Marines and veterans sharing nude images of female service members on web pages and in Facebook groups like Marines United have recently come to the forefront of concerns levied by policy makers and military leaders throughout the country, and with good reason.  As a number of us here at SOFREP have made clear, these practices are not only degrading to American service members, but they are a gross violation of OPSEC, or Operational Security, as some of these images could almost certainly be used as leverage to manipulate or blackmail some of America’s military personnel.

Secretary of Defense and famed Marine General, James Mattis, weighed in on this developing scandal in an official statement released through the Department of Defense on Friday.  You can read the statement below:

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. The chain of command is taking all appropriate action to investigate potential misconduct and to maintain good order and discipline throughout our armed forces.

Lack of respect for the dignity and humanity of fellow members of the Department of Defense is unacceptable and harmful to the unit cohesion necessary to battlefield victory.  We will not excuse or tolerate such behavior if we are to uphold our values and maintain our ability to defeat the enemy on the battlefield.”

Mattis’ brief statement has indicated clearly that the Defense Department recognizes the danger in allowing such behavior to persist, but does not indicate how exactly military command elements hope to root out the problem, particularly if those continuing to participate in this egregious behavior are veterans that have already been discharged from the armed forces.  While many of the acts attributed to those in groups like Marines United are subject to penalty under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, those who are no longer on contract with the military cannot be penalized under military law.  As a result, a concerted effort must be made to incorporate both civilian and military law enforcement agencies in the pursuit of bringing these people to justice.

As Jack Murphy has already reported, despite Marines United being shut down, elements of that group have already sprung up elsewhere on Facebook and around the internet.  Other sites and groups that have not received the same level of publicity continue to operate freely, though it seems likely that more groups will be identified and shut down by social media administrators in the near future.  The problem, it would seem, is far larger than the Marines or the military in general, but rather is a cultural one that may entail more than a few non-judicial punishments to resolve.

Navy Captain Jeff Davis, director of Defense press operations, told reporters on Friday that Mattis intends to meet with military and civilian leaders in the near future in order to address ongoing concerns regarding the Marines United scandal, and to work to improve unit cohesion, mutual respect, and to emphasize the core values of the United States Military.

“Our leaders at all levels of the chain of command will be held accountable to ensure that each member of our military can excel in an environment that maximizes their talents and [will have] no patience for those who would degrade or diminish another service member,” Davis said.