SAN DIEGO -- An undetermined number of U.S. Marines at the Camp Pendleton base are being investigated for posing in homosexual pornographic movies and for distributing the material through the mail, officials at the base have confirmed.
The investigation surfaced in the Oceanside, Calif., Police Department, whose child-abuse unit heard through an informant that between two dozen and 200 Marines were being photographed and videotaped having sex with teen-age boys at a residence in North San Diego County.
During the investigation, which began in mid-July, Oceanside police reported finding dozens of magazines, photographs and videotapes depicting male Marines -- some partially uniformed -- having sex with other men.
No charges have been filed, and police officials said yesterday that they have been unable to confirm the involvement of minors or to determine whether the materials were being shipped through the U.S. Postal Service in a way that violated postal laws.
However, Camp Pendleton officials said the matter has been referred to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS, which is responsible for investigating felony offenses by members of the Navy and Marine Corps.
Although few civilian laws restrict homosexual or heterosexual pornography, the Uniform Code of Military Justice forbids military personnel from engaging in sodomy, prostitution, indecent acts with a child and distributing obscene material in the mail.
Chief Warrant Officer Mike Hedlund, the base spokesman, said yesterday that the NCIS is "investigating allegations that Marines were involved in the production, manufacture and sale of pornographic material."
Warrant Officer Hedlund declined to say how many Marines are being investigated.
The investigation comes at a difficult time for Camp Pendleton, a Marine base north of San Diego, which has been rocked in recent months by numerous suicides and allegations ranging from sexual harassment to drug and alcohol abuse.
Vincent Giaime, special agent in charge of the NCIS office at Camp Pendleton, told the North County Blade-Citizen newspaper that the pornography investigation was "not a witch hunt to go out and identify Marines who are homosexuals."
"Homosexuality," he added, "is a lifestyle, not a criminal offense."
But until recently, the U.S. military enforced a ban on homosexuality by asking potential enlistees their sexual orientation on recruiters' questionnaires. The Clinton administration's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which takes effect Oct. 1, eliminates the question.