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. irene

    I am wondering why the killing of Osama Bin Laden was even publicized at all, much less with all the detail given. Those in his "inner circle' would have learned what had happened, and whatever harm it would have done to his operation would have still been done. I thought covert operations were supposed to have been kept secret for posterity. At least that's what happened in cold war days. No one went around boasting about the success of this mission or that mission. Job was done. Nuf said. Or as they said in Mission Impossible "in the event you are caught or captured the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions". Regardless of how hungry the U.S. public might have been to know he was dead, I think they should have done the job, and kept it secret at the highest levels.

    June 6, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  2. thomas mc

    Sounds like a PR stunt, to me.

    June 7, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. video4all

    I think they should put them on "Dancing with the Stars" and "Survivor" maybe guest trainers on "Biggest Loser". Whoever touches them, the USA will destroy. Wasn't that the point of getting bin laden in the first place? We should not be afraid to celebrate our heroes, living in fear is the definitive goal of "terrorism".

    June 8, 2011 at 12:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Neil

    I would love them to bag a few more of these freaks. Let's whack another high-profile terrorist. How about Zawahiri to start with? Heroes, these SEALs are!

    June 8, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  5. cazkat

    navy seals afraid your blowing smoke ...really no one is afraid of those idiot terrorists let them come to an America house and see what they will get ..we are still allowed guns in America and we will use them ...jihad my butt

    June 8, 2011 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. CmonCNN

    Well they don't have to worry because Bin Laden died 10 years ago from kidney failure.

    June 9, 2011 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Charlie

      no, he's alive and living with Elvis, in the shadows of your deficient mind

      June 10, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • pward40

      @CmonCNN Your an idiot! Why would Al-Qaeda acknowledge his death? Cmon are you that naive?

      August 9, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Charlie

    I never understood why there was so much information leaked, by "sources" about the deed, the information should have been restricted, and in fact different data used (seal team 7, Ranger team 44, Chuck Norris) so 'sources" could be identified. Our SEALS and their families have a right to safety as does every American.

    June 10, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  8. icreepin

    we all know nothing that is done in the dark stays in the dark at some point some one will reveal who the team is even if there names never hit the paper. Fact is in every industry world wide there are only a few people who can do hard jobs the "special forces" isn't any different.

    I wish them well in there future.

    June 10, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Desert1

    The only thing those guys are scared of are the well being of family members and putting stories out about where they are stationed and everything else does not help,they are the Seal Team are some of the bravest men in the world,they stay calm in the face of overwhelming odds and the bravado that proceeds them is earned,let them continue taking care of buisness and there will be no worry about terrorist attacks on them but the terrorist worrying about their well being.

    March 26, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
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