"I'm not allowed to discuss my military service." Always a bullshit line?

I recently had someone I know claim that he is not allowed to discuss his supposed service in the military because it was supposedly a “special job.” He said he was involved in Operation Just Cause.

I really like this guy and want him to be telling the truth. But I suspect he isn’t. I have never in my life met anyone who said something like this and I have known many veterans.

I know about all the different questions you can ask people to verify if they’re telling the truth, or catch them out as liars. I’m well aware of the whole phony special-forces hero phenomenon.

What I want to know is, is it always the case that someone claiming he can’t talk about his military service that happened decades ago, is lying? Or are there ever legitimate reasons that someone might not be able to discuss it?


Certainly people have done things during their service that might remain classified, but nobody who has would say they can’t talk about their service at all. They would just say which branch they were in, where they served, and maybe relate a few unclassified activities. Even the most covert of covert operatives spends most of his time on routine stuff.

I’m not sure I understand. Are you actually arguing that there’s no such thing as a classified project, or even classified positions in the military? There are probably tens of thousands of people who can’t talk about part or all of the projects they worked on without violating one military secrets act or another.

Or am I misunderstanding the question?

In addition only a handful of ops probably are even worth concealing 10 years after the fact. Alot of the stuff seal teams and the like do are laying groundwork for other operations, once those operations have passed, the fact that a seal team snuck in and set charges that crippled communications and power before a larger more heavily armed force advanced on an enemy position is pretty much irrelevant.

I can’t imagine a scenario where someone would say “yes I was in the military but no I can’t talk about it.” That’s stupid, unless the guy simply hates talking about his wretched time in the service. I’ve been tempted to say “it’s classified” a couple times because someone was annoying me.

Agreed. There are certain parts of my military service I can’t talk about, but that’s just a small fraction of the time I was in. The overwhelming majority of the stuff I experienced is fair game for discussion…or possibly fodder for an incredibly boring novel/movie.

He said that when he applied for a job, he checked “no” on the application to the question of if he ever served in the military. He also claimed he was told “right up front” that “no medals would be issued” for anything that he did during the service.

I feel like there is something about my personality that makes people think they can trick me. (They can’t.) But the fact that I give off the vibe bothers me.

There could definitely be specific missions or operations that a former military service member could not discuss the details of. But someone who states that they are not permitted talk about any of their military service is pretty much guaranteed to be full of shit.

I would take this to mean that he never actually served in the military. :wink:

Yeah, they don’t usually award medals to people who never served in the military. :wink:

You don’t get medals for playing Call of Duty: Black Ops.

For what it’s worth, that sends my Bullshit Detector pinging off the scale.

A genuinely modest person, or someone who had real secrets to keep, would simply say “I was in the military, but didn’t do anything much.”

Someone who wants to give the impression that they’re a superhero, however…

It seems to me that if someone really, truly could not talk about his service, he’d just say something like: “Oh, I was just a supply clerk at Fort Dix the whole time.”

If I was a member of a secret special op I would never tell someone I was a member of a secret special op and couldn’t talk about it.

First and second rule of Fight Club and all.

Shit…I’ve been wasting my time then.

It’s the face. Practice a quizzical smerk and then stare.

Yeah, that buries the needle. Assuming for the moment that his military service was so classified that he couldn’t acknowledge it on a job application; he shouldn’t be making reference of his service to you, should he?

Excellent point. :wink:

That doesn’t matter.

By law, an individual soldier, current or former, is not considered to be a declassification authority. Of course, that rule is broken fairly often long after the fact, but the DoD could prosecute if they chose to assuming they could track it back to you.

Speaking to the OP: yes, it’s typically nonsense when someone says something like that. They are allowed to mention their participation, if not what they did, and they are allowed to discuss their rank, branch, etc. None of those things are secret. And EVERYBODY discharged from the military, now matter how classified their duties were, gets a DD214 (some of us get many due to the nature of the Air National Guard and federalization) to substantiate their service. Medals don’t matter. If you come across this guy again, ask him why he didn’t get a DD214 and watch his face carefully while listening to his response. If he looks even remotely shady about it he’s making it up.

So assuming there is 99.99 percent chance he’s playing you what do you do? Do you call him out? Ignore him? What? Con artists and complusive liars will often hold onto their stories even if you are waving proof of their BS directly in their face.

There is usually no “Shucks you got me!” with these guys. They will fluff up like an angry cat when challenged and you will be an enemy for life.

No matter where he served in whose army, he should be able to talk about the basics. Where did he sign up, where did he do basic training, what army unit was he in?

IANAA (I am not an American) but first, nobody has to deny they are a vet; second, everyone does basic training; third, what stupid movie was it, Eddie Murphy, where the guy says “if you were in Nam, what army unit and where were you stationed?” if the guy is full of it, he probably won’t know basic details like where the first cavalry or eleventh army does basic training and what area of the war they served in; fourth, my Bs detector also goes off the scale. Unless you are one of the dirty dozen, you probably do a year or five of regular army - that everyone can talk about - before being inducted into the seals or SAS or whatever. Nobody gets selected for special ops at the recruiting centre.

Finally, how big is the hole in his resumee? If you are in special ops, i would think you should have at least a 5year hole in your life. Lastly, I doubt the special ops types are braggart “I’m top secret!” bozos. Special ops have to be smart, cool, and capable of planning and keeping their mouth shut.

There are certainly duties and operations which could, for one reason or another, require that the personnel involved not disclose the specifics of their work, possibly even decades later. I have worked with people who had previously worked on BMEWS, and because the specifics of some of the technology are still technically classified (despite being almost completely obsolete) they could not speak about the specifics of their work. Direct action operations–those involving timely or tactical work against a specific opponent–are generally less sensitive after a few years, but specifics of the operational methodology or tools may still warrant restricted access.

However, anybody essentially telling you, “I have a secret, but I can’t tell you what it is,” is just being at best boastful about a triviality, and more than likely is lying to you. And even elite operators have publicly accessible records of their service. Even US Army Special Forces operators, Navy SEALs, et cetera, all have to fit into the military bureaucracy, which includes records of service and promotion that are accessible by the general public. The actual duties may be hidden behind a false assignment or detachment, and medals and citations may be themselves classified, but no one who has ever been in the military has been told to answer “no” to a legal query about their status as current or former military in any normal (non-operational) context, and in fact failure to do so is in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for an active or reserve duty soldier or officer. Anyone who was a true operator in a restricted group performing classified work is going to just give you an innocuous story, e.g. “I was a supply clerk in the 303rd Logistical Studies Group” and leave it at that.

BTW, even former operators with a legitimate background who go public about their identities and operations–like former SAS troop “Andy McNab” and 1SOFD-D operator Eric Haney–are regarded pretty dimly by former associates, especially when they capitalize on their former career by embellishing accomplishments for print or Hollywood. Some yokel who claims to be an ex-SEAL or former Force Recon, and is now working fast food or a clerical job? That’s smearing it on thick. Most retired operators go into private security or consulting, for which there are no lack of jobs.