Last year, when members of Navy SEAL Team 6 burst into Osama bin Laden’s compound, it was the culmination of months of secrecy and years of planning. No one saw it coming, including the world’s most elusive terrorist mastermind. The SEALs killed bin Laden and spirited his body out of Pakistan.
The daring military operation 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 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 sign on.
Since the raid on bin Laden’s compound, some members of the elite fighting unit have acted uncharacteristically. This year, a member of the team who took part in the raid wrote a firsthand account of that fateful night, which formed the core of the book No Easy Day. The author, who did not clear the book in advance with the Pentagon, was accused of disclosing classified information and violating his nondisclosure agreement.
More recently, military officials said seven members of Team 6, including one who was 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. The Pentagon accuses the SEALs of sharing information about weapon modifications that were unique to their unit to the toy maker, to make the 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, retired and active, that spilling military secrets for glory and profit will not be tolerated. Future missions are jeopardized when potential foes can see Team 6’s methods on a computer screen or read about them in a book.
The nation appreciates stoic warriors who are content to work in the shadows to keep the country safe. For that reason, some of America’s elite fighters must be reminded that silence is golden.