Elite commandos 'leaked secrets'
Seven members of the secretive US Navy SEAL Team 6, including one involved in the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, have been punished for allegedly disclosing classified information, a senior defence source said today.
The official, who spoke anonymously because of the sensitive nature of the case, said the troops received what the military calls "non-judicial" punishment on Wednesday.
They are said to have provided the information to the maker of a video game.
The official said four other SEALs were being investigated for similar alleged disclosures.
Each of the seven received a punitive letter of reprimand and a partial forfeiture of pay for two months - actions that generally hinder a military member's career.
The deputy commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Admiral Garry Bonelli, acknowledged that non-judicial punishments had been handed out for misconduct, but did not offer further details.
"We do not tolerate deviations from the policies that govern who we are and what we do as sailors in the United States Navy," he said. He alluded to the importance of honouring non-disclosure agreements that SEALs sign.
He said the punishments this week "send a clear message throughout our force that we are and will be held to a high standard of accountability".
The punishments were first reported by CBS News.
The commandos are alleged to have divulged classified information to the maker of a video game called Medal of Honour: Warfighter.
The two main complaints against the SEALs were that they did not seek the permission of their command to take part in the video project and that they showed the video designers some of their specially-designed combat equipment unique to their unit, said a senior military official.
SEALs, including some of those involved in the bin Laden raid last May, have been uncharacteristically prominent in the news this year.
Matt Bissonnette, who participated in the raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan, but later retired from the SEALs, wrote a first-hand account under the pseudonym Mark Owen, but he landed in hot water with the Pentagon even before it was published in September.
The Pentagon accused him of disclosing classified information in violation of the non-disclosure agreements he had signed as a SEAL. He disputes the charge.
The SEAL mission to capture or kill bin Laden, while stunningly successful, encountered a number of unexpected obstacles, including the loss of a stealth helicopter that was partially blown up by the SEALs after making a hard landing inside the al Qaida mastermind's compound.
The head of Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Admiral Sean Pybus, responded to the Bissonnette book by telling his force that "hawking details about a mission" and selling other information about SEAL training and operations put the force and members' families at risk.
SEALs, both active duty and retired, possess highly sensitive information about tactics and techniques that are central to the success of their secret and often dangerous missions overseas. They are obliged to sign non-disclosure agreements when they enter service and when they leave.