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Seven Navy SEALs Punished for Revealing Classified Data

Nov. 9 (Bloomberg) -- Seven members of a U.S. Navy SEAL team have been punished for disclosing classified information while serving as consultants for a video game, a Pentagon spokesman said yesterday.

The active-duty members of the top-secret special-operations force were given a non-judicial punishment that includes letters of reprimand and forfeiture of half their pay for two months, said Army Lieutenant Colonel James Gregory.

The SEALs disclosed some classified “tactics and procedures” when they participated in the making of a video game called “Medal of Honor Warfighter” in June or July, said a Navy official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the continuing investigation. Four other active-duty SEALs now stationed on the West Coast remain under investigation, the official said.

The seven who received punishments at a Nov. 7 hearing were found in violation of rules against divulging classified material and the misuse of command gear, he said.

A defense official indicated, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters, that those disciplined were members of the elite Navy counterterrorism force known as SEAL Team Six, which participated in the raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

“We do not tolerate deviations from the policies that govern who we are and what we do as sailors in the United States Navy,” Rear Admiral Garry Bonelli, deputy commander of 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.”

‘Authentic Experience’

The maker of the video game, Electronic Arts Inc. of Redwood City, California, says on its website that its game “delivers an aggressive, gritty and authentic experience that puts gamers in the boots of today’s most precise and disciplined warrior.”

The SEALs are the Navy’s principal force for conducting special operations, and its members undergo some of the military’s most rigorous training. The SEALs gained increased fame and attention for conducting the mission in Pakistan that killed bin Laden in May 2011.

The incident marks the second time in recent months that Navy SEALs have been accused of disclosing classified information. The sanctions were reported by CBS News earlier.

The Pentagon’s chief spokesman said in September that a former Navy SEAL who participated in the assault on bin Laden’s compound divulged classified information in a book about the raid.

‘No Easy Day’

The author, Matt Bissonnette, wrote in the book that he took steps to ensure he wouldn’t be inadvertently releasing classified information ,and he hired a former special-operations attorney to review the manuscript. The Pentagon said Bissonnette violated a non-disclosure agreement and didn’t submit the book for a pre-publication review.

The dispute over the book, “No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission that Killed Osama bin Laden,” triggered a written message from the head of the Naval Special Warfare Command decrying the author for releasing information that the commander said puts his force at risk.

“For an elite force that should be humble and disciplined for life, we are certainly not appearing to be so,” said the commander, Rear Admiral Sean Pybus. “We owe our chain of command much better than this.”

To contact the reporter on this story: David Lerman in Washington at dlerman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net

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