The Pentagon has no plans to launch a major investigation of the thousands of military emails which showed up in the hacked database of adultery website Ashley Madison.
At a briefing last week, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the department was looking into the breach of Ashley Madison by a hacker group called Impact Team, a statement which likely caused considerable consternation among servicemembers whose emails ended up in the database, The Daily Beast reports.
But these servicemembers have caught a big break. According to service officials, the presence of an email address isn’t sufficient to warrant an investigation into possible adultery, although the military does consider it an offense under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The maximum punishment for adultery could entail dishonorable discharge and one year of confinement.
“We hold all personnel to the highest standards in using government resources,” Cmdr. William Marks, a Navy spokesman, told The Daily Beast. “And if revealed government resources were improperly used, we will take appropriate action.”
The Marine Corps also stated that it’s aware of the incident, but did not bring up compliance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice regarding adultery.
Signing up for a website, however, is not by itself proof of adultery. First, there has to be evidence that a servicemember had sexual intercourse with someone other than a spouse, and second, the adultery contributed to the undermining of good order and discipline, or otherwise brought discredit on the force. Additionally, Ashley Madison did not require email verification, meaning that anyone can use any email address to sign up. The damning detail is the credit card number used to purchase the service.
Up to 10,000 .mil email extensions have surfaced in the database, so even if the Pentagon were to embark on serious investigation with intent to prosecute, the sheer amount of resources needed would be immense.
Still, this doesn’t mean the services approve of infidelity, and neither does it approve of Pentagon computers being used to access services like Ashley Madison. Carter confirmed last week that “we expect good conduct on the part of our people.”