Word has it there's a military sting operation to bust soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who are using Craigslist to find casual hookups, and now troopers are being warned to keep their sexual exploits on the down-low.
It all started when news article published last week in the Army Times suggested undercover military cops were trolling the Craigslist Baghdad personals to catch officers posting lewd photos looking for casual sex. (The Baghdad site is presumably a product of the war in Iraq, though most of the posters now are deployed in Afghanistan.) The story was picked up by the Daily Mail and a subsequent wave of media outlets, exposing the X-rated subculture.
Now that the lid has been blown off the military hookup scene, a few good men (and women) are taking to the Craigslist Baghdad casual encounters and m4m sections to tell soldiers to beware. Some of the warnings repost the Army Times article or its spinoffs, like this one:
Military Be Aware Sting OP - m4m - 40 (UAB)
BEWARE UNDERCOVER STING!
READ THIS google this look for pinknews us soldiers posted in combat zones use craigslist for gay hook ups on base.
And this one:
Be careful all!
ALERT: U.S. Soldiers In Afghanistan Under Investigation For Gay Craigslist Hookups
The Military Times article was reposted by a gay blogger on two places in Craigslist with the titles "Warning! Please Read - m4m" and "Hey Guys, Please Read This"
Others are from civilians showing solidarity:
Thanks To Our Troops - m4m - 26 (USA - Pennsylvania)
Hello to all of our military men. I, like many others on here, have recently read about what is going on regarding your using CL as a venue to "meet up" with other local guys. I'm sorry to hear this and sincerely hope it doesn't have a terribly negative effect on your goal. You and your service are VERY MUCH APPRECIATED!! I can't imagine being over there and not having the privacy or ability to have your sexual needs met, after all you are only human. If any of you care to chat I would be more than happy to do so with you. Once you are back in the USA if you are near me I can thank you in person. STAY SAFE! Looking forward to hearing from you. So that I know you are really legit please write AMERICA in you subject. DISCRETION ASSURED! Failed to mention I am white, five seven, one hundred thirty pounds, thirty inch waist, slim build, dark brown hair and eyes, 8x6c, and told I resemble Robert Downey Jr. :o)
One guy even offered some tips for how to avoid getting caught:
ALERT: How Not to be Entrapped - m4m - 26 (Seattle)
"You guys are doing a great job. If you need to hook up, just start with a beer or gym workout to be safe. Even leave the sex part vague on your posting. For example, just write "looking for buddy for beer, work out, or or other fun stuff" instead of "looking for nsa fun" or "looking for nsa sex".
If you post, then let the other person initiate. That means don't even suggest verbally about having sex when you're having dinner. Let the other person do the initiating (e.g. talking, touching etc.) Get the other person to get naked first. Only reciprocate after he or she gets you naked or more or if you know they are naked and aroused."
It's no secret that on-duty soldiers in war zones turn to each other for a little tension release, nor is it any surprise that they're using the internet to find others that want to hook up. But it is surprising to me that military investigators would go undercover, posing as "m4m" down for some "nsa" (no strings attached) fun, only to pull a gun on an unsuspecting trooper upon meeting. Why go through the effort?
At this point, there's no hard proof that officials are investigating Craigslist or busting people for posting hookup ads. The reports that started the latest rumor were from anonymous sources relaying incidents to the Army Times that happened last year. One Marine lance corporal told the site that he was arrested by an undercover agent from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in Afghanistan after he went on Craigslist to arrange to meet another man.
The undercover agent reportedly responded to his want ad pretending to be interested, arranged a time and place to meet, and then arrested him for pandering and prostitution.
The corporal said he believes the investigation is still going on. "I did hear that members of NCIS were making posts themselves and arresting people who responded," he told the Army Times.
Online sex solicitation is not a crime per se, but participating in online pornography is a chargeable offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice—so it's the nude selfies that often accompany the pleas for companionship that could put soldiers at risk. On top of that, in Afghanistan, having sex if you're unmarried is highly taboo, though not technically illegal anymore. So, any single soldier who tries to set up a tryst online could become a target of investigators.
Officials are staying mum on the issue. A spokesman for the NCIS told the Army Times that the agency "is currently engaged in ongoing operations involving social networks," but couldn't comment any further without compromising the investigations. An Army Criminal Investigation Command spokesman said there were no active investigations related to sexual solicitation but the agency does "constantly monitor multiple media platforms" for illegal activity.
Could this be a backhanded way to discriminate against gay soldiers? It wouldn't be the first time. Since the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, military police can't target soldiers based on sexual orientation, but there's nothing to stop investigators from cracking down on "men seeking men" on the internet. Speculation of homophobia aside, a sting operation to arrest soldiers blowing off steam seems a bit extreme. Aren't there more important things to worry about?
The majority of online commentary over the last week echoes that sentiment. "They're deployed for many months at a time," wrote Instinct magazine. "As long as they're not hurting anyone and they're doing their jobs correctly (showing up on time, working effectively, etc.), what's the harm in these soldiers having a little fun with each other??"
One Craigslist poster, after reading the Daily Mail expose, wrote on the Baghdad casual encounters section that he hopes the exposure won't ruin the site. "Hope it doesn't fuck it up or invite creeps. Have fun. Stay safe."