Analysis

The Navy SEALs who shared secrets with video-game makers

After consulting on the new Medal of Honor game, the team of SEALs famous for killing Osama bin Laden finds itself in hot water for divulging military information

The covert operatives who make up Navy SEAL Team 6 may have captured the nation's imagination when they took down Osama bin Laden, but now a handful of them are getting a pay cut. According to CBS News, seven members of the team, including one directly involved in the mission that killed the al Qaeda mastermind, have been punished for consulting on the new video game Medal of Honor: Warfighter from Electronic Arts. Four others are still under investigation. What kind of secrets did they divulge, and what kind of blowback are they facing? Here, a brief guide to the controversy:

What is this video game?Medal of Honor is a long-running, first-person, shooting-game franchise. The first title, released in 1999, featured military narratives set in World War II, but more recent titles have focused on modern warfare. Medal of Honor: Warfighter, released in October, stars a fictional team of Navy SEALs tackling missions inspired by recent news headlines.

What role did the real-life Navy SEALS play?The seven SEAL Team Six members, all of whom are still on active duty, allegedly worked for Electronic Arts as paid consultants this spring and summer. While Warfighter does not explicitly recreate the bin Laden raid, it realistically depicts similar missions, such as an attack on a pirates' den in Somalia, says David Martin at CBS News. According to the Associated Press, the implicated SEALs' two main offenses were their failure to secure permission to participate in the project and their decision to share specially designed combat equipment with the game's producers. All of the charges are non-judicial. (Read a full statement from the Department of Defense here.)

How are they being punished?Each SEAL received a punitive letter barring him from future promotions in the ranks, and will forfeit half his salary for a two-month period. "We do not tolerate deviations from the policies that govern who we are and what we do as sailors in the United States Navy," said Rear Adm. Garry Bonelli, deputy commoner of the Naval Special Warfare Command. This punishment is intended to "send a clear message throughout our force that we are and will be held to a high standard of accountability."

Did they get off too easy?Commentators don't think so. The punishment shouldn't come as a surprise, says Jason Lomberg at VentureBeat, even if the military "routinely lends technical assistance to Hollywood productions." (See: Blackhawk Down, Zero Dark Thirty.) These SEALs' mistake was failing to follow typical clearance procedures, and now they're paying the price. Frankly, "it about time the Navy tried to restore some discipline to the SEALs' ranks," says Mark Thompson at TIME. SEAL Team Six members — including Matt Bissonnette, who recounted the bin Laden mission in his book, No Easy Day — have been inappropriately visible in the media ever since the historic raid. "Why should other U.S. military special operators keep their mouths shut if the only thing that accrues to the once-secret SEALs for blabbing are best-selling books and cash to spill the beans... ?"

Sources: Associated PressCBS News, TIMEVentureBeatThe Verge

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