Navy SEALs Punished For Advising on Medal of Honor: Warfighter
At last year’s GDC, I witnessed the vaguely embarrassing spectacle of former Special Ops soldiers being trotted out onstage at a nightclub to promote EA’s Medal of Honor: Warfighter, still seven months away at the time. Warfighter was to be the most “authentic” military shooter yet and the presence of real, live Warfighters in the room was no doubt proferred as proof of that authenticity.
As it turns out, maybe the game is a little too authentic. This evening, Buzzfeed linked to a report by CBS News; according to CBS sources, the Navy has disciplined seven SEALs for disclosing classified information to EA and L.A.-based studio Danger Close Games while being paid to consult on Medal of Honor: Warfighter.
As CBS points out, SEALs in general and particularly SEAL Team Six have been squarely in the public eye since their raid against the Bin Laden compound, and will feature in two forthcoming films based on their past missions. Nevertheless, the servicemen involved in this disciplinary action face two months on half pay and have received letters of reprimand, which severely decrease their chances of promotion.
It’s hard not to sympathize with the SEALs, whose careers are now threatened as the result of what one assumes were honest mistakes. The situation also raises complicated questions about the cozy relationship between Danger Close and members of the active-duty military. If Special Forces soldiers continue to provide expert knowledge and promotional heft to future projects, Danger Close and the U.S. Military (which also benefits from the jingoistic PR and possible recruiting value provided by a game like Warfighter) should develop a set of clear ethical and professional standards that protects the servicemen involved. This is especially important when it comes to the possible financial incentives for providing access and information, which are surely considerable. Authenticity is important, but not at any cost.
We have contacted Electronic Arts for comment on this developing story.
UPDATE #1: According to an Associated Press story published by the New York Times, SEALs are required to sign non-disclosure agreements as a condition of their service. An unnamed “senior military official” contacted by the A.P. was able to offer specifics about the nature of the SEALs’ offense: “The two main complaints against the SEALs were that they did not seek the permission of their command to take part in the video project and that they showed the video designers some of their specially designed combat equipment unique to their unit.”
UPDATE #2: Gaming website Polygon procured comments on this story from Electronic Arts and the U.S. Department of Defense, which are reproduced below.
“We do not know if the veterans who consulted on the game were in contact with the Department of Defense.”
U.S. Department of Defense Statement:
A non-judicial punishment hearing was conducted yesterday, Nov. 7 and seven Naval Special Warfare (NSW) personnel faced administrative proceedings. An additional NSW investigation is ongoing to determine if more personnel may be involved.
They are being charged with violation of Article 92: Orders violation, misuse of command gear and violation of Article 92: Dereliction of duty, disclosure of classified material.
Two Senior Chief Special Operators and five Chief Special Operators received the punishment. They received a punitive letter of reprimand and forfeiture of ½ month’s pay for two months.
UPDATE #3: EA responded to our request for comment on this issue. Their statement is below.
There are no plans to recall Medal of Honor Warfighter from store shelves and we have no plans to alter the content contributed by combat veterans in the game. We have no further comments.