SAN DIEGO The U.S. Navy said on Thursday it was discharging 64 sailors, 49 of them from the aircraft carrier that buried Osama bin Laden at sea, for using or distributing drugs.
Most of the sailors, who were assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, nuclear submarine USS San Francisco and a floating fueling dock, were caught using , possessing or selling the designer drug Spice, the Navy said.
Bin Laden was buried at sea from the Carl Vinson in May after the al Qaeda leader was killed in a raid by U.S. Navy Seals on his Pakistan hide-out.
The ship normally has 5,000 sailors on board during deployment and a spokesman for the Third Fleet, Capt. Greg Hicks, said it was unknown if any of the sailors facing discipline were involved in the bin Laden operation.
"The Navy's policy on drug abuse is simple and clear -- zero tolerance," Vice Admiral Gerald Beaman, commander of the Third Fleet, said in a written statement. "Drug use puts lives and missions at risk and undercuts unit readiness and morale."
"The use of designer drugs, to include Spice, is illegal and the Navy continues to aggressively investigate the use of synthetic drugs and hold those in violation accountable," he said.
Spice is a synthetic drug that mimics the effects of marijuana.
Hicks said the investigation on the Carl Vinson began when three sailors who were already on restriction for reasons that have not been disclosed were caught smoking Spice in a fan room.
Of the 49 sailors from the Vinson who were facing discipline, two were suspected of distributing Spice and a third was identified as a "middle man," the Navy said.
Those three sailors were still under investigation and could face further legal action, the Navy said.
A separate investigation on the San Francisco and the fueling dock began when three sailors from each tested positive for cocaine, Hicks said. Ultimately, the Navy said 15 sailors were found to have used Spice or another illegal drug.
Six of the sailors assigned to the San Francisco or the dock have admitted to using cocaine and one was found to have used methamphetamines, the Navy said.
"All 64 will be administratively discharged. Whether or not it is characterized as a result of criminal behavior, it will be an other than honorable discharge," Hicks said.
"No criminal charges have been issued, but some may face court-martial depending on the violations they are accused of," he said.
(Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)