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?

"It's a generational thing that is happening to some extent," the retired SEAL said. Some younger SEALs who have grown up in the age of the Internet and instant online communications simply feel it's their right to talk about their work, as long as they can claim it's not classified, he said.

This senior SEAL said he and his peers grew up in a generation where "we don't talk about what we do," and he feels it should be kept that way.

In fact, the chief Navy SEAL wrote a scathing e-mail to his 2,500 troops, which began with the fundamental SEAL ethos.

"We do NOT advertise the nature of our work, NOR do we seek recognition for our actions," said Rear Adm. Sean Pybus.

Pybus told the men he is "disappointed, embarrassed and concerned" that troops are now openly speaking and writing about what they do.

"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."

Pybus continued: "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."

Every SEAL, indeed everyone in U.S. military special operations units, knows exactly what Pybus is saying. He's warning that fundamental trust is at risk. And the risk is on many levels, from the campfire to the Oval Office.

Matt Bissonnette wrote in his book about casual chatter among SEALs, which he portrayed as less than supportive of President Obama. An Army special operations guy who read that passage was shocked.

"That's just 'team talk' around the fire," he said.

Does anybody expect that to show up in a book? The men on these small covert units literally place their lives in the hands of each other. They trust that they'll keep each others' confidence. And confidence must be unshakeable at the highest levels.

Bergen: Sense and nonsense about Obama and Osama

Pybus' reference to a chain of command is read by some to mean only one thing: the president of the United States. A president has to fundamentally believe when he sends SEALs on a secret mission to kill the world's top terrorist that those in the rank and file aren't going to start talking.

Of course, there has been plenty of chatter about Obama administration officials themselves talking too much about the raid. Now there has been outright admission classified information was exposed.

Pentagon spokesman George Little acknowledged classified information about the raid did get out in the hours and days after bin Laden was killed.

"We were all deeply concerned, not just in this building, but elsewhere in the administration, about the disclosure of highly classified information that made its way out the door," he said. "I don't know precisely who did it, but it shouldn't have happened. And many of us tried to keep some of those sensitive details, particularly those involving sources and methods, from making their way to press reports."

Little was the CIA spokesman at the time of the raid.

But many believe there is a difference between Pentagon officials disseminating information and rank and file members of the military sharing it. If service members want to write a book, the material has to be reviewed before publication. If a service member believes he or she needs to bring wrongdoing to light, there are procedures within the military for whistle-blowing. Bissonnette did not follow the rules, the Pentagon said.

In fact, in the book's introduction, Bissonnette justifies his book, writing "It is time to set the record straight" and, "This book will finally give credit to those who earned it." It's odd phrasing, because so many, including Pybus and Adm. William McRaven, the head of all 65,000 special operations forces across the military, think the SEALs have received plenty of credit around the world for killing bin Laden.

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

Both admirals are agonizing over the emergence of SEALs as celebrities as well as political operatives.

McRaven is aiming squarely at a group of former SEALs actively opposing President Barack Obama. The admiral is referring to the Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund, which has sponsored a Web video featuring former special forces officers accusing the president of taking too much credit for the killing of Osama bin Laden and allowing classified information about the raid to become public.

While McRaven said former SEALs have the right to express their opinions, he wants any link to the active duty force to be kept out of it. "By attaching a special operations moniker or a unit or service name to a political agenda, those individuals have now violated the most basic of our military principles," McRaven said in his e-mail message to the troops.

McRaven and Pybus know their worries are raising eyebrows. That's because the Pentagon itself has encouraged worldwide commercial interest in SEAL lore. In one case, top Pentagon and CIA officials offered their support for the upcoming "Zero Dark Thirty," a movie that Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow is making about the bin Laden raid.

Some in Congress have complained that the Pentagon and CIA should not have offered the filmmaker background briefings.

Active duty Navy SEALs also were given permission to perform in the Hollywood thriller "Act of Valor."

Also, Pentagon sources told CNN, SEALs are also working on two other Hollywood movies.

The recently retired senior SEAL summed up the problem for his brothers in arms since the Bin Laden raid: "We swallowed the golden egg. But now we can't get rid of it."

Read excerpts from "No Easy Day"

soundoff (1,170 Responses)
  1. vreyrolinomit

    Those are yours alright! . We at least need to get these people stealing images to start blogging! They probably just did a image search and grabbed them. They look good though!

    January 16, 2021 at 11:08 pm | Reply
  2. vreyrolinomit

    I am constantly thought about this, thankyou for posting.

    January 16, 2021 at 7:07 am | Reply
  3. vreyro linomit

    Lovely just what I was looking for.Thanks to the author for taking his time on this one.

    January 15, 2021 at 10:31 am | Reply
  4. KlioVelm

    buy viagra new york buy viagra without prescription viagra hongkong professional brand viagra info viagra 50mg reviews toronto viagra head office can i buy viagra over the counter in australia herbal viagra samples viagrauk viagra for sale in usa with no prescription viagra cheap au generic viagra viagra alcohol effects best price on viagra buy viagra south africa online

    January 14, 2021 at 1:19 pm | Reply
  5. Jvcxclups

    viagra brand generic viagra review forum australia viagra viagracoupons viagra sydney bay viagra on line discreet viagra viagra for sale melbourne viagra persription cheap canadian viagra viagra online pharmacy australia viagra/overnight shipping viagra online paypal paiement buy viagra online viagra for sale onlkne

    January 14, 2021 at 6:29 am | Reply
  6. Nlbxfiple

    best viagra alternatives buying viagra in australia with paypal viagra for saale what drugstore can i buy viagra in hong kong viagra onlie where to find viagra in winnipeg does viagra go stale viagra for sale in london viagra uk over the counter viagra mail order chinese viagra pills cialis viagra gr viagra overnight delivery in us viagra for sale in nz viagras 100mg

    January 14, 2021 at 6:15 am | Reply
  7. pGxPGLcIo

    116459 821914I feel other site proprietors need to take this web site as an model, really clean and superb user genial style . 265396

    January 12, 2021 at 10:13 pm | Reply
  8. magazin son dakika haberleri

    January 12, 2021 at 2:59 pm | Reply
  9. Shyla Lock

    I¡¦ve been exploring for a little for any high quality articles or blog posts on this kind of space . Exploring in Yahoo I ultimately stumbled upon this website. Reading this information So i am happy to express that I have a very just right uncanny feeling I found out just what I needed. I so much for sure will make sure to do not overlook this web site and give it a glance a relentless basis.

    January 11, 2021 at 9:34 pm | Reply
  10. Jtmfreext

    on line pharmacy pharmacies near me online canadian pharmacy

    January 11, 2021 at 6:56 pm | Reply
  11. Aqwsreext

    drugstore best drugstore setting powder people's pharmacy

    January 11, 2021 at 1:44 am | Reply
  12. Fgvdfiple

    canadian drug pharmacy online pharmacies canadian pharmacy

    January 10, 2021 at 7:34 pm | Reply
  13. Lokureext

    discount pharmacy e d online pharmacies

    January 10, 2021 at 10:04 am | Reply
  14. Nllpfiple

    canadian pharmacy online ed meds online without doctor prescription

    January 10, 2021 at 2:35 am | Reply
  15. Willy Poggi

    I agree with you

    January 9, 2021 at 8:42 pm | Reply
  16. vreyro linomit

    I'm very happy to read this. This is the type of manual that needs to be given and not the accidental misinformation that's at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this best doc.

    January 9, 2021 at 7:09 pm | Reply
  17. KhthVelm

    rx pharmacy 24 hour pharmacy peoples drug store

    January 9, 2021 at 6:04 pm | Reply
  18. Jlloclups

    canadian mail order pharmacy ed canada pharmacy

    January 9, 2021 at 11:41 am | Reply
  19. vreyro linomit

    Hey there I am so excited I found your weblog, I really found you by mistake, while I was looking on Aol for something else, Anyways I am here now and would just like to say kudos for a incredible post and a all round interesting blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to look over it all at the moment but I have book-marked it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be back to read much more, Please do keep up the great job.

    January 8, 2021 at 11:45 pm | Reply
  20. Thanh Nydick

    How to make a select category on wordpress use a different domain?

    January 7, 2021 at 9:21 pm | Reply
  21. Minerva

    If you are going for best contents like me, just visit this web site every day since it offers feature contents, thanks

    my blog; url

    January 2, 2021 at 7:29 pm | Reply
  22. zortilonrel

    Thanks for another informative web site. Where else could I get that type of info written in such an ideal manner? I have a project that I'm simply now running on, and I have been on the glance out for such info.

    January 2, 2021 at 6:44 pm | Reply
  23. zortilo nrel

    I went over this internet site and I believe you have a lot of excellent info, saved to bookmarks (:.

    January 2, 2021 at 4:09 am | Reply
  24. zortilonrel

    You have brought up a very good points, regards for the post.

    January 1, 2021 at 11:35 am | Reply
  25. plumbing companies near me go to this site

    Today, I went to the beachfront with my children. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said "You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear." She placed the shell to her ear and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but I had to tell someone!

    December 30, 2020 at 3:23 pm | Reply
  26. zortilonrel

    Hello.This article was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this issue last Wednesday.

    December 29, 2020 at 10:47 pm | Reply
  27. Hairstyles

    whoah this blog is great i love reading your posts. Keep up the great work! You know, lots of people are looking around for this information, you can help them greatly.

    December 28, 2020 at 9:36 pm | Reply
  28. zortilo nrel

    I really appreciate this post. I have been looking everywhere for this! Thank goodness I found it on Bing. You have made my day! Thank you again

    December 27, 2020 at 9:47 pm | Reply
  29. EHOOFT

    community acquired pneumonia of right lung icd 10: friends guest stars, community health center southwest harbor. Related data: community action agency food pantry, positive feedback loop op amp, culture lag example, planning process construction, followers megan angelo community first credit union guam. community health center middletown ct community action tallahassee Acheter Duloxetine 60 mg en pharmacie#, positive affirmations love kirkwood community aid Meilleur prix Albenza generique. OГ№ acheter albendazole 400 mg?# community college registry. community cast doreen community questionnaire definition, community action agency richmond ky, community biology antonym, positive quotes by famous people.
    friends jacket , community jurisprudence definition positive quotes meme community friendly synonym.

    December 27, 2020 at 5:58 pm | Reply
  30. cbd oil for autism toddlers

    what stated are ollrhal to have cbd oil

    December 26, 2020 at 9:09 pm | Reply
  31. earn passive income in autopilot

    Earn 100 commissions of up to 900+ dollars DAILY. 90 Second Set Up – Beta Tested Proven 24-7 AUTOPILOT Income – Live The Internet Lifestyle. More details:

    December 26, 2020 at 10:24 am | Reply
  32. MiBoypecop

    community health center winter garden community biology pictures , social zoom. community bank potsdam ny, community cast dean positive quotes jesus?
    environmental zones , community definition multicultural community action network? friends pizza culture kid definition, community bible church ventura community jetty definition.
    positive words pdf, planning process looks like community bible church valley cottage ny community bank delaware.

    December 23, 2020 at 4:34 pm | Reply
  33. Deon Erbst

    There are definitely quite a lot of particulars like that to take into consideration. That may be a great point to bring up. I supply the ideas above as normal inspiration however clearly there are questions like the one you deliver up where a very powerful thing shall be working in sincere good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged round issues like that, however I am sure that your job is clearly recognized as a fair game. Each girls and boys really feel the affect of only a moment’s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

    December 20, 2020 at 5:02 pm | Reply
  34. GuQin

    I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my problem. You are wonderful! Thanks!

    December 16, 2020 at 1:51 pm | Reply
  35. Dvnjfiple

    best price for viagra viagra 25 mg without a prescription viagra australia

    December 15, 2020 at 11:32 pm | Reply
  36. GuQin

    I think this is one of the most significant info for me. And i am glad studying your article. However should remark on few common things, The site taste is perfect, the articles is truly great : D. Good process, cheers

    December 15, 2020 at 8:25 pm | Reply
  37. Fhsnfiple

    viagra prices cvs price comparison viagra cialis levitra viagra

    December 14, 2020 at 6:58 pm | Reply
  38. Fgrsreext

    top viagra dapoxetine how much does viagra cost with insurance generic viagra with dapoxetine 160mg x 16 tabs

    December 13, 2020 at 8:07 am | Reply
  39. Sal

    Simply desire to say your article is as amazing. The clearness in your
    post is just great and i can assume you are an expert on this subject.

    Fine with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post.

    Thanks a million and please carry on the gratifying work.

    Here is my webpage ... painting and decorating london

    December 12, 2020 at 6:11 pm | Reply
  40. Fbsbreext

    generic cialis canadian cialis for sale walmart price for cialis

    December 12, 2020 at 5:32 am | Reply
  41. detectives privados moncloa

    detectives privados dos hermanas

    December 11, 2020 at 9:57 pm | Reply
  42. KhedVelm

    viagra sildenafil viagra online order india from australia buy viagra usa

    December 11, 2020 at 5:47 pm | Reply
  43. Dvncfiple

    buy cialis best price on cialis gdzie kupić cialis

    December 11, 2020 at 1:12 am | Reply
  44. detectives privados arcos de la frontera

    detectives privados tres cantos

    December 10, 2020 at 9:41 pm | Reply
  45. Fsfgreext

    online super viagra australia real viagra online buy viagra for women sydney

    December 10, 2020 at 12:07 pm | Reply
  46. Fqbfreext

    best price on cialis get cialis to work cialis los angeles

    December 10, 2020 at 10:59 am | Reply
  47. Fgnsfiple

    cialis cheaper cialis cheap buy cheap real cialis

    December 9, 2020 at 9:30 pm | Reply
1 2 3 4 5

Leave a Reply to bird


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.