Feeds

Plague of US preachers falsely claim to be Navy SEALs

'They don't understand the internet' says fake-frogman outer

The Power of One Brief: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Yet another curious effect of the modern internet media world became apparent this week: the syndrome – particularly common among American clergymen – of falsely claiming to be a former US Navy SEAL has risen to prominence, as the risk of being exposed as such a liar has risen severely.

The chest badge worn by qualified US Navy SEALs, aka 'Budweiser badge', Trident badge etc. Credit: US Navy

The badge of the now even-more-famous frogman commandos. Preacher Moats apparently bought one in a militaria shop, and wore it on various occasions.

We refer specifically to the case of Pennsylvania preacher Jim Moats, recently humiliated after embellishing his 1970s naval service with a fictional stint in the already famous SEALs - who have now catapulted to global celebrity status following the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The phenomenon of falsely claiming to be a SEAL (or other special or elite-force member) is a common one, of course. Apparently the SEALs are unusual in this as in other ways: it seems that American clergymen are particularly prone to claiming that they have won the right to wear the famous "Budweiser badge" of the US Navy's elite when in fact they haven't.

"We deal with these guys all the time, especially the clergy. It's amazing how many of the clergy are involved in those lies to build that flock up," said retired SEAL Don Shipley, who is apparently genuine. Shipley spends a fair bit of time outing fake SEALs, which is apparently reasonably easy as there aren't that many real ones: no more than 10,000, seemingly, even given the amount of turnover that the SEAL teams have undergone since their founding.

“I bring a shame and a reproach upon the name of Christ, I bring a shame and a reproach upon my church, and I bring a shame and a reproach upon my family,” Moats said, confessing his sins.

Other common professions who tend to falsely and publicly claim they were once SEALs are politicians and sheriffs, according to Shipley. Sheriffs are typically elected in the USA, and so need popular support. These and clergymen are the kind of people he tends to out, rather than the more common type of commando-impersonator who is simply trying to impress a girl in a bar.

“The pastor never thought anyone outside of his small community would see [his false claims],” Shipley said. “He doesn’t understand how the Internet works.”

In America is actually a crime to misrepresent or exaggerate one's military service record. The Stolen Valor Act was signed into force by the former president, George W Bush, well known for previously being photographed on the deck of a US Navy aircraft carrier clad in full naval aviator's equipment (though in fact he had served only as a comparatively lowly National Guard pilot in Texas at the time of Vietnam, never as an elite carrier aviator in combat like his father.) The Stolen Valor Act has subsequently been ruled unconstitutional by US judges.

A class enjoying the early stages of Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL (BUD/S) training.

It's a lot more expensive getting one given you by the government.

Seven Steps to Software Security

Next page: Bootnotes

More from The Register

next story
NSA man: 'Tell me about your Turkish connections'
Spooks ask Dabbsy to suggest a nice hotel with pool
Carlos: Slim your working week to just three days of toil
'Midas World' vision suggests you retire later, watch more tellie and buy more stuff
Motorist 'thought car had caught fire' as Adele track came on stereo
'FIRE' caption on dashboard prompts dunderheaded hard shoulder halt
Yahoo! Japan! launches! service! for! the! dead!
If you're reading this email, I am no longer alive
Plucky Rockall podule man back on (proper) dry land
Bold, barmy Brit adventurer Nick Hancock escapes North Atlantic islet
Russia sends SEX-CRAZED GECKOS to SPAAAAACE!
In space... no one can hear you're green...
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.