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 (1,270 Responses)
  1. Fjjufiple

    sildenafil vs viagra military viagra spending black market viagra

    February 28, 2021 at 1:52 pm | Reply
  2. ClarkClurn

    r9y8p eqm5r nfh5

    February 28, 2021 at 1:04 pm | Reply
  3. Nbmofiple

    cialis 30 day free trial blood pressure on cialis cialis for sale on amazon

    February 27, 2021 at 6:38 pm | Reply
  4. KndnVelm

    is sildenafil 20 mg the same as viagra? viagra price cvs best over the counter viagra

    February 27, 2021 at 2:50 pm | Reply
  5. hydrochlorothiazide 12.5 mg

    hydroxychloroquine usmle hcq medication hydroxychloriquine

    February 20, 2021 at 9:31 pm | Reply
  6. Phenelzine

    Did you know that the MAOI Anti-depressant Nardil is effective in 90 of patients for social anxiety and depression?

    https://nardil.org/global-nardil-shortage

    February 19, 2021 at 6:17 pm | Reply
  7. Best Socialmediaservices

    Do you want get more social network traffic, likes, subscribers? Our Company provide SMM Services that means (Social Media Marketing) that is directly using social network websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to promote a website. High Quality Services / Our prices are the cheapest in the market, starting at $0.01 / 24/7 Support / API Support for panel leaders / Best prices Our Website: https://smmsupreme.com/auth/signup

    https://bit.ly/3iOPatX

    February 19, 2021 at 2:29 pm | Reply
  8. 1000000GSA Backlinks

    1500 USA Visitors Daily For 30 Days From Niche Targeted Organic Traffic From Google: https://www.seoclerk.com/Traffic/840816/1500-USA-Visitors-Daily-For-30-Days-From-Niche-Targeted-Organic-Traffic-From-Google

    https://www.seoclerk.com/Link-Building/842081/1-000-000-GSA-Live-Backlinks-High-Quality-SEO-links-Bad-Links-Removal

    February 16, 2021 at 7:11 pm | Reply
  9. malatya escort

    malatya escort bayanlarla tanışmak için bu siteyi ziyaret edebilirsiniz.

    https://www.yukle.tc

    February 16, 2021 at 3:50 pm | Reply
  10. side effects of plaquenil

    erectile shots diagram plaquenil over the counter top erectile dysfunction products

    February 16, 2021 at 10:13 am | Reply
  11. child porns

    child porns

    http://www.iskenderunescort.com

    February 16, 2021 at 7:33 am | Reply
  12. Labxreext

    how long for cialis to work chew cialis faster buy viagra cialis levitra

    February 16, 2021 at 12:03 am | Reply
  13. Jbnvclups

    money loans san antonio online payday loans direct lenders for bad credit non payday loans online

    February 15, 2021 at 12:47 pm | Reply
  14. KbbfTaism

    ordering viagra 100 mg viagra mexico pharmacy sale viagra

    February 14, 2021 at 7:49 am | Reply
  15. Jbbnreext

    cialis dentista neue cialis si puГІ prendere cialis tutti i giorni

    February 14, 2021 at 3:28 am | Reply
  16. Fbsgfiple

    free cialis medication http://llecialisjaw.com/ buy cialis online

    February 13, 2021 at 1:00 pm | Reply
  17. Fqbbreext

    one stop cash advance hours payday loans with prepaid debit card $2000 cash advance

    February 13, 2021 at 9:19 am | Reply
  18. Nbnhfiple

    cheap generic viagra online usa where to buy viagra with paypal cheapest price for sildenafil 20 mg

    February 12, 2021 at 6:30 pm | Reply
  19. https://topphimhot.net

    best i have ever seen !

    https://maps.google.co.mz/url?q=https://topphimhot.net

    February 12, 2021 at 1:17 pm | Reply
  20. DongWNoble

    You really ensure it is appear so simple as well as your presentation but I to get this matter to be actually something that I feel I would personally in no way understand.
    It type of feels too complicated and very vast to me.
    I'm using a look forward on your next publish, I am going to
    attempt to obtain the dangle from it!

    Here is my page DongWNoble

    February 12, 2021 at 3:19 am | Reply
  21. Ahbzreext

    no income money loans cash loans in albuquerque nm payday loans in greenville nc

    February 11, 2021 at 11:54 pm | Reply
  22. Abcfallogegen

    dapoxetine viagra purchase what is better viagra or cialis or levitra?? free viagras samples

    February 11, 2021 at 10:59 am | Reply
  23. how to buy zithromax online

    thromax https://zithromaxes.com/ zithromax family

    February 11, 2021 at 1:37 am | Reply
  24. chloroquine over the counter uk

    what is chloroquine used for https://chloroquineorigin.com/ chlorowuine

    February 10, 2021 at 11:49 pm | Reply
  25. chloroquine 20

    can hydroxychloroquine cause blindness https://hydroxychloroquinex.com/ hydroxychloroquine 400 mg

    February 10, 2021 at 11:33 pm | Reply
  26. buy tadalafil

    tadacip 20mg https://tadalisxs.com/ erectafil-5

    February 10, 2021 at 11:18 pm | Reply
  27. vreyrolinomit

    I dugg some of you post as I thought they were very beneficial handy

    http://www.vreyrolinomit.com/

    February 9, 2021 at 5:46 am | Reply
  28. buy zithromax canada

    zithromax uso https://zithromaxes.com/ does zithromax contain penicillin

    February 9, 2021 at 5:26 am | Reply
  29. froleprotrem

    Pretty! This was a really wonderful post. Thank you for your provided information.

    http://www.froleprotrem.com/

    February 9, 2021 at 5:08 am | Reply
  30. https://europa-road.eu/hu/nemzetkozi-fuvarozas-szekesfehervar.php

    Dead pent subject matter, Really enjoyed looking at.

    https://europa-road.eu/hu/nemzetkozi-fuvarozas-szekesfehervar.php

    February 9, 2021 at 4:49 am | Reply
  31. what does plaquenil do

    treat erectile dysfunction without drugs https://plaquenilx.com/ erectile functioning

    February 9, 2021 at 4:34 am | Reply
  32. buy chloroquine phosphate uk

    cloriquin https://chloroquineorigin.com/ chlorowuine

    February 9, 2021 at 4:25 am | Reply
  33. methotrexate

    define hydrochloric https://hydroxychloroquinex.com/ hydroxychloroquine sulfate uses

    February 9, 2021 at 3:52 am | Reply
  34. tadalafil pills

    elevex 20 mg https://tadalisxs.com/ tadarise 20 mg

    February 9, 2021 at 3:50 am | Reply
  35. https://www.yamatocosmos.com

    best i have ever seen !

    https://lcu.hlcommission.org/lcu/pages/auth/forgotPassword.aspx?Returnurl=https://www.yamatocosmos.com

    February 8, 2021 at 11:16 pm | Reply
  36. vreyrolinomit

    I always was concerned in this topic and stock still am, appreciate it for posting.

    http://www.vreyrolinomit.com/

    February 8, 2021 at 6:21 pm | Reply
  37. zippered wallet insert for filofax classic italian leather

    Magnificent beat ! I prefer to apprentice when you amend
    your website, how can i subscribe for any blog internet site?
    The account aided us a acceptable deal. I had been a bit bit acquainted of the your broadcast offered bright clear idea

    My web-site: zippered wallet insert for filofax classic italian leather

    February 8, 2021 at 9:07 am | Reply
  38. Lbsxreext

    canadian pharmacy certified canada pharmacy online overnight pharmacy 4u viagra online pharmacy viagra

    February 8, 2021 at 6:44 am | Reply
  39. vreyro linomit

    Pretty part of content. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and in accession capital to say that I acquire in fact loved account your weblog posts. Any way I will be subscribing on your feeds or even I success you get right of entry to constantly rapidly.

    http://www.vreyrolinomit.com/

    February 8, 2021 at 6:40 am | Reply
  40. Jbnbclups

    ed drugs canadian pharmacy cialis 20mg canadian pharmacies that are legit

    February 8, 2021 at 1:10 am | Reply
  41. KuikTaism

    viagra gold 800mg uk generic viagra testimonials viagra for women in india

    February 7, 2021 at 11:03 pm | Reply
  42. iskenderun escort

    iskenderun escort bayanlarla tanışmak için bu siteyi ziyaret edebilirsiniz.

    http://www.gu8.pw

    February 7, 2021 at 7:28 pm | Reply
  43. Jbbvreext

    humana online pharmacy pharmacy intern pharmacy prices

    February 7, 2021 at 9:20 am | Reply
  44. www.iskenderunescort.xyz

    iskenderun escort bayanlarla tanışmak için bu siteyi ziyaret edebilirsiniz.

    http://www.iskenderunescort.xyz

    February 7, 2021 at 12:17 am | Reply
  45. www.gu8.pw

    iskenderun escort bayanlarla tanışmak için bu siteyi ziyaret edebilirsiniz.

    http://www.gu8.pw

    February 6, 2021 at 10:37 pm | Reply
  46. xemkqxs.com

    Hello it's me, I am also visiting this web page daily, this web page is genuinely nice and the users are in fact sharing good thoughts.|

    https://xemkqxs.com

    February 6, 2021 at 3:30 am | Reply
  47. Fqhhreext

    canada meds buy online prescription drugs drugs for sale

    February 6, 2021 at 2:56 am | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6

Leave a Reply to Joe


 

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.