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. todd

    Since you have outed SEAL TEAM SIX, Let ME be the First to OUT OBAMA!!! --NOW ST6 IS THE MOST HUNTED GROUP ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH- THANKS OBAMBI!!!!

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

    STC6-- YOU HAVE A NEW TARGET!!!!

    May 13, 2011 at 4:45 am | Report abuse |
  3. candy

    So, if the seals, Gate, and the military are concerned for the seals safety, why did Obama go to Fort Campbell, Kentucky? Duh!!?

    May 13, 2011 at 4:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Annunaki

      Huh? There are no Navy SEALS at Ft. Campbell – that's an Army Installation. So what's your point besides ignorance?

      May 13, 2011 at 5:00 am | Report abuse |
    • You're an Idiot

      STFU candy – you're a moron.

      May 13, 2011 at 5:20 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      @candy, Because the Seals are not in Fort Cambell. You are just another drone listing to right wing radio and its commentators who in fact know nothing about the military

      May 13, 2011 at 5:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Obama gave a speech to 2,300 troops who recently returned from Afghanistan on May 6th at Fort Cambell Ky. This included a private meeting with the seals that conducted the raid. Seals are not stationed at Fort Cambell but they were there last Friday.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:06 am | Report abuse |
    • joyost

      Didn't the word FORT clue you in that it was not a naval facality?? Or don't you know that it's the NAVY SEALS, not the Army SEALS? And they're not seals, they're SEALS – seals are fish.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Samhain

      The Navy didn't do this alone...hence the acronym JSOC. Don't spculate about things which you don't know anything about.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:39 am | Report abuse |
  4. jeff

    Obama clearly outed these guys for political reasons, It's election time people why do you think he went down to Texas to talk about immagration reform SO HE CAN GET VOTES. Then he publicly went on his victory tour all that should of be under wraps and secretly done, believe me these guys didn't want to meet this clown. they are quiet professionals they don't want recontion. He shouldn't have named the units that did the operation when he did that he put all SEALs in danger. and he outed the avation unit that did the OP.all you have to do is google them now and you can find out where thay are located, go there and figure out where they live it's easy. Now you have the media doing whatever to out these guys even more if they can find them The media will name them and walk right up to them stick a camera and mike in there face and out them even more same with the families and parents the media will hound them, sit outside thier house and totally out them. watch it will happen. and you can blame obama.

    May 13, 2011 at 4:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      Jeff,
      Clearly you have lost focus of the current issue at hand. Try taking your focus off President Obama regardless of your obvious dislike for him and stand fast. How can he out them when the media was all over this while most of you civillians slept or celebrated in the streets. Instead of giving just do to all who planned, bled, and gave the ultimate sacrafice to deface evil, you try to deglamorize one man for the actions of a nation. You are probably just a racist biggot! Grow up!

      May 13, 2011 at 5:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      Yeah Jeff, you're a freakin' hero. YOU know how to figure out where these guys live. YOU have the keen insight to expose the president as a bumbling idiot seeking votes with this operation – somehow YOU uncovered the truth!! God bless you Jeff! Even though you make less than 50k/year in a dead end job, it is JEFF who will blow the lid off the death of Bin Laden. You might even have enough secret information to save the LIVES OF THE SEALS! Wouldn't that just be awesome??

      Please, bloggers. Have something of substance to say, not just the ramblings of a far-right fringe Google investigator.

      Jeff, go back to Googling...and if you could help us find the real Kennedy conspirators, a nation awaits.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:21 am | Report abuse |
  5. jeff

    I also want to say Bob Gates is a stand up guy and a good SECDEF.

    May 13, 2011 at 4:56 am | Report abuse |
    • You're an Idiot

      Goood, I'm glad that you and "Bob Gates" have reached that level of understanding, you idiot.

      May 13, 2011 at 5:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. marty

    were their names released? I hadn't seen them anywhere? the president went to Fort Campbell to talk to the regular troops returning from Afganistan -not the seals; the team was flown in to meet with him. They are not from there...Fort Campbell is an army base.

    May 13, 2011 at 5:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Iamnotfooled

      The Republicans are telling lies again and trying to spin things. What else is new?

      May 13, 2011 at 5:51 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jazz Man

    I thought the SEALs were braver than that....afterall, they got OBL...oh wait..they stormed into a compound that had 15 children, three women and an unarmed man.....that is bravery...isn't it ???
    Plus, why are they concerned when noone knows who they are ?!@?!

    May 13, 2011 at 5:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      they aren't you dimwit, its just a headline CNN dragged up to milk this story for all its worth

      May 13, 2011 at 5:51 am | Report abuse |
  8. Vcat

    But why did he have to say this, even if they feared for their safety? The image of the SEALs as fearless supermen takes a beating right here. They now sound like sissies when they really are heros.

    May 13, 2011 at 5:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Loggie

      Seriously? They have families. Even you pea brain can comprehend that these cant shoot straight muzzies can find and sddress in Virginia when we tell them where SEALS are located. More treason by washington insiders. And a tabloid media and stupid public doesnt ger it still. I am certain that our media dn dopey politicians today would have told the germans where and when we were doing D day. We are a disgrace, and cynical jaggoffs like you are part of the problem. A Brave SEAL should come and cut your b$lls off.

      May 13, 2011 at 5:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. germminn

    if a military person spread this story, they would be court martiled. some dumb@$$ politian spread the word and nothing will happen. should turn his/her @$$ over to the taliban

    May 13, 2011 at 5:33 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bill Gates

    what a bs story by cnn.. this is just made up facts by us government bureaucrats...why believe anything they say now...

    May 13, 2011 at 5:39 am | Report abuse |
  11. william walsh

    Two questions:

    1) Does ANYONE take CNN's Anderson Cooper ("AC360") serious?

    2:) HOW CAN anyone take Anderson Cooper, 3rd-rate Actor, as a dependable interpreter of and source for the news?

    He is so narcissistic and stuck on himself it is embarrassing to watch!

    Is THIS as good as CNN can do?

    Walter Kronkite he ain't!

    May 13, 2011 at 5:41 am | Report abuse |
    • marty

      glad to see you stay close to the story

      May 13, 2011 at 5:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      Wouldn't want to lose focus of something important, we'll just focus on your drivel

      May 13, 2011 at 5:52 am | Report abuse |
  12. DrPete

    Wow. It's almost like if they had actually kept their mouths shut about the operation instead of identifying to the world who was participating in it the SEALs wouldn't have any problem right now. But of course we need to exhaustively beat it to death in the media because the public demands it and has no concept of why you'd want to keep things like this quiet.

    May 13, 2011 at 5:41 am | Report abuse |
  13. nytw

    All these Republicans that are upset that Osama is dead need to put towels on their heads and move to Kabul.

    May 13, 2011 at 5:52 am | Report abuse |
  14. Allan Nelson

    While I agree it would of been best not to over publicise the SEALS activity in the Osama operation to lesson the focus on them for potential extremist targets, never the less the extremists would still be well aware of what type of military man expertise would of been involved. Thus being targets anyway.

    Seals is not much to go by for anyone to know what individuals who carried out justice.

    May 13, 2011 at 5:54 am | Report abuse |
  15. Tom

    The SEALs did a great job, however they are not Special Forces or Quet Profesionals. They are Navy Special Operations, not the same as Special Forces. The Special Forces are known as "Green Berets" who are an Army unit, who's motto just happens to be "The Quiet Professionals" Fox News and other outlets are in such a hurry to spin the news they dont check thier facts. Ever heard of Google?

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