The U.S. Marine Corps has been rocked by scandal in recent weeks, after investigative journalist and Marine veteran Thomas James Brennan uncovered a secret Facebook group full of Marines and veterans that were sharing thousands of pictures and videos of female service members in various states of undress, many without their permission, and some without even being aware that their photo had been taken. The group, called Marines United, has since been deleted, but as Derek Gannon and Jack Murphy have discovered, the malevolent sects of the group have since resurfaced in new groups and on other disreputable sites around the web.
In the past week, James Mattis, a former Marine general and current Secretary of Defense, has weighed in on the scandal, as well as the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert Neller and even members of Congress. General Neller took full responsibility for the situation, and promised to take direct action to rid the Corps of this “perversion to our culture,” and an ALLMAR released this week is likely the first step in the commandant’s plan.
Within the Marine Corps, MARADMINs, or Marine Administrative Messages, are a formal means of rapidly distributing new orders or guidance. Often, they are used to relay important information about internal programs, awards, and the like, and they tend to be specific to certain groups, units, or even individuals. ALLMARS are very similar in delivery and distribution, but pertain to every member of Marine Corps units, to include those affiliated with the branch professionally, such as “green side” Navy Corpsmen.
An ALLMAR released on Wednesday, entitled, “SOCIAL MEDIA GUIDANCE – UNOFFICIAL INTERNET POSTS” does not introduce specific new rules, nor does it establish any new guidelines pertaining to the punishment of those involved in inappropriate online activities such as those demonstrated by members of Marines United; instead it uses specific language to remove any uncertainty regarding what constitutes inappropriate behavior and to firmly establish the scope of the Marine Corp’s purview regarding Marine’s online activities during their liberty hours. In effect, the ALLMAR is intended to remind Marines of what is expected of them, and to ensure there’s no question as to reprisal if implicated in such nefarious activities.
While serving on active duty in the Marine Corps, one is considered “always on duty,” though, at times, you can be secured for “liberty,” which is nothing more than Marine vernacular for “off time.” This distinction is imperative, however, because liberty, like wearing civilian attire or having access to personal computers, is clearly defined as a privilege, not a right, for Marines under contract – meaning commands can choose to deprive their units of days off and personal property in order to ensure the safety and good order of their Marines – something we may see beginning to occur as the investigation into Marines United and other similar groups continues.
The ALLMAR does not discourage Marines from utilizing social media, in fact, quite the opposite, as the document clearly states that, “Our Marines are often in the best position to share the Marine Corps story.” It does however, go into detail regarding what is expected of a Marine that chooses to participate in such web sites.
Marines must never engage in commentary or publish content on social networking platforms or through other forms of communication that harm good order and discipline or that bring discredit upon themselves, their unit, or the Marine Corps.”
The ALLMAR goes on to more clearly specify types of communication that could be in violation of the order.
Such commentary and content includes that which is defamatory, threatening, harassing, or which discriminates based on a person’s race, color, sex, gender, age, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or other protected criteria.”
It then goes on to specify which articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice a Marine could be charged with violating if they fail to behave in an appropriate manner on their personal social media accounts.
This type of conduct may be punishable under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). Existing orders and the UCMJ have long prohibited sexual or other harassment, fraternization, retaliation, reprisal, and hazing. Marines are reminded that their conduct, even off-duty or online, may violate Navy and Marine Corps orders and regulations. Finally, Article 134 prohibits a variety of offensive conduct, including indecent language, indecent conduct, and communicating a threat, and may also prohibit other neglects or disorders that are prejudicial to good order and discipline or Service-discrediting.”
The ALLMAR also lists a series of more specific articles Marines can be charged with violating, as well as to remind them that punishment under the UCMJ in a non-judicial capacity does not prevent civil charges from being filed and pursued by civilian courts.
In addition to Articles 92 and 134, other articles of the UCMJ punish conduct which constitutes disrespect or insubordination towards our civilian or military leadership (Articles 88 – 91), cruelty and maltreatment of Marines of lesser rank (Article 93), sexual misconduct related to indecent viewing, visual recording, or broadcasting (Article 120c), or conduct unbecoming an officer (Article 133). Finally, inappropriate online conduct may also violate other state or Federal laws, and may expose Service members to civil liability.”
The ALLMAR concludes by providing a list of other places Marines can go to seek guidance as to what behavior is considered acceptable online, as well as to offer a means to report violations of said orders.
It is encouraged that anyone who finds themselves victimized by the reprehensible behavior demonstrated on sites like Marines United first utilize their chain of command in order to report it, but they may also contact “NCIS, Local Law Enforcement, Inspector General, Equal Opportunity Advisors, Victim Witness Assistant Coordinators, Victim Advocates, Behavioral Health Counselors, and Military OneSource.”
The ALLMAR also provides a 24-hour phone line that can be used to anonymously receive guidance on who to report misconduct to and how to do so in a safe manner.
For Marines in such a situation, the phone number provided is 1-877-476-7734
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