Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson both sent messages to sailors that condemned posting photos of nude servicewomen, saying that such behavior undermines the unity needed for the Navy to function.
In his statement, Swift called the behavior "an insider threat," saying, "I take this very seriously … We will investigate any allegations and take action to the fullest extent possible. I see behavior like this as an insider threat to our fleet’s ability to be an effective fighting force," according to Stars and Stripes.
He added, "Those who have until now thought they could behave this way with anonymity or without consequence will find out they are flat wrong … Make no mistake, this is a war fighting issue and I intend to take full advantage of the opportunities provided to us by the [Uniform Code of Military Justice] to pursue these cases to a greater extent than may be possible in civil venues."
Richardson made similar remarks, suggesting that the actions "[make] us weaker, and [cedes] advantage to the enemy."
The scandal began with the discovery of a 30,000-member Facebook group called Marines United, which featured misogynistic and crass comments under nude photos of military women, most of which had been shared and indeed sometimes even taken without their consent.
The women’s names, rank and duty station were sometimes included in the posts. There is evidence that nude photo sharing is also taking place in other branches of the military, and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is still investigating.
Representative Jackie Speier, (D-Calif), who has pushed for federal penalties against the non-consensual posting of nude photos, is now trying to get similar regulations in the military. She told the Military Times, "It’s a violation of privacy; it’s despicable behavior… I think this shows a rotten culture in the military, and I’m not going to allow it to continue."
According to the Navy Times, women from more than a dozen commands were targeted, including Naval Station Norfolk, Naval Air Stations Oceana, North Island, Naval Base San Diego, Pensacola, Florida, US Naval Academy, the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the USNS Mercy, the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Harry S. Truman.
Richardson asserted that sailors should take this issue very seriously and that such behavior would not be tolerated, saying, "Team, we have a problem and we need to solve it.
Really solve it — not put a Band-Aid on it, not whitewash over it, not look the other way. This is a challenge to all Navy leaders — particularly junior leaders. Own this problem. Solve it."
On Tuesday, Marine Corps Commander Robert Neller released a white letter saying the service was going to update its 2010 guidelines on social media conduct, encouraging leaders to support victims and remarking that "This inappropriate, disrespectful and in some cases criminal behavior has a corrosive and negative effect on our Marines and on the Marine Corps."