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. BigJohn4USA

    The folks that leaked any information should be in Gitmo for a few dozen years.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  2. Dobro

    I KNOW, Bin Laden was just an innocent, harmless individual, minding his own business, who couldn't hurt a fly!

    May 13, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  3. Willy

    Find out who these traitors are that are leaking this information. Put them in jail and if anyone dies because of these leaks try them for man slaughter. They have forgotten the old saying "lose lips sink ships".

    May 13, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
  4. richard

    boo hooo

    May 13, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  5. Chris

    How many of the people in the twin towers were armed when Osama ordered their deaths? You're an idiot!

    May 13, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  6. Margo

    The headline sounds like deliberately misleading sensationalism. In fact, it makes the seals sound like a bunch of whiney incompetents. If there is one thing I'm pretty certain of is that the SEALS have far too much pride and discipline to whine.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  7. Laverne

    This is one of the reasons why President Obama did not want the photos released out of concern for the SEALS, their families and other military personnel. The republican politicians are more concerned about scoring points and getting re-elected than about the Americans who are sacrificing their lives everyday. Just this morning, the sicko suicide bombers killed in the name of avenging bin laden, the photos will only add fuel to the fire. Our troops deserve more from us than to be irresponsible like the republicans are suggesting. They couldn't catch bin laden and now they know what's best, I don't think so!

    May 13, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  8. Capita_America

    The murder of the person who ordered the murder of 3000 people in New York and many hundreds if not thousands in the rest of the world.
    Congratulations SEAL team, job well done.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
  9. Tom

    Go back to your homeland, dbag.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  10. American

    Funny how you can defend a man who helped kill over 3000 unarmed Americans.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  11. Henri

    "Who else you goin' to Call?"

    May 13, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  12. Enrique Pagan

    There were good times and there were bad times and then there's tryin to keep a secret in washington D.C. and ta dis i say one of these here has got to be a chicken so said "Henry Chicken Hawk.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. John

    The risk to SEALs and their families are there but they are minuscule. By the time you dilute a group to 50-100 it no longer is an emotional target. Add other seals and families and its a group of 1000's – at which point a terrorists hate is as much as it for general Americans who have been responsible for so many "crimes" (in their eyes) against muslims.

    Its kind of like when someone on a shooting squad has a blank bullet. You dont know for sure who killed OBL. Its all within the trust of the SEALs. Of course if one of them leaks a particular name or small group name then they would definitely be at high risk – but I doubt that kind of leak would occur – thats what Seals are trained to do. Missions, Keep Quiet and protect your partners.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  14. Good job U.S.

    Whatever fools let all this leak really caused some serious problems. It's the worst kept secret in the military but technically SEAL Team 6 does not exist. At least not until someone opened their big freaking mouth.

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

      There's a seal team 7 and 8 too. Shhhhhhhh.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  15. guy

    Of COURSE......EVERYONE HAS TO KNOW...now the SEALS families can be put in danger...because people just have to know....JUST STOP...OBL is dead, it's over, done with, move on and keep the SEALS families safe...what stupid people..just let it be....typical American 'WANT TO KNOW IT ALLS."

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