Former Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette has had a busy year. Writing the memoir No Easy Day under the name Mark Owen, detailing his participation in the operation to assassinate Osama Bin Laden, was busy work. So too was dodging accusations from the Department of Defense, who claimed that by publishing the book without first getting the department’s approval, Bissonette breached non-disclosure agreements he signed with the military. Somewhere in there, Bisonette also had time to help Electronic Arts and developer Danger Close develop Medal of Honor: Warfighter. It would appear that the Department of Defence has one more bone to pick with Bisonette before the year is out.
Stars and Stripes reported on Wednesday that according to sources familiar with his involvement on the game, Bisonette was one of several current and former special ops members brought in by EA to help give Warfighter added authenticity. Military consultants require authorization from the DoD to work on projects like these, so that classified information including tactics, troop communications, and intelligence gathering techniques aren’t leaked to the public. DoD spokesman, Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, told Stars and Stripes that Bisonette made no request for authorization before working on Warfighter, and Col. Tim Nye of US Special Operations Command confirmed the same.
EA said that it didn’t check to see if Bisonette had received authorization because none of its consultants have required it in the past. “The Department of Defence has never asked to vet the games or the contribution of veterans and active service members,” said EA’s Jeff Brown. When asked whether EA had hired Bisonette to work on the game under either his own name or his pen name Mark Owen, Brown responded, “EA did not directly remunerate Mark Owen for his input on Medal of Honor: Warfighter.”
It’s standard procedure for shooter developers to hire former and current members of the military, as well as weapons manufacturers, as consultants. For example, convicted criminal turned pundit Oliver North, an architect of the Iran-Contra affair, was hired as a consultant for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. His participation was touted in early marketing for the game as a testament to the plausibility of its fictional war scenario.
Why take umbrage with Bisonette’s consultation on Warfighter when the DoD has happily let other games out into the market without finding out if the appropriate authorization has been acquired with the publisher? Could this limit the involvement of military consultants in future game?
So far no legal action has been taken against Bisonette.