Wright-Patterson officials declined comment Friday, referring questions to the Air Force.
Both the Senate and the House Armed Services Committees set hearings next week on a social media scandal reportedly involving Marines sharing nude photos of fellow and former female Marines without their consent in a 30,000-member Facebook sharing group called Marines United. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has launched an investigation and urged victims to come forward.
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton and co-chairman of the House Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, said in an interview Friday that a congressional investigation will involve all branches of the military, including the Air Force.
“Part of our review will be to determine what legal remedies and standing that our service branches have,” he said. “We want to ensure actions like this where they are involuntary are criminal and that they have the ability to pursue service members who violate the privacy rights of others in this manner.”
Secretary of Defense James Mattis, the Pentagon’s top leader, will meet with military and civilian leaders about nude photos of female service members that were secretly posted online without their permission.
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Media reports have indicated at least one and possibly more web sites may have such photos online.
The Air Force is “looking further into the matter and taking it seriously, but cannot immediately verify any details about the site, the source of its content, or whether there have been any involvement by other Airmen,” spokesman Zachary L. Anderson said in a statement.
“We expect our Airmen to adhere to our core values at all times and to treat their fellow service members with the highest degree of dignity and respect. … Airmen or civilian employees who engage in activities of misconduct that demean or disrespect fellow service members will be appropriately disciplined.”
NCIS says it has received numerous tips in its investigation. The other services are looking into the matter, but say they aren’t aware of other victims.
Active-duty Marine Marisa Woytek and former Marine Erika Butner appeared at a news conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday to applaud the investigation.
Butner, 23, who served for four years before leaving the Marines in 2016, said she contacted investigators in January and told them there was an online storage drive that contained “indecent photos of women from all military services, organized by name, rank and even where they were stationed.”
The women’s lawyer, Gloria Allred, said there may be hundreds of such postings and that they prompted pornographic and violent replies, including some recommending that female Marines be raped or shot.
Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general, issued a statement Friday condemning the photo sharing practice.
“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,” Mattis said. “The chain of command is taking all appropriate action to investigate potential misconduct and to maintain good order and discipline throughout our armed forces.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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