Sealed for a reason: America's elite fighters must resist the profit motive
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Last year when members of Navy SEAL Team 6 burst into Osama bin Laden's compound last year, it was the culmination of months of secrecy and years of planning. No one saw it coming, including the most elusive terrorist mastermind in the world. The SEALs killed bin Laden and spirited his body out of Pakistan.
It was a daring military operation that made instant folk heroes out of the highly disciplined, but secretive American warriors. Although SEAL Team 6 has dozens of members, none of those who were on the raid stepped forward to be identified in media reports. The whole team took credit for killing bin Laden because the mission was bigger than any one person.
Even President Barack Obama wasn't told the identity of the member who actually pulled the trigger that took bin Laden's life because of the team's strict adherence to its code of anonymity and silence, to which all members become signatories.
Since the raid on bin Laden's compound, some members of the elite fighting unit have acted uncharacteristically. Earlier this year, a member of the team that participated in the raid wrote a firsthand account of that fateful night, which formed the core of the book "No Easy Day," without clearing it with the Pentagon. The author was accused of disclosing classified information and violating his nondisclosure agreement.
Last week, military officials said that seven members of SEAL Team 6, including one involved in the bin Laden raid, were punished for disclosing classified information to the maker of the "Medal of Honor: Warfighter" video game. Four other SEALs are under investigation for similar violations of non-disclosure. The Pentagon also accuses them of sharing information about weapon modifications unique to their unit to the toy maker to make the video game more realistic.
The punishment consists of letters of reprimand that will prevent the men from advancing in rank. They have also been docked half a month's pay. This will send a signal to all members of the team, both retired and active, that spilling military secrets for glory and profit will not be tolerated. Such behavior puts future missions in jeopardy when potential foes can see SEAL Team 6's methods and tactics on a computer screen or read about them in a book.
The nation appreciates stoic warriors who are content to work in the shadows in order to keep the country safe. For that reason some of America's elite fighters must be reminded that silence is golden.
First Published November 13, 2012 12:00 am