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)

    This is exactly why Obama should have kept his mouth shut from day one. No one needs to know anything except the target was killed PERIOD !! and to think I thought Baby Bush was stupid !!!!

    May 13, 2011 at 3:48 am | Report abuse |
  2. The Man

    News Al Queda – they were 9. Three flew helicopters the one that crashed lives in Denver.

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

    hahaha. LIES. If you keep telling more lies, you think people will suddenly believe that you really killed binLaden? lol. nice try, but try harder next.

    May 13, 2011 at 4:01 am | Report abuse |
    • ficheye

      There is a special television feed going in to your house. The rest of the world is being told something completely different. Bin Laden had an operation. He's now a woman. He and Chaz Bono hooked up, and that is some weird stuff – more than you wanna know, for sure. But that's the truth.

      And no matter what anyone says, they ARE watching you.

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

    Can anyone get me some pills?

    May 13, 2011 at 4:03 am | Report abuse |
  5. zoundsman

    Toughest guys around, yet helpless to protect their families at all times. I understand the fear.

    May 13, 2011 at 4:03 am | Report abuse |
  6. Matt

    I pity the man who goes after those guys.

    May 13, 2011 at 4:10 am | Report abuse |
    • ficheye

      We'll take that under advisement, Mr. T.

      May 13, 2011 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |
  7. jerk

    I almost surprised they didn't claim freedom of the press and print the names and addresses of the seal team. Of course, only later to report their deaths.

    May 13, 2011 at 4:17 am | Report abuse |
  8. Felicitations

    The only thing the American public needed to know is that the American military located Bin Laden and he s dead We could assume it was Special Operations. We did not need to know it was Seals. We did not need to know just which team did it. And the president confirming that information by going down to Norfolk to visit the Seals - well, that was extraordinarily STUPID .

    May 13, 2011 at 4:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Nancy

      Agree, this is ALL the public needed to know. Public statements are going to cause a lot of innocent people killed when it is not needed. The information of how, when and where was not needed, only Special Operations.

      May 13, 2011 at 4:46 am | Report abuse |
  9. paul

    seals fear no one!!!

    May 13, 2011 at 4:27 am | Report abuse |
  10. roland

    Place them as trainor to continue to protect the country against terrorist.

    May 13, 2011 at 4:32 am | Report abuse |
  11. Duane

    The headline on this story would lead someone to believe that the Navy Seals are cowering in fear after what their mission when in fact it is obvious they would feel a sense of being targeted. My question is why can't people in the government just SHUT THEIR MOUTHS !!! They keep telling details that nobody really needs to know as if they have some obligation to meet a deadline for news outlets. This is military action, not tabloid details for TMZ as if it were Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan. Don't you think maybe not letting them know what we have from the mission and how we figured it out would be a good thing. I can't understand how one of the most important military missions is getting covered more like reporters going down to Superbowl week. PLEASE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT AND OFFICIALS JUST SHUT THE F UP.

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

      Thank you qs this is my very same thoughts. Someone inside Obama's administration is relasing information that he wouldn't even offer, and they should be ousted immediately. We ask these people to defend us then divulge all the innerparts of the defense even name their home towns, so I guess next they will actually name the men and print their addresses. What a shame America we put so many lives at danger for a story!

      May 13, 2011 at 4:42 am | Report abuse |
  12. Isaac

    Those guys are tough, ain't nothing gonno hppn 2 'em, not even their families

    May 13, 2011 at 4:35 am | Report abuse |
  13. Nancy

    Only in America! Do we ask our servicemen to defend our country and then spill all the guts of the defense to the media. We have to be the first to tell the story, some parts right and others not. We tell it bigger and worst than original which results in embarrassment. We divulge all we know for the next set of terroists to use when plotting. We can never win any war by discussing with the media the plans of action to be taken and then divulge all the internal parts of the operation afterwards. We have no suprise elements for they have taken that away from the US Navy Seals, even their home towns. What a shame we make of ourselves and good for you Mr.Obama for not revealing anything prior to taking out OBL. News Media get off and leave alone before many innocent peiople are killed because of your stories.

    May 13, 2011 at 4:36 am | Report abuse |
  14. Hank

    I wonder why anyone involved got anywhere close to the media and if they did why would they give names and specifics? news flash..this just in...stupid people everywhere.

    May 13, 2011 at 4:39 am | Report abuse |
  15. candy

    So, if the seals, Gates, and the military are concerned for their safety, Why did Obama go to Ft. Campbell? Duh!!!!@!

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