Scathing message sent to Navy SEALs on discussing secret work
By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The commander of U.S. Navy SEALs has written a scathing message to them, saying he is “disappointed, embarrassed and concerned” that troops are now openly speaking and writing about their secret work.
CNN obtained a copy of the message signed by Rear Adm. Sean Pybus, head of the Naval Special Warfare Command, or NSW, and sent to all 2,500 SEALs and some 5,500 support troops he oversees. [RELATED: Ex-Navy SEAL could face legal action over Bin Laden raid book]
He starts by noting the core value of the community, which is, “We do NOT advertise the nature of our work, NOR do we seek recognition for our actions.” The emphasis is the admiral’s.
Pybus’ message follows a letter from Adm. William McRaven that also is critical of the recent publicity. Although McRaven is a Navy SEAL, he oversees all 65,000 Special Operations Forces from all of the military services. Pybus’ message is viewed as much more directed to the SEAL community.
“I am disappointed, embarrassed and concerned,” Pybus wrote. “Most of us have always thought that the privilege of working with some of our nation’s toughest warriors on challenging missions would be enough to be proud of, with no further compensation or celebrity required. Today, we find former SEALs headlining positions in a presidential campaign; hawking details about a mission against Enemy Number 1; and generally selling other aspects of NSW training and operations. For an elite force that should be humble and disciplined for life, we are certainly not appearing to be so. We owe our chain of command much better than this.”
A U.S. military official told CNN that Pybus views the book “No Easy Day,” about the SEALs’ raid on the Osama bin Laden compound, as “the last straw” after months of seeing former SEALs engage in political and money-making marketing activities that the source said involve things like “hawking SEAL workouts and paintball games to kill al Qaeda.”
The military official was not authorized to speak on Pybus’ behalf but has direct knowledge of his views.
Pybus’ message went on to say, “At risk with irresponsible disclosures is NSW’s reputation and security. In Special Operations, trust and reputation are everything. Senior leaders in SOF and the Department of Defense cannot be given reason to doubt NSW’s ability to operate successfully and maintain secrecy always.”
He also said, “The security of our force and families is also put at risk by the release of sensitive information. Our real or potential adversaries accumulate information about the U.S. military, including NSW, and unauthorized personal forays and activities into the Public Domain that propagate NSW details expose us to unnecessary danger.”
Pybus is now expected to begin talking to some of the most senior SEALs about solving the problem.
“We must immediately reconsider how we properly influence our people in and out of uniform NOT to seek inappropriate monetary, political, or celebrity profit from their service with NSW,” he wrote. “This is a challenge to both the active and former NSW force — we all have much to gain or lose. In the weeks ahead, we will be taking actions to meet this challenge.”