeopardizes national security.
Since exposing Marines United, Brennan has received a number of threats. Brennan told the Marine Corps Times:
“There’s a bounty on pictures of my daughter…It has been suggested that my wife should be raped as a result of this, and people are openly suggesting that I should be killed…Can you imagine being one of the victims?”
— Andrew deGrandpre (@adegrandpre) March 5, 2017
— James LaPorta (@JimLaPorta) March 5, 2017
The photo sharing ring that targeted an unknown number of female service members that could be as few as a hundred women into the thousands has caused an intense reaction in the military community, including this from a female captain on the Marine Corps Facebook page:
“What bothers me more than the actions of these few and the inaction of their small-unit leaders is the number of commenters here and other places justifying the FB page. These are weak, leaderless men, probably low performers afraid of being outpaced, denigrating women in order to feel superior. And doing it online with Internet bravado. Pathetic. Some of them may be teachable, will learn from this, and grow up to be worthy of the title, but they’re not there yet.”
At the request of the Marine Corps, Marines United was recently shutdown by Facebook.