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Federal law enforcement officials are investigating a former Marine and several active-duty Marines after they allegedly posted threatening and lewd messages on social media sites that targeted President Obama and a California congresswoman, according to a government official informed of the investigations.
The former Marine was interviewed last week by the Secret Service for the threatening post against President Obama, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigations are ongoing.
The Secret Service does not discuss its protective actions, said spokesman George Ogilvie.
Investigators from the U.S. Capitol Police have been investigating several threatening posts against Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., the Capitol Hill source said. Capitol Police do not comment on their investigations.
Several Marines also have been referred to their commanders for non-judicial punishment in recent months, said Marine Capt. Eric Flanagan, a spokesman. That punishment can range from raking leaves to loss of rank to dismissal from the service, he said.
The Marines have received complaints about a number of social media sites, Flanagan said, including the Facebook page F’N Wook, which prompted Speier, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, to write letters of complaint to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos. Facebook took down the page, but similar postings have been made elsewhere.
Some of the posts suggest female Marines achieved their rank by performing sex, another shows a female Marine on her knees with a snake being put in her mouth. A recent post about Speier refers to her in vulgar terms and accuses her of trampling First Amendment rights.
Speier was targeted after her letter called attention to the posts, and she spoke out about what top military officers have described as a crisis with sexual harassment and abuse in its ranks. The Pentagon estimates that there were 26,000 instances of sexual abuse in the military last year, an increase of 35 percent compared with 2010.
A series of military sex scandals in recent weeks has underscored the problem: an Air Force officer in charge of sex abuse prevention programs awaits trial for his alleged drunken groping of a woman in Arlington, Va., not far from his Pentagon office; an Army sergeant first class is being investigated for running an alleged prostitution operation at Fort Hood; and an Army non-commissioned officer has been charged with allegedly videotaping nude cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
On Friday, Obama told graduating midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy commencement in Annapolis, Md., that sexual assault and harassment had no part in today’s military. Hagel expressed similar sentiments Saturday during the graduation ceremony at West Point.