Head of U.S. special operations forces orders review of culture after SEALs, other scandals

"Recent incidents have called our culture and ethics into question," Gen. Richard Clarke, who is in charge of SEALs, Green Berets and other forces, wrote.
Image: U.S. Navy SEALs conduct a military field operation in Florida on July 11, 2018.
U.S. Navy SEALs conduct a military field operation in Florida on July 11, 2018.Staff Sgt. Corban Lundborg / U.S. Air Force

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By Courtney Kube

WASHINGTON — The head of U.S. Special Operations Command is initiating a comprehensive review of all Special Operations Forces culture and ethics, according to a memo he sent to commanders Friday evening.

"Recent incidents have called our culture and ethics into question and threaten the trust placed in us," Gen. Richard Clarke wrote. The review will focus on recruiting, how new SOF members are selected, how leaders are trained and grown, how the force is educated about ethics and how ethical failures are addressed.

The review comes after a string of high-profile incidents involving Special Operations Forces, which include the Navy SEALs, the Green Berets and the Delta Force, among others.

Last month, a platoon of Navy SEALs was kicked out of Iraq for drinking, amidst an allegation that one member sexually assaulted a female service member and the other platoon members helped cover it up.

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Click here to read the letter

Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher was tried for premeditated murder, attempted murder and other offenses after he was accused of killing a young ISIS fighter who had been captured and was being treated for his wounds.

Gallagher posed for photos with the dead body. At trial, one of the platoon medics from Gallagher's team testified that while Gallagher stabbed the ISIS fighter, the medic himself killed him by cutting off his breathing tube.

The medic, Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Corey Scott, had been granted immunity for his testimony, which ran counter to the other SEALs who testified, leading many covering the trial to wonder whether his surprise admission was intended to save Gallagher from jail and leading to calls Scott be prosecuted for perjury.

Gallagher was acquitted of six of the seven charges against him.

Nearly two decades of conflict have meant many Special Operations service members deploy overseas at an even higher rate than conventional service members.

In his letter, Clarke acknowledged that Special Operations Forces deploy to the "most complex environments," but warned that ethics must be upheld at home and abroad.

"The American people must trust those who protect them," Clarke wrote. "This is about making us better."