U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y
The U.S. Marine Corps is investigating allegations against an unspecified number of military personnel and veterans who allegedly distributed nude photos of female colleagues, March 5, 2017. In this photo, Nepalese service members load relief supplies into a U.S. Marine Corps UH-1Y Venom from Joint Task Force 505 at Sindhuli, Nepal, May 11, 2015. Reuters/Hernan Vidana

The U.S. Department of Defense is investigating allegations against an unknown number of Marine Corps, including military personnel and veterans, suspected of allegedly distributing nude photos of female service members and other women through a social media network, Marine officials said Sunday.

The Marines' top general, Commandant Robert Neller, did not directly comment on the investigation. "The success of every Marine, every team, every unit and command throughout our Corps is based on mutual trust and respect. I expect every Marine to demonstrate the highest integrity and loyalty to fellow Marines at all times, on duty, off-duty and online," Neller told the Marine Corps Times.

This incident was first reported Saturday by the War Horse via a website called Reveal, which is part of the Center for Investigative Reporting. The War Horse is a nonprofit news outlet and community that investigates issues related to the departments of defense and veterans affairs. The author of the article, Thomas James Brennan, is a Marine Corps veteran. Following the publication of the article, he and his family have been reportedly receiving numerous death threats.

The alleged photos were posted on a Facebook group named Marines United. The community includes nearly 30,000 members who are mostly current U.S. Marines, Marine Corps veterans and British Royal Marines. The photos were listed under a link to a shared hard drive that was posted on the Facebook group in January. The drive included numerous nude and derogatory images of the female employees along with their names and units. Some of the photos were also followed by harassing comments, according to the War Horse report.

A spokesman for the Marine Corps, Capt. Ryan Alvis, confirmed to the Marine Corps Times that an investigation was being conducted. However, authorities are not yet sure about the exact number of personnel involved.

Marine Lance Cpl. Marisa Woytek told the Washington Post that her photos had been taken from her Instagram account over the past six months and posted on the Marines United page multiple times without her permission. "Even if I could, I’m never reenlisting," Woytek said. "Being sexually harassed online ruined the Marine Corps for me, and the experience." She added that many of her female colleagues have experienced similar incidents in the past and that they "have a voice now" after the War Horse report.

The Marine Corps Times published a 10-page document by senior Marine Corps officials, which outlines the issue and also the Marine Corps Naval Criminal Investigative Service's efforts to investigate the allegations. The document confirmed the removal of the drive that contained the derogatory pictures from social media.

It said: "Some women depicted on the Google Drive are identified as Marines, some by name, rank and duty station. The Google Drive, which is a secure cloud storage and file backup for photos and videos, was maintained by a former Marine. The Google Drive has since been removed from the World Wide Web. The Marines United group has a following of 30K. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) has recently opened an investigation into the posting of explicit photographs."