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Who's looking at you in the shower?

Technology helps the military fight the war on terror. It also helps malevolent male military personnel spy on female personnel. In a shocking announcement this week, the Navy reported that hidden cameras were found in a unisex shower on the USS Wyoming. This isn't the first time secret cameras were found, and the continued use of these devices to spy on female personnel is extremely damaging to military morale.

The USS Wyoming is a submarine home ported in Kings Bay, GA. According the Navy Times, a second class petty officer was charged with filming female officers while they were showering and then distributing these videos. Imagine that you are one of the female officers. Would you want to dive into deep blue ocean and spend months underwater wondering who on the sub has seen the videos? How would this knowledge color your trust in those around you?

Female cadets at West Point can share some lessons learned on how to cope with the devastating discovery. In 2013, Sergeant First Class Michael McClendon was arrested for video-taping them in a school shower and bathroom. The New York Times reports that McClendon was charged with “indecent acts, dereliction in the performance of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, and actions prejudicial to good order and discipline.” McClendon was in the cadets' chain of command and he broke it.

The list goes on. In 2010, the Coast Guard discovered that Electrician's Mate First Class Benjamin J. Russell hid a camera inside what looked like a cigarette lighter to spy on the female bathrooms located in the Coast Guard Cutter Mellon. He also had the audacity, according to Coast Guard records, to put cameras in male bathrooms. Russell knew that the women sometimes used these showers. He covered all his bases. Where exactly was a girl to go if she wanted some privacy?

Luckily for the women aboard the USS Monterey, the camera discovered on board the cruiser was not operational. That was definitely good news for them.  The bad news, as reported by the AP and NBC News in 2004 was that no one was charged for this incident. A spokesman for the Atlantic Fleet Naval Surface Force told the news outlets that the Navy didn't have sufficient evidence to establish criminal liability. How reassuring for the female personnel who deployed on the ship. The camera didn't work but please trust the men who work next to you on a daily basis.

Two years earlier, cameras were discovered on the USS Briscoe. The Daily Press story includes juicy tidbits on how the camera was connected by cables to a television located in another part of the ship. What were the perpetrators doing? Eating popcorn and drinking beer while watching their fellow female personnel undress? Luckily, they didn't have to get up to change the channel. The one they had provided enough eye candy to satisfy the average viewer.

My favorite story concerns the USS Enterprise. There was no need to hide cameras in the bathroom on this ship. The Executive Officer Captain Owen Honors, according to Bloomberg, used government resources between 2005 and 2007 to produce 25 videos that he wrote and starred in. The videos included “anti-gay slurs, simulated masturbation and two women, shown from the shoulders up, showering together.” His cast? Sailors aboard the USS Enterprise. They all got to watch these movies on “XO Movie Night.” Sadly, the XO wasn't fired until 2011.

The use of technology to spy on female military personnel must stop. Women aren't going to trust their male counterparts if they believe that these individuals will video-tape them while undressed. They will also refuse to join and refuse to re-enlist in the military if this sordid behavior continues. Surely, it's not unreasonable to ask that cameras stay out of the showers.

Denise Rucker Krepp is a transportation and energy consultant, former Chief Counsel, U.S. Maritime Administration, and Coast Guard officer.

 

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