(CNN) – The disciplining of U.S. Navy SEALs who aided a video game maker was conducted in a more public fashion than typically done in order to send a message to the SEALs community about keeping classified information secret, CNN has learned.
Seven U.S. Navy SEALs have been reprimanded for giving up classified information connected to their work so a video game could seem more realistic, according to a Navy official.
Four other SEALs, who have since transferred to West Coast SEAL teams, are still under investigation, a second Navy official said.
The seven were charged with the unauthorized showing of their official combat gear and dereliction of duty for disclosing classified material, according to the officials, who are familiar with the investigation. The letters of reprimand will be “considered” when the SEALs go up for promotion, essentially ending any chance of advancement in the Navy.
The seven, all senior enlisted sailors, received their punishment Thursday at their base in Virginia. In addition to the letter of reprimand, they had their pay cut by half for two months.
The seven members were working as paid consultants for Electronic Arts on the game “Medal of Honor: Warfighter,” one of the officials said. The game touts that it is developed with the help of former and active duty commandos.
All are active duty members of SEAL Team 6, considered the most elite of the Navy SEAL community. At least one of those disciplined was part of the team that raided Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, a defense official said Friday.
The reprimand was not conducted privately, as is usually the case. The decision was made “at the command level” to conduct the disciplinary proceedings, with most members of the command present, “to send a message to other SEALs” that revealing classified information and publicly speaking about their missions is “unacceptable.”
CNN has also learned that the public chastising of the SEALs is part of a broader concern about the increasingly public image of the special operations force. The Naval Special Warfare Development Group, popularly known as SEAL Team Six, was the subject of a recent TV movie about the bin Laden raid and will feature in another upcoming film about the rescue of a ship’s captain kidnapped by Somali pirates.
The Pentagon says another member of SEAL Team Six on the bin Laden raid recently wrote a book, “No Easy Day,” without clearing its release through government officials. The Defense Department official says all of these incidents factored into the command’s decision to reprimand the seven SEALs in front of their entire command.
“Naval Special Warfare (NSW) takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and conducts investigations to determine the facts. We likewise take seriously the non-disclosure agreements signed by sailors and adherence to the articles of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice,” Rear Adm. Garry Bonelli, deputy commander of the Naval Special Warfare Center, said in a statement to CNN’s Security Clearance on Thursday night.
“We do not tolerate deviations from the policies that govern who we are and what we do as sailors in the United States Navy. 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.”