General orders ethics review of US special operations forces

LOLITA C. BALDOR

WASHINGTON (AP) — The head of U.S. Special Operations Command has ordered an ethics review of his commando forces, in the wake of a number of recent incidents of bad behavior and criminal allegations against troops.

Army Gen. Richard Clarke said that "recent incidents have called our culture and ethics into question and threaten the trust placed in us." And, he said the review will focus on how the command recruits special operators, how it educates and trains the force and how it addresses ethical failures when they occur.

Ken McGraw, a spokesman for Special Operations Command, said Monday that Clarke ordered the review last Friday and expects it will be complete by the end of November.

The announcement comes in the wake of several high-profile cases of alleged misconduct by Navy SEALs. Late last month, a SEAL platoon in Iraq was ordered home amid charges of drinking and an alleged sexual assault.

Also last month, a military jury acquitted a Navy SEAL of murder charges involving the death of a wounded prisoner in Iraq in 2017. He was found guilty of posing for a picture with the corpse.

The review "is about making us better" and will provide the opportunity to "strengthen our values and reinforce trust," Clarke said in a letter to the force.

McGraw said two teams are being created. There will be an advisory panel made up mainly of former senior U.S. military leaders, some who worked within Special Operations Command and some who didn't. And there will be a review panel made up of individuals from the various military service components of the command.

He said the members of the review panel will go out and gather information from the special operations units across the force. Those would include Army Rangers, Green Berets, Army Delta units, Navy SEAL teams and special warfare units, and Marine and Air Force special operators.

As an example, he said that team members from Army Special Operations Command might gather information from the Navy SEALs, while someone from the Navy might go to the Air Force units, thus providing a more independent view.

The review panel, he said, would then provide reports back to the advisory panel, which would then submit a report and recommendations for any changes. He said the review will begin this month, but team members may not get out to the units until September.

This will be the second ethics review this year. Gen. Tony Thomas, who headed Special Operations Command until he retired in March, ordered an internal review that was completed just before he left.

McGraw said the advisory panel will take the results of Thomas' internal review into consideration, but Clarke wanted a group of independent outsiders to do a top-to-bottom study.