WASHINGTON – Seven Navy SEALs, including one involved in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, have been reprimanded for divulging classified information to the maker of a video game, Pentagon officials said Thursday.
The seven received letters of reprimand and forfeited half of their pay for two months after a Navy investigation found they had served as paid consultants to the designers of “Medal of Honor Warfighter,” one official said.
All are members of SEAL Team Six, the secretive commando unit based in Virginia. Members of the unit conducted the operation against bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011.
Four others SEALs, all based on the West Coast, are also under investigation for allegedly disclosing classified information, the official said.
“We do not tolerate deviations from the policies that govern who we are and what we do as sailors,” Rear Adm. Gary Bonelli, deputy commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, said in a statement.
“The non-judicial punishment decisions made today send a clear message throughout our force that we are and will be held to a high standard of accountability,” he added.
The video game was released last month by Electronic Arts of Redwood City, Calif. The company asserted in promotional materials that it was “written by actual U.S. Tier 1 Operators while deployed overseas” and that it provides “players a view into globally recognized threats … letting them experience the action as it might have unfolded.”
A Tier I Operator is a military term for a commando involved in the most sensitive operations.
The reprimands given to the seven SEALs are a step below a court-martial, but will likely force them out of the commando unit and possibly end their military careers.
“It essentially makes it hard for them to continue as SEALs,” a senior official said.
Pentagon officials refused to discuss the nature of the classified information, but the incident comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of alleged leaks of classified material involving the SEALs.
The issue first emerged last year when critics charged that the Obama White House had improperly disclosed details about the bin Laden raid for political gain.
Then, this fall, Pentagon officials expressed their concerns after publication of “No Easy Day,” a first-person account of the bin Laden operation by another member of SEAL Team Six, Matt Bissonnette.
Pentagon officials say Bissonnette’s book, a best-seller, contains classified information. They have accused him of violating nondisclosure agreements in publishing the book without submitting it for a security review. They have not taken formal action against him but officials say they are weighing various legal steps.