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Inside Politics: SEAL Team 6 members punished for leaking classified info

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Seven members of the secretive Navy SEAL Team 6, including one involved in the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, have been punished for disclosing classified information, senior Navy officials said Thursday

Four other SEALs are under investigation on similar counts, one official said. The men are accused of divulging classified information to the maker of a video game. All seven received a punitive letter of reprimand and a partial pay forfeiture for two months. Those actions generally hinder a military member's career.

The deputy commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Adm. Garry Bonelli, issued a statement acknowledging that nonjudicial punishments had been handed out for misconduct, but while he did not offer any details, he alluded to the importance of honoring nondisclosure agreements that SEALs sign.

He said the punishments this week "send a clear message throughout our force that we are and will be held to a high standard of accountability."

The punishments were first reported by CBS News.

CONGRESS

Lawmakers want more data-mining transparency

A group of lawmakers say data-mining companies that collect and sell personal information about consumers should make their operations more transparent.

Members of the Congressional Bipartisan Privacy Caucus said Thursday that responses they received from nine major data brokers provided only a glimpse of a multibillion-dollar industry "that has operated in the shadows for years." Data brokers tap a variety of sources for consumer information, including mobile phones and social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. The data then is packaged and sold to advertisers and retailers seeking to tailor their marketing campaigns to specific customers.

The privacy caucus sent letters to the data brokers in July. One of the main questions it wants answered is how data brokers rate consumers and group them into categories.

CAMPAIGN

Obama youth-vote slipped compared with '08 count

President Obama lost ground with voters in the 18-29 age group on Election Day, in spite of his campaign's aggressive targeting of young voters.

About 60 percent of "millennial" voters favored Mr. Obama this year, compared with 66 percent who voted for him in 2008. Republican Mitt Romney earned 37 percent of their votes; four years ago, Republican Sen. John McCain got 32 percent of the vote from this age group.

"That is an 11-point swing," said Paul Conway, president of Generation Opportunity, a nonprofit group which engages young adults on civic issues. "The political implications for conservatives and Republicans are very stark. By the year 2020, 38 percent of the electorate will be made up of millennial voters. And it's quite clear that young adults are not in favor of higher taxes and regulations."

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, a youth research organization at Tufts University, said Thursday that more than 22 million young Americans, or about 49 percent of that age group, voted in the presidential election. The group said if Mr. Romney had won half the youth vote, he would have won the battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and with them, the presidency.

DEMOCRACY

Iranian leader ridicules U.S. campaign spending

BALI, Indonesia — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ridiculed the expense of the U.S. election, mocking it as a "battleground for capitalists" while speaking at a democracy forum.

Mr. Ahmadinejad's own government has been criticized for human rights abuses. A day after Americans re-elected President Obama, the Iranian president told the forum in Indonesia that democracy has become a system where the minority rules over the majority.

"Just take a look at the situation in Europe and the U.S.," Mr. Ahmadinejad said as the forum opened Thursday on the resort island of Bali. An "election, which is one of the manifestations of the people's will, has become a battleground for the capitalists and an excuse for hasty spending."

Mr. Ahmadinejad also called for U.S. military bases to be dismantled worldwide and said the winner of the U.S. election made no difference to him.

"Coming or going, winning or losing is not important," he told reporters.

DEFENSE

Admiral cleared of misconduct after lengthy investigation

Defense officials say the head of U.S. European Command has been cleared of misconduct after a lengthy Pentagon investigation into travel and spending questions that derailed his chances last year of becoming the Navy's top officer.

Officials say a Pentagon inspector general's report alleges that Navy Adm. James Stavridis failed to exercise enough oversight of his staff and made record-keeping and reimbursement mistakes, including trips he took that included family members. Adm. Stavridis is also the top NATO commander.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus reviewed the report and concluded that Adm. Stavridis did not misuse his office or use his position for personal gain. Mr. Mabus attributes most of the 10 allegations to accounting errors that Adm. Stavridis corrected.

Officials discussed the investigation on condition of anonymity because it has not yet been released publicly.

LABOR

Applications for aid show healing market

The number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week by 8,000 to a seasonally adjusted 355,000, a possible sign of a healing job market. But officials cautioned that the figures were distorted by Superstorm Sandy.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the four-week average of applications, a less volatile measure, rose by 3,250 to 370,500.

The storm could affect weekly applications for up to four weeks, a Labor spokesman said.

Applications declined in one state last week because its unemployment office lost power during the storm and wasn't able to receive applications. The spokesman wouldn't identify the state. The storm also pushed up applications in other states because those temporarily out of work sought benefits.

If applications stay below 360,000 after the storm's effects fade, it would be a good sign for the job market.

Weekly applications have fluctuated between 360,000 and 390,000 since January. At the same time, employers have added an average of nearly 157,000 jobs a month. That's been only enough to lower the unemployment rate slowly. It has declined to 7.9 percent from 8.3 percent this year.

There are some signals that the job market is improving. Employers added 171,000 jobs in October, and hiring in August and September was much stronger than first estimated, the department said last week. The economy has gained an average of 173,000 jobs a month since July. That's up from 67,000 a month in April through June.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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