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. jonnathen

    long story short, way to go seals, thank you for all your hard work and dedication...but it takes a idiot to think that the president cant keep everybodies mouth shut, or even think he was grandstanding when he went to ground zero to honor OUR FALLEN victims of OBL's sickening attack...give that president props for the job he done making the tough decision, and wake the hell up and know that all the ignorant comments made about him and the SEALs warrants a foot up the ass for the idiots saying these things...OBL is dead, now the world is a little bit safer...we all should just be grateful of that...

    May 13, 2011 at 3:14 am | Report abuse |
  2. Cassarit

    Of course they live in fear. They know that the same sick culture that promoted their actions will eventually find out their names and tell the world. And 5 or 10 years from now some disciple of bin Laden will find them and kill them. They should have thought of that before going on that mission. As they say, what goes around comes around.

    May 13, 2011 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Ex_NavSpecWarCen_Member

      Hey Cassarit, you should be careful THEY don't find out your name. It's easy to hide behind your computer and judge the warriors. They train hard and long to protect your right to say what ever you want. They do what their told because they sweat and bleed and honor those who lost there lives at the hand of tyranny. They stive to do the right thing for the weak and defenseless as did those that came before them. Yes, you can say what you want and feel the way you do, but when they come through the door, I sure am glad they're on my side.

      May 13, 2011 at 3:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Try living in Russia or Uzbekistan for a while, and see how "sick" our culture is then. We aren't perfect, but you sound like a spoiled little brat. Live on 25 cents a day like most Africans and see if you still think America is such a horrible place to be.

      May 13, 2011 at 4:22 am | Report abuse |
  3. a slozomby

    dont tell congress who was involved and it wont get leaked to the press

    May 13, 2011 at 3:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Felicitations

      This is what happens when you have the wrong people in power. Whoever thought it was a good idea to vote someone into the presidency whose only experience was in community organizing.

      May 13, 2011 at 3:40 am | Report abuse |
    • The Gunny

      The public should have never known who went in did what they had to to. U.S. Military forces should have good enough.

      May 13, 2011 at 3:43 am | Report abuse |
  4. Cassarit

    And another thing. Remember, they assassinated bin Laden. At some point they could get bumped off by the US government and have it look like it was al-qaeda.

    May 13, 2011 at 3:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Pineapple

      They Killed bin Laden, not assassinated.

      May 13, 2011 at 3:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      They assassinated him because he was a threat. And he'd be more of a threat if we tried to arrest him and put him on trial. He isn't just some average Joe we can lock in a cell and stick in front of a jury, and I'm a huge civil rights activist. Either you're a Wahhabist or you're incredibly naive–either way you're completely clueless.

      May 13, 2011 at 4:27 am | Report abuse |
  5. SAmpson

    Chuck Norries is Team Six

    May 13, 2011 at 3:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Funk Master Obonzo

      More like tean 5-2

      May 13, 2011 at 3:30 am | Report abuse |
  6. erica

    U people and all of ur ignorance makes me sick and sometimes i wish some of our brave soldiers would STOP volunteering so u could get drafted in thei place. just bc our military signs up for their career doesnt mean that theyve condemned theirselves and thei familes to an early grave. its called OPSEC! look it up and read it carefully! secondly, who cares if OBL was unarmed??? did he care when he killed the 3000 on 9/11? im glad hes dead and proud of our troops for getting the job done. as an american...instead of showing ur ignorance and calling it freedom of speech, i suggest u try a little something called "thank u" ohh and btw, as far as them being scared....hello dim wit! its called kamikaze pilots or suicide bombers! they wont come here and slap our military personnel...theyll try to kill everyone in the area....hence...9/11...maybe if something traumatic like that hits close to ur own home ull understand how retarded ur opinions have been

    May 13, 2011 at 3:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Thank you. It makes me sick when I hear people clamoring about "supporting the troops," when they don't mean it. This is not like signing up to become a cop or a firefighter, even though those guys deserve a lot of credit, too. You sacrifice everything when you join the military. The least these people could do is show a little understanding to people who have earned it.

      May 13, 2011 at 4:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. Cassarit

    It must really suck to touch down and step on American soil only to discover it's dog crap. Me, I step on paved surfaces all the time except when trail riding on my mtb.

    May 13, 2011 at 3:24 am | Report abuse |
  8. MrSix

    Oh for petes sake, when has fear ever been in the vocabulary of the United States Navy SEALS? Jesssss, I've got their backs as well as 98.9 percent of America, what in the heck is the problem???

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

      98.9% huh? Funny, something like 15-20% of Iraq War veterans are homeless or unemployed. "Having their backs" doesn't mean crap unless you do something to "back" it up–for instance, like getting off your butt and writing to your Congressman about military issues. IAll this patriotic, rah-rah BS about the military is just talk.

      May 13, 2011 at 4:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      98.9% huh? Funny, something like 15-20% of Iraq War veterans are homeless or unemployed. "Having their backs" doesn't mean crap unless you do something to "back" it up–for instance, like getting off your butt and writing to your Congressman about military issues. All this patriotic, rah-rah BS about the military is just talk.

      May 13, 2011 at 4:35 am | Report abuse |
  9. Funk Master Obonzo

    They done a bad thing and now da man goin whoop their azzes.

    May 13, 2011 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
  10. BTK

    ah ah ah if the americans kept their mouth shut instead of gloating and went on with their daily chores, obl would have been discontinued without any hassles. now the sh1t is going to hit the fan......... big time.

    May 13, 2011 at 3:38 am | Report abuse |
  11. The Man

    Staff Sgt vogt Harris took the fatal shot.

    May 13, 2011 at 3:40 am | Report abuse |
  12. Sunil Weliwitigoda

    Well, "You live by the Sword and You die by the Sword". And, if you have used your sword immorally and unethically, then your conscience can also kill you.

    May 13, 2011 at 3:42 am | Report abuse |
  13. Joshua Wertheim

    I am going to pre-empt Wikileaks by releasing the names of Seal Team 6 right here on CNN! The team members are: Charles Manson, Hugo Chavez, Muammar Khadafy, John Demjanjuk, Bernard Madoff, Kim Jong-Il, Julian Assange, and Nidal Malik Hassan. Go get 'em Al Queda!!!!

    May 13, 2011 at 3:44 am | Report abuse |
  14. Jim

    Once again, cnn has to drum up the propaganda to demoralize the troops.

    May 13, 2011 at 3:47 am | Report abuse |
  15. The Man

    It's such a stupid thing to say that the SEALs fear for their lives. You sometimes wonder what kinds of people we let take positions to speak. Whats the benefit of this information. I fear for my life. All the returning officers from all the wars fear for their lives. Each and every SEAL fears for his or her life and that of their families. Why are we giving more credit to these terrorists and making it seem they have their own team that is in America and capable of fishing out our missionaries? I don't quite think this is right to say and it weakens our image so bad. When you don't have something to say – Go somewhere and smoke on tax payers money.

    May 13, 2011 at 3:47 am | Report abuse |
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