The Importance Of OPSEC
Tom’s Hardware: There seems to be a big difference between the vanilla Special Forces teams and the "black" Tier 1 units like DEVGRU and Delta regarding participation in movies and books about their home units. For example, why can a retired SEAL from Team One write books, whereas a retired DEVGRU operator cannot?
Craig Sawyer: The answer to this one is simple: OPSEC. The techniques utilized at the Tier 1 level are to be protected. Out of respect and appreciation for our brothers, we keep those details to ourselves for the safety of the unit and future mission success.
Tom’s Hardware: How do Tier 1 units treat former members who are designated persona non grata?
Craig Sawyer: Total silence from the community. No more invitations to internal unit events. If the infraction is bad enough, there will be prosecution. Those still in harm's way, as well as those to come, must be protected in that way.
Tom’s Hardware: With the recent news of DEVGRU operators publishing books and participating in video game consulting, what is your protocol to advise on movies and videos games while maintaining OPSEC? How does your community view these recent incidents?
Craig Sawyer: The protocol remains as it has always been. Don't reveal our secrets. Because we have an open society, what we tell our citizens we also tell our enemies. Our enemies don't need to know how we do what we do. When advising on various projects, there can be a world of contribution without ever approaching the specific equipment, communications, and tactics our elite warriors use to succeed.
As an adviser, even when you tell people you will not reveal secrets, some of them still ask. In those situations, you just have to hold a firm line, or disengage from the project and walk away. I've turned down many more projects than I've taken over that issue. When I started advising, I resigned myself to doing it honorably or not at all. I've been through too much and know what makes me tick by now. If I don't like it, I decline and walk away.
The way my community views these recent OPSEC violations is with disgust and disappointment. It's one thing to have a blundering politician compromise our unit, but to have operators walking the world, step by step, through our techniques in books and videos is unthinkable. The prosecutions against such violators are necessary and appropriate. Hopefully, this is the last we'll see of this kind of OPSEC violation from our own.
Tom’s Hardware: With all the highly visible missions performed by the SEALs lately, many SEAL impostors have shown up. What aspect of these impostors do real SEALs dislike the most?
Craig Sawyer: When I see SEAL posers, I'm insulted. I wonder why the clown who is trying to benefit from being a SEAL didn't just go through the training and become one of us to earn it. Being a SEAL isn't about wearing the t-shirt or flexing in a bar. If the poser doesn't have what it takes, then how dare he portray himself as someone who does? We used to rip the shirts off of military guys backs in the Philippines when we'd see them wearing SEAL attire. We'd ask them, once, to take it off. If they lied or refused, we'd just kick their asses and take the shirts. At times, team room walls have been lined with these "tear aways" gathered over the course of a deployment.
If I wanted to wear an astronaut t-shirt, or tell people that's what I did for a living, I'd go to the training and become one. That's how I see it.