Gates: SEALs who killed bin Laden concerned for their safety
May 12th, 2011
09:59 PM ET

Gates: SEALs who killed bin Laden concerned for their safety

The Department of Defense is looking into ways to "pump up the security" for the team of Navy SEALs who helped kill Osama bin Laden after the commandos expressed concern for their safety and the safety of their families, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday.

Gates made the comment in response to a question at a town hall meeting at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. A Marine asked what measures were being taken to protect "the identities and the lives" of the SEALs involved in the takedown of bin Laden in Pakistan a week ago, as well as other troops deployed in the region, from the threat of retaliation.

"We are very concerned about the security of our families of your families and our troops, and also these elite units that are engaged in things like that. And without getting into any details ... I would tell you that when I met with the team last Thursday, they expressed a concern about that, and particularly with respect to their families," Gates told the audience.

"Frankly, a week ago Sunday, in the Situation Room, we all agreed that we would not release any operational details from the effort to take out bin Laden. That all fell apart on Monday, the next day."

Gates' comments offered the first insight into the mindset of the team members since they carried out the risky operation.

SEALs, short for Sea, Air and Land teams, are known as "quiet professionals." They keep a low profile because of the classified nature of their tactical operations.

The team, known as SEAL Team 6, is widely believed to have returned to American soil. But the unit is covered with such a degree of secrecy that the military won't confirm its presence.

The Marine's question underscored sentiment among military and intelligence communities that identification of the team signified an unprecedented breach of confidentiality.

Gates acknowledged the threat of retaliation against Team 6 and troops deployed in the region.

"There is an awareness that the threat of retaliation is increased because of the attacks because of the action against bin Laden," he said. "The one thing I would tell you, though, is that I think there has been a consistent and effective effort to protect the identities of those who participated in the raid, and I think that has to continue."

A Pentagon spokesman later cautioned against interpreting Gates' response "as a criticism of any particular person or office."

"He was indeed voicing his concern about the breakdown in operational security after the killing of Bin Laden," Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Geoff Morrell said. "Anonymous sources revealing secret information about the tactics, training, and equipment of covert forces put at risk our ability to successfully mount similar missions in the future."

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Filed under: Military • U.S. Navy
soundoff (924 Responses)
  1. Sarah

    Waaaaaah waaaaaaaaaah, I'm a scared little biotch.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • TSgt Bourland

      Yes you are Sarah, you should thank these guys everyday!

      May 13, 2011 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  2. Kim

    The media puts those of us that serve in the military more at risk every day! Go home and let us do our job and quit giving names, locations etc. out. The "bad guys" know all they have to do is read a news paper or watch TV to get the information they are looking for! Once again thanks for putting those that give you the right to freedom of speech in danger.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:39 am | Report abuse | Reply
  3. long ago

    Here's the deal: Have you ever noticed how the "facts" seem to change? Some but not all of the leaks are planned
    such that the source of the leak can be determined. So, I tell Bob that Jim did it and I tell Sara that Suzy did it, both of
    which are untrue. Now when the news breaks that Jim is the man who did it I can go after Bob (because he is the only
    one who "knows" that Jim is the answer). I'm sure that this sounds like BS to you, but please ask yourself the question:
    How did this stuff stay "super ultra top secret" since 2003? That's EIGHT freakin' years. I would like to know how many people lost their clearances or had them down-graded over that span of time just in this particular case.
    You may hate their politics, but whatever side of the fence you may reside, you have said in the past "Damn they're full
    of crap, just doesn't make sense." \8-)

    May 13, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jack in Brentwood TN

    My grandfather years ago told me a good lesson to learn is: " Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut".
    Washington should learn this lesson.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse | Reply
  5. MFSB391

    My question is this... why did DS Gates feel the need to make the concerns public? Why did the fella who talked about "Team Six" have to do that? Guess what people...If it's said or printed in the Americn media, it's read and heard about throughout the world.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • 13Directors

      He was asked, and it's quite obvious that they'd be concerned for their safety anyway.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  6. ripvw

    RW – Seal Team 6 does exist, as does 1,2,3,4 and 5. I have actually met each team from my time in the Navy.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sgtmackenzie

      There is no Seal Team 1,2,3,4,5..... Seal Team 6 was the name given to originally throw off Russian intelligence as to the number of Seal units in existence.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Bamafan

      SEAL Team 6 does not officially exist anymore. It was officially disbanded in 1987 and replaced with a new unit called Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DevGru). Unofficially DevGru is known as SEAL Team 6. It is also rumored that DevGru's name has been changed but it is classified.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Bamafan

      SEAL Teams 1 & 2 were the original two SEAL Teams. ST-1 was based on the west coast and ST-2 on the east coast. The UDT Teams were rolled into the SEAL Teams, creating Teams 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 10 during the 80's. At the time the original Team 6 was created, only 1 & 2 were in existence.

      May 13, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
    • spiffy53

      sgtmckenzie,

      looks like you need to do some research before posting. maybe you do not know as much as you think you do.

      May 13, 2011 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Lol

      LOL at U

      May 13, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  7. eyeugize

    Our Commander in Chief, his majesty himself has created this media and ugly retaliation firestorm. What do you expect when the whole world watches Obama and his cabinet watching the raid live from the situation room. Who needs Wiki leaks
    when we can get the best and latest leaks right from the oval office. Barack Obama is the ultimate two faced politician.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • spiffy53

      i hear you, next he will fly onto an aircraft carrier in prime time under a banner of Mission Accomplished or tell the enemy to "bring it on". oh wait, that was someone else...

      May 13, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Sgtmackenzie

      Hey Spiffy – that was intelligent. What does "mission accomplished" have to do with leaks directly from the White House, or Obama being a two faced politician? Liberals do nothing but live in the past, unwilling to admit their poster child isn't perfect.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • spiffy53

      sgtmckenzie,

      never said he as perfect. if you read eyeugize, he brought up media firestorm and the world watching the president in the situation room. who says i am a liberal. the only thing you got right was that i was intelligent. thank you. and if you read the article, it does not clarify where the leaks came from.

      May 13, 2011 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  8. Me

    The reason Obama may have spent more in his time in office, may be due to the fact, he's been trying to clean up Bush's mess ever since he got in office. More people died in a single day on Bush's watch than any other President in the history of America...what about that??? Then he started a war that someone else has to finish, and truthfully it may never be over until the end of time.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brian

      blah blah blah blah blah yawn!

      May 13, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • kjc

      Im afraid you dont have your facts straight, as is usual for liberals. If you had paid any attention in History class, more people died in one day during the civil war under Pres. Lincoln, than in any other war in our history.....stupid fool....If you are going to pass judgement on someone, at least know what you are talking about....as for our brave men who put their lives on the line to kill that coward, the media is to blame for speaking too much about the SEALS...If anything happens to them or their families, they will have their blood on their hands all for great ratings.....I hate the press.....

      May 13, 2011 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • kjc

      Im afraid you dont have your facts straight, as is usual for liberals. If you had paid any attention in History class, more people died in one day during the civil war under Pres. Lincoln, than in any other war in our history.....stupid fool....If you are going to pass judgement on someone, at least know what you are talking about....as for our brave men who put their lives on the line to kill that coward, the media is to blame for speaking too much about the SEALS...If anything happens to them or their families, they will have their blood on their hands all for great ratings..........

      May 13, 2011 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
    • HieTide

      (Citing post by Me) The most people killed in one day under a president's watch was during Bush's term? Please clarify how far off the estimates were for the Battle of Antietam (the highly regarded Lincoln). And because the post is not explicitly constrained to Americans with our borders (just 'people'), what about the Somme Offensive. And D-Day. And Hiroshima/Nagasaki. And many days within the concentration camps, Soviet Russia, and Communist China.

      May 13, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
    • oneshot36

      Your history is very incorrect and you will need to extensively study the US Civil War, WWI, WWII, Korean, and Vietnam Wars as there were higher casualties.

      May 13, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Sgtmackenzie

      I guarantee you the most people to die under a presidents watch may yet be to come, and I guarantee if that day comes, it will be under the watch of a liberal president that tries to expand his powers and the powers of the government way too far. Not everyone will sit by and watch it happen.

      May 13, 2011 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
    • spiffy53

      sgtmckenzie,

      thanks for the prediction Nostradumbas$

      May 13, 2011 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  9. Apeman

    6000 dead soldiers, lets hike the hysteria and worry about a couple of dozen. A nation of clowns.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Edward

    McDonald's is hiring if you can't take the pressure of this job. And if you are worried about safety, let us start with not bragging about your exploits. While these particular guys may be hush-hush, I have run into MANY braggart soldiers over the last few years that are very liberal with the details while discussing "clashes" with enemy combatants.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:45 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeremy

      You do realize that their are expose groups revealing fraudlent claims of SEAL participation...I read they have caught nearly 30,000 people making such claims over the years!....If they are bragging it usually means they are lieing.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  11. Mike, Cleveland OH

    Oh, don't be such a hippocrite CNN .. you wouldn't be able to cut into regular programming fast enough to announce a "breaking report" about pulling a gonzo stunt and showing up at a SEAL team member's house to knock and ask how the whole thing went if you could find the addresses.

    Likewise .. even if there was "grave risk" to Americans by publishing the photo, and you managed to steal a copy .. you wouldn't blink an eye before airing it .. because eyeballs and pageclicks = MONEY! .. to hell with anyone's safety when there is MONEY to be made.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Connie

    It's funny how so many things just leak out of this administration!! Its like the babble kingdom of the world!

    May 13, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. HowStupidCanWeBe?

    there are limits on the publics need to know. we need to stop covering politics,
    international affairs and warfare like entertainment and sports news.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Frost

    Watch out ladies...a lot of dudes will be "fronting" as SEALS to get laid this weekend.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Jeremy

    Yeah sure..bin laden was " unarmed" like santa claus lives in the north pole.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse | Reply
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