WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Seven members of an elite U.S. Navy SEAL team, including one who participated in the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, have been reprimanded for disclosing classified material while helping produce a videogame, officials said on Thursday.
All seven of the special operations forces who were punished were members of the elite SEAL Team Six, according to CBS News, which first reported the reprimands. CBS said the seven worked for two days this spring and summer as paid consultants on the videogame.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the details of the account. A defense official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said other members of the team are still under investigation in connection with the game.
Two senior chief special operators and five chief special operators received a reprimand on Wednesday for their involvement in the production of a videogame entitled “Medal of Honor: Warfighter,” released by gamemaker Electronic Arts Inc, said a Navy official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
All seven were punished in an administrative proceeding for disclosing classified information and misusing command gear while working with the gamemakers, who advertise that the videogame is more accurate because of the help they had from special operations forces.
The seven each received a punitive letter of reprimand and were docked half pay for two months, a Navy official said. A defense official said all Pentagon employees are required to follow Defense Department guidance on outside employment, a measure put into place to ensure “the highest ethical behavior.”
Rear Admiral Garry Bonelli, the deputy commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, said the Navy treats allegations of misconduct seriously and also enforces nondisclosure agreements signed by sailors who join the special operations forces.
“We do not tolerate deviations from the policies that govern who we are and what we do as sailors in the United States Navy,” he said in a statement after the administrative punishment was handed down.
“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 said.
The punishment of the seven active-duty SEALS comes about two months after the Pentagon threatened to take legal action against former U.S. Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette for writing an unauthorized book about the 2011 commando raid that killed bin Laden.
The Pentagon said the book “No Easy Day,” written under the pen name Mark Owen, had been published in violation of nondisclosure agreements Bissonnette signed while a SEAL.
Bissonnette’s attorneys and publishers insisted the book had been carefully reviewed to ensure it disclosed no classified information, and that he had fulfilled his duty.
Reporting By David Alexander, Phil Stewart and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Mohammad Zargham