Navy Seals: A battle for the conscience
Active duty Navy SEALS at February premiere of "Act of Valor"
September 6th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Navy Seals: A battle for the conscience

By Barbara Starr

(CNN) - Deep inside the military's special operations forces there is a crisis of conscience unfolding. The publication of "No Easy Day," a former Navy SEAL's account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, is forcing many to rethink a fundamental point of military honor. How much should America's commandos talk about what they do?

It's a debate that goes beyond disclosure of classified information, which is a crime. The discussion now centers on honor, ethics and cultural values inside the ranks.

"This is a battle for the conscience of the SEALs," a recently retired senior SEAL told me.

He served for decades in operational positions in the force, and has never told me any of the details of his missions. For years he did what every SEAL has done: Go on raids, find targets and, if necessary, kill them. It's what the nation asks of them.

Buzz ramps up over SEAL's bin Laden book

The question now: Is the SEAL community taking that Tom Clancy superman image and turning it into celebrity? "Was No Easy Day" indeed that last straw?

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Pentagon: SEAL's book has classified info, didn't follow protocol
"No Easy Day" written by a former US Navy SEAL details the raid on the Osama bin Laden compound
September 4th, 2012
04:15 PM ET

Pentagon: SEAL's book has classified info, didn't follow protocol

By Barbara Starr

A Pentagon official said Tuesday that a former Navy SEAL who helped kill Osama bin Laden included classified material in his new book and did not follow protocol for pre-publication review.

On the same day the much-anticipated memoir hit book shelves, CNN obtained a copy of message written by the SEALs' commander to members of his unit.

In it, Rear Adm. Sean Pybus, head of the Naval Special Warfare Command, said he was "disappointed, embarrassed and concerned" that troops are now openly speaking and writing about their secret work.

Pre-orders put the book at No. 1 on Amazon's bestseller list for two weeks.

But the Pentagon was not as as eager to see the release of "No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden."

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Former SEAL worried about new book
August 30th, 2012
07:25 PM ET

Former SEAL worried about new book

By Larry Shaughnessy

At least one former U.S. Navy SEAL is worried that a book about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden could jeopardize future special operations missions.

John McGuire left the service as a first class petty officer after 10 years in the Navy, much of it as a SEAL.

Recommended: Pentagon warns Navy SEAL about bin Laden book

"We have something in the military called OPSEC, which is operational security, and people can piece tiny pieces of information together to get a picture they don't need to have," McGuire told CNN on Thursday. "We know too much as it is."

"When people give away secrets and talk about these exploits like this, connections can be drawn together to put them and our security in harm's way," McGuire said.

The new book by former SEAL Matt Bissonnette, published under the pseudonym Mark Owen, is titled "No Easy Day." FULL POST

Excerpts from SEAL's book about Osama bin Laden killing
August 30th, 2012
05:37 PM ET

Excerpts from SEAL's book about Osama bin Laden killing

Larry Shaughnessy

The new book by former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette, published under the pseudonym Mark Owen, has some eye-opening, sometimes amusing details about the mission that killed Osama bin Laden.

"No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden" goes step by step through the SEAL team's training and practicing for the attack, the assault itself and the aftermath.

One might find it odd that in the midst of one of the most important Special Operations missions ever, most of these elite warriors weren't exactly pumped up on the flight to bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

"I think most of the guys on the helicopter actually caught some much-needed sleep on the ride in. ... All the hype was gone and it was just another night at work for us."

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August 7th, 2012
06:18 PM ET

First look at the Osama bin Laden movie

By Larry Shaughnessy

Hollywood loves a scandal, and it has one in a movie that drew criticism before filming began.

"Zero Dark Thirty" is about the hunt for and the eventual killing of Osama Bin Laden, made by Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal, the team who made the Oscar-winning film "The Hurt Locker."

The movie was originally said to be be releasing just before the election, but after Republican complaints that it was a Pro-Obama ad, it was pushed back until December.  Although there is some dispute if  it was ever meant to release before December.

But the trailer has been released. It's highly stylized assortment of clips from the movie, most of them made to look like satellite images you might see if you were in the CIA war room.

There are two mentions of bin Laden, but none of President Obama. And the film's screenwriter told Entertainment Weekly magazine that Obama's not mentioned in the film either. EW is owned by CNN parent company Time Warner.

"A lot of people are going to be surprised when they see the film. For example, the president is not depicted in the movie. He's just not in the movie," Boal said.

The movie's been the focus of a Washington partisan fight since last summer. The Department of Defense said it would investigate whether there was any impropriety in aiding the making of the movie. The CIA is also accused of giving the filmmakers too much access.

The probe by the Pentagon's inspector general came after questions were raised by Rep. Peter King, R-New York.

He demanded investigations by the Department of Defense and CIA inspectors general into what, if any, classified information about special operations tactics, techniques, and procedures were leaked to the filmmakers, calling the film a "potentially dangerous collaboration" between liberal filmmakers and the administration.

Some of what those investigations found did show collaboration between the administration and the filmmakers, but DoD and White House officials have said it's no different than what they give many filmmakers and news reporters on a regular basis.

Five things you need to know about U.S. national security
Credit (l to r): Getty Images, Getty Images, SITE, Getty Images, CNN
July 29th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

Five things you need to know about U.S. national security

By Dan Merica

This weekend marks the conclusion of  this year’s  Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado, an event that brought together some of the key players in the world of defense and national security policy.

Here the five moments that the Security Clearance Blog’s team will be talking about on the flight back to Washington:

1. The United States is keeping close tabs on Syria’s weapons, al Qaeda’s influence

As war rages on in Syria, the United States intelligence community is closely monitoring the situation, National Counterterrorism Center Director Matthew Olsen told CNN’s Intelligence Correspondent Suzanne Kelly.

According to Olsen, there is an intense focus on Syria’s chemical weapons. FULL POST

Special Operations forces risk being overused, misused, former chief says
July 27th, 2012
01:33 PM ET

Special Operations forces risk being overused, misused, former chief says

By Pam Benson, reporting from Aspen, Colorado

The use of military Special Operations Forces has been a proven success in Iraq, Afghanistan and - with last year's raid on Osama bin Laden's compound - in Pakistan, but that success has some people concerned. Will the forces become the tool of choice for a president?

The former head of the U.S. Special Operations Command told the Aspen Security Forum Thursday he fears there could be a misuse of the highly trained specialists.

"It's a real danger," retired Adm. Eric Olson said. "They come to be thought of as a utility infielder, sometimes a utility infielder with guns, and they may be asked to solve problems that are not necessarily special operations problems."

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America's next war
July 26th, 2012
06:20 AM ET

America's next war

By Jill Dougherty, reporting from Aspen, Colorado

National security experts often refer to the core of al Qaeda as a “spent force.” Its leaders are mostly wiped out even if al Qaeda affiliates in places like Yemen continue their fight against the West. But if al Qaeda is a spent force will the U.S. military go back to the old paradigm of preparing for conflict with nation states?

That’s one of the underlying themes of the Aspen Security Forum. I spoke with author and academic Paula Broadwell, a veteran of 15 years in intelligence, counterterrorism and counterinsurgency.

RECOMMENDED: Our coverage of the 2012 Aspen Security Forum

The U.S. must be prepared for “full spectrum warfare,” she says. That's everything from a full-on war to smaller conflicts.

“Nobody thinks these small wars or these insurgencies are going away,” Broadwell tells me. “The way we’ll fight them is changing, and instead of sending a large army to fight an insurgency I think we’ll see more precision strikes, more special forces response, more drone operations, and more cooperation with our allies."

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June 14th, 2012
05:18 PM ET

Special forces from around the world train together in Jordan

Over one thousand special forces troops from the U.S. and more than a dozen countries trained for dangerous missions in Jordan, CNN's Barbara Starr reports.

Special Operations rebuffed in effort to get new authority
June 5th, 2012
07:30 PM ET

Special Operations rebuffed in effort to get new authority

By Mike Mount

A request by the U.S. military's Special Operations Command to get new authority to train and equip security forces in countries considered to be terrorist hot spots was denied by Congress and the State Department, although military officials say the proposal was not an effort to circumvent the regular authorization chain.

The request was to use Special Operations Command money to create, train and equip domestic special operations troops in countries of concern where commanders believed training was needed, as well as to build barracks and other construction projects related to training over three years.
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