Dem introduces bill to tackle 'revenge porn' in military after Marines' nude-photo-sharing scandal

Dem introduces bill to tackle 'revenge porn' in military after Marines' nude-photo-sharing scandal
© Greg Nash

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) is introducing a bill to close a loophole in military law that could allow some perpetrators of the Marines' nude-photo-sharing scandal to go unpunished.

Speier unveiled the bill during a press conference Thursday alongside high-profile attorney Gloria Allred; Erika Butner, a retired Marine who appeared in the photos; and retired Air Force Col. Don Christensen, president of Protect Our Defenders.

“I am furious, I am saddened, and I am frustrated by how we have got to this point,” Speier said. “The utter lack of respect shown to women in the military who put their lives on the line just like their male colleagues to defend our country and then are treated so shallow, is absolutely outrageous.”

Speier’s bill is in response to “Marines United,” a 30,000-member Facebook page on which service members allegedly shared nude photos and personal information of female Marines and veterans. Some photos were allegedly taken and posted without the women’s knowledge or were meant to remain private. Comments on the page reportedly included rape threats.

So far, the Marines have been able to identify 1,200 members of the page, Speier said Thursday. More than 700 are on active duty and about 150 are in the reserve.

Right now, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) makes taking nude photos without consent a punishable crime.

But the nonconsensual sharing of private photos, often called "revenge porn," is not considered a crime in the military.

Speier’s bill would make such activity a punishable crime under the UCMJ.

“Many of these pictures are taken with consent,” Speier said.

Speier has been particularly furious at the scandal because in 2013 she alerted the men in charge of the Pentagon and the Marines about a similar website.

As a member of House Armed Services Committee, she received a closed briefing on the scandal earlier Thursday and said the briefing did not assuage her concerns.

“We’ve heard all of this before, this zero tolerance, and yet the conduct continues,” she said.

But Speier said she’s talked about her bill with Marines Commandant Robert Neller, the general in charge of the judicial component of the Marines and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, who told her they recognize its value, though they want to examine the exact language before making a final judgment.

“I’m optimistic,” she said.

Asked at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing earlier this week about making revenge porn punishable under the UCMJ, Neller said it “would be helpful in the accountability process.”

At Thursday’s press conference, Allred also pushed for committee hearings with testimony from the women affected by the photo sharing. Allred represents an unspecified number of the victims, though she said there are no plans to file civil lawsuits.

“Their voices need to be heard,” Allred said. “Women Marines will no longer accept being sexualized or silenced.”