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. Ha Ha

    Ok, I believe you. Everything is lining up perfectly.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:29 am | Report abuse |
  2. WOjOUSMC

    Wow – HOLD ON EVERYBODY. I think everyone is missing the point.
    1. Point 1 – SEALs = Elite
    2. Point 2 – SEALs families = vulnerable
    3. Point 3 – SEALs come off mission don't bring their weapons home to defend their families
    4. Point 4 – SEALs redeploy = who protects their families?
    I never, ever comment, but having served in, both, US Navy (6 years) & USMC (15 years) people don't realize that when the "returning" service members returns to home base/home station/Good ole USA they become "Joe citizen" and now must be protected by the civil authorities. Please think about what the commentary is telling you. The US military is not mandated to "act" within the borders of the USA, that is why you have an FBI, City & State law enforcement and during special occasions the National Guard. What was done to OBL, while tragic, was brought on by OBL and those who think and believe like he; what would you have the USA do – the same as the Pakistanis (by the way, we need to cut funding given to them and bring that money home and take care of our elderly, homeless, and children, but I'll get off my horse). Miliary families are oftentimes "afterthoughts", trust me as an Army brat and as a former deployed member of the Armed Forces with a family i know about it too well. Please just think about your side of the equation before you "pounce" of providing a comment. Proudly served and continuing to support the mission and the troops by being deployed with them from within the borders of the Arabian Penisula – know your Armed Forces is working diligently so you can enjoy the freedoms they provide – encluding blogging on this site.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
    • wayne bates

      Very well put, sir!

      May 13, 2011 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Dover

      You should comment more often. You make sense.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
    • muhrvis

      I too support the military and the amazing job they did killing Bin Laden at incredibly high risk. But these soldiers are volunteers and know full well that their missions are going to be dangerous. They are VOLUNTEERS. Like firefighters, police, nurses, social workers, emergency responders, etc. who all put in a lot of effort with different kinds of hazards and risks. Yes, soldiers can be "forgotten" when they are not on duty, but they are no more forgotten than the many other professions who put in hard work, love, sweat, tears, and sometimes blood to help others and get little credit from society.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
    • stormsun

      Thanks for your service. Good post. Hope you are doing well now and enjoying life after your service to the country.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
    • CM

      It's pretty depressing that this utterly obvious safety concern on their part has to be laid out like a grade school logic exercise to people. Well said.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
    • opinions

      There IS intelligent life here!!

      May 13, 2011 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Fwdthinker

      AHhhhhh....finally a sensible response/post. Excellent posting...and a good lesson for all of us.

      May 13, 2011 at 5:25 am | Report abuse |
  3. Alex

    Bet you Wikileaks would love to get their hands on the names and addresses of the SEALS families.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:33 am | Report abuse |
    • EWGuy

      yeah, but then Julian Assange will have a new mixed drink named after him.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
    • duhh

      I hope they do...

      May 13, 2011 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      They won't do it. It would be the end of WikiLeaks.

      May 13, 2011 at 3:42 am | Report abuse |
  4. CharlieD

    Seals are not supposed to know fear. They should have used single men in the operation so no families would be targeted. They chose all married guys because somehow marriage is viewed as normal and single as abnormal.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Sir Mixalot

      CharlieD,
      SEALs know fear, my friend. What sets them apart from most men is their ability to face that fear head on. And you cannot expect a man to stay single. Duty to your country is a powerful calling, but the love of a woman far exceeds that power.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
    • CharlieD

      Well I hope you have known a women before marriage. This would be a long wait for many.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
  5. Larry

    very proud to be neighbours to the country that took out Bin Laden. God bless all troops of freedom. Canada cares!

    May 13, 2011 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
    • stormsun

      Thanks, eh? Canadians have always done their part too.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  6. HAL9000

    Whatever happened to the term "classified" in the US military? If you keep your mouth shut, no one will ever know. If you go on a TOP SECRET mission, you are not privy to talk about it afterwards. So how is it they now live in fear? Just doesn't make any sense.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
    • stormsun

      My opinion is that the government should not have revealed what branch of the military performed the operation, let alone the designation of the SEAL team. Politicians have always had a problem with talking too much where security issues were concerned.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Jay Jay

      As I said before, I feel the only reason these details were given was because we couldn't hide what happened after we left the wrecked helicopter behind. My personal opinion is that these names should never be recorded anywhere, but a system of code names used. THANK YOU SEALs FOR ALL YOU DO TO KEEP OUR COUNTRY SAFE!

      May 13, 2011 at 6:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. BonziRed

    GOD BLESS AMERICA!

    May 13, 2011 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
  8. Cesar

    Hey JJ, you are a low down, yellow filthy cow sucking magot, PUNK!!!

    May 13, 2011 at 1:37 am | Report abuse |
  9. OG Sailor

    It was quite stupid of Obama to disclose a top secret unit. Really stupid.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      No one's disclosed Team Six. Just like no one's "disclosed" Delta Force. People in the know who aren't the president open their mouth and talk to the media for a couple hundred bucks. It's that simple. And it happens in every administration. Are you sure Obama's the stupid one, or is it you?

      May 13, 2011 at 3:45 am | Report abuse |
  10. finnman

    Why would the SEALs be in fear... their names were never given. Seems like misinformation to me.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:40 am | Report abuse |
    • stormsun

      What universe do you live in? Abundant information has already been made public, along with what is readily available. So, think back...do you recall the little furor caused by a Swedish cartoonist who depicted the Prophet in an unflattering drawing? Numerous attempts have been made on his life, some fairly recently, several YEARS after his so-called "offense." Concern for the well-being of these men and their families is very realistic.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
  11. guessing

    I don't know any taliban, even don't know any muslim, just one girl half-muslim origin but not practicing religion but I am sure they are targeting heads (of operation) and not hands.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
  12. Valerie

    Anyone who opens their mouth about these SEALs, should be thrown in a very small room for the rest of their natural life.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
  13. Ronnie Harper

    From the pictures of the helicopter to the celebrations in front of the White House to the scant details leaked by government officials, there was too much info about this leaked to the public. Luckily, it's stopped now and they can start damage control. Public viewings of executions like Hussein’s are abhorrent, reprehensible, categorically indefensible from an ethical standpoint, and appalling in their lack of compassion and foresight. Americans look like baboons celebrating the death of a man or glorifying the militancy behind this act. Be sublime and take the high road, good grief.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
  14. Martin luthor

    But wait, I thought the article on the day of the killing said these are the baddest men on earth? A moment of glory and now its being said they are in fear for their lives and their families. I highly doubt these type of men are afraid of anything. it isnt like some fool is going to post their name and addresses. This is just another bla bla bla session meant to rile a few people. Im sure though if someone were brave enough to try and do something to one of these people than they will find out what its like on the receiving end of a good butt kicking.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      These men are just that, men. They're probably more scared than you could imagine, if not for themselves, then their families. They definitely know fear–they just have the balls to stare it in the face.

      May 13, 2011 at 3:49 am | Report abuse |
  15. pat

    We all too much access to crap information and we no way to verify the truth of any of your military records. So how do we know who to believe? What an embrassesment and disservice to our country. You should be ashamed, all of you.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
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