Gay porn scandal hits US marines

THE United States Marines Corps is having a terrible summer. First, there was the row over gays in the military. Then there was the muck-up over the corps' attempt to stop recruiting married soldiers. And now - mother of all nightmares - a scandal suggesting that male-bonding in the elite corps has perhaps got somewhat out of hand.

Military investigators at Camp Pendleton, in California, have confirmed that an inquiry is under way into whether US marines have been indulging in some unauthorised skirmishes, namely taking part in mail-order homosexual pornographic films.

The allegations came to light after the local police received a tip-off that up to 200 soldiers were photographed and videotaped having sex with teenage boys at a Californian home. Detectives claim they unearthed dozens of magazines, photographs and videos depicting marines, some wearing items of uniform, having sex with other men.

The revelations could not come at a worse time, not least because of the still-bubbling dispute over President Clinton's efforts to end the ban on gays in the US military. Although the corps commandant, General Carl Mundy, has now reconciled himself to the President's revised 'don't ask, don't tell' policy, he previously made clear his views on admitting homosexuals by circulating an anti-gay video to fellow commanders - most of whom believe homosexuals would undermine morale.

The general is also still smarting over last week's row over his announcement that he was ending the recruitment of married personnel on the grounds that marriage difficulties can distract soldiers. He was compelled to withdraw the ban within hours and issue an apology, after it was quashed by the US Defence Secretary, Les Aspin.

Last night is was unclear what would happen to the Camp Pendleton marines, if they were found guilty. Although there are few laws in the US against taking part in pornography, the marines fall under the strict Uniform Code of Military Justice. This bans members of the armed services from engaging in sodomy, prostitution, indecent acts with a child or distributing obscene material by post.

The investigation has been passed to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. But Gen Mundy will no doubt be awaiting the outcome with considerable anxiety.

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