Washington, March 15 (IANS) The US Marine Corps' top general has vowed to prosecute those found responsible for posting photos of naked female service members on the social media.
Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Corps commandant, told the women enlisted in the Marines to "trust the leadership to correct this problem" and vowed to hold those involved accountable, Fox News reported.
However, he said that investigators are having trouble identifying individual users, stopping the spread of spinoff websites linking to the images and determining the proper recourse under the law to punish those responsible.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Neller strongly condemned those who posted the photos to private Facebook groups like Marines United and other image-sharing message boards without the consent of the subjects.
He also addressed the men of the Marines, asking, "What is it going to take for you to accept these [female] Marines as Marines?"
Neller added that the Marines will do what it takes "to remove this stain" and added, "It can't go on anymore".
His comments and public push for reform follow the revelation that former and active-duty members of the Marines have been sharing nude photographs of female service members on a private Facebook page called "Marines United" that boasted it had 30,000 members.
The Centre for Investigative Reporting, which first reported the investigation, found that since January 30, more than two dozen women had been identified by their rank, full name and military duty station on Marines United.
But the problem isn't limited to the Marines. Beyond Facebook, a website called AnonIB has peddled pornographic pictures among service members in other branches as well, according to the report.
New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand tore into the Neller, calling his testimony "unsatisfactory" and demanded to know why nothing had been done to hold individuals accountable for the cyberharassment of women even though reports date back to 2013, CNN reported.
"Have you actually investigated and found guilty anybody?" Gillibrand asked in reference to past and current cyber harassment cases. "If we can't crack Facebook, how are we supposed to be able to confront Russian aggression and cyberhacking throughout our military?"
Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said that military leaders in the past have vowed to correct sexual abuse and harassment problems but that nothing has changed.
During the hearing, Neller reiterated the call to identify issues in military culture to determine why this happened and whether new service members understand that such cyber behavior is not acceptable.