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. JSOCT2

    So why are we talking about any of it STILL??? Damn Americans..worry about being safe and secure but don't know when to shut up or even better....want to be safe but "DON'T VIOLATE MY RIGHTS"...

    May 13, 2011 at 5:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. Fred S.

    If they're so goddammed elite, what are they worried about a few lousy terrorists for?

    May 13, 2011 at 5:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. cheeseroll

    Well then these SEALS had better pray that the US military has less traitors like Bradley Manning and less idiots like the "freedom-loving" Assange.

    May 13, 2011 at 6:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Lauren

      Why sorry about those two when idiots in the Obama Administration are busy gaining votes by releasing information? Anyone should have known not to mention these guys.

      "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."

      May 13, 2011 at 6:55 am | Report abuse |
  4. db

    who ever let the mission details out should be arrested, tried on treason, and sentanced accordingly. This is important stuff and we need to put someone up to a firing squad to get others attention that this is not a game but serious and violators will be dealt with swiftly and effectively.

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

      In other words, the Obama administration should be tried. They have chosen to sacrifice the safety of all fighting men for political gain.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:30 am | Report abuse |
  5. darmonx

    Danger is part of the job... everyone knows what they signed up for from infantry man to fighter pilot. We can't live in fear. The kill ratio of SEALS back in Vietnam was 200 to 1. You touch one of their families... that will go up 1,000,000 to 1. Bring it!

    May 13, 2011 at 6:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Let's hope it's not YOUR family, Mr. "Bring It". So easy to talk tough behind the keyboard huh.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Grow up.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Kana

      Yes, every service member is aware of the dangers of their jobs. However classified missions are classified for a reason and not everybody has "a need to know" the specifics of the mission. That is why military and civilian personnel along with members of our government have varying levels of security clearance. Those violating their security clearance as well as those that release classified information without proper authority should be dealt with appropriately.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:39 am | Report abuse |
    • RevRon

      Anyone who utters a public challenge to an unidentifiable enemy – like "bring it" – has obviously never faced combat, and doesn't realize the additional danger in which they place actual combat troops. That's why there was such an outcry over W's irresponsible "Bring it on" remark. Armchair bravado doesn't win battles or wars, and can cost lives.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Bilbo

      This ain't Call of Duty on your Xbox dummy.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |
  6. Sanjay singh

    I wish to god that usa should always alive with democracy character and unity to annihilation to demon who spread terrorism on their religion basis
    sanjay singh(india)

    May 13, 2011 at 6:21 am | Report abuse |
  7. Kevin

    I'm glad they live in fear. They illegally went into another country and executed people. Those people had FAMILY too. I hope these "SEALS" consider this, while looking at their own family.

    May 13, 2011 at 6:26 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Live by the sword, die by the sword.

      The legality of Bin Laden's death might be in question, but the 'rightness' in it very few question. Kevin, you're awfully cold if you think their families should be punished for what they did. Did they go execute OBL's wives? No. His kids? No. The only ones that got hurt were the ones that tried to stop justice from being done. If they hadn't been worried about collateral damage, a missile strike would've been fine.

      Ok, so they're subject to retaliation. Fine, they live with that risk every day. All of us who serve do that. Don't call down revenge on their families.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:33 am | Report abuse |
    • wayne

      The seals handed out justice. JUSTICE. To bad you don't know what that is.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Nate

      They were following orders you idiot. Cowards like you make me sick. Go f*** yourself you pathetic excuse for an American citizen.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:37 am | Report abuse |
    • J

      you disgust me. People like you want to give more rights to the killers than the victims. Bin Laden has no rights and anyone who thinks otherwise is a traitor and terrorist sympathizer.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:39 am | Report abuse |
    • joe bag a donuts

      the sacrifice of American soldiers allows you to put a retarded and ignorant comment on this site

      May 13, 2011 at 6:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Bilbo

      It's an undeclared war (declared wars are obsolete) and it's called killing the enemy. Obviously you had no one in the Towers and live in a protected little bubble. Protected by....the same people you insult.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Vet

      On the one hand you are glad to be able to voice your free opinion, but on the other hand you hate the very people who ensure this right.


      May 13, 2011 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Lauren

      Does your concept apply to Mr. Bin Laden? He ordered the killings of thousands of innocent people, in a land not his own, and laughed about it. He deserved exactly what he got.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:48 am | Report abuse |
    • navydude

      You punk, go over there and help that family.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Mainer

      ~Lee Greenwood


      May 13, 2011 at 7:12 am | Report abuse |
  8. rick

    i dont understand what the big deal is? No names where released, so why are these big bad Seals afraid of? And even if names where released, they re here in America they re safe. Am i just naive or something? I get tired of these spineless politicians.!!

    May 13, 2011 at 6:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Bilbo

      Yes, you're don't think they can be traced?...especially when the President makes a big deal and has to meet with them...they're not in a witness protection program...the families are out there in the real world. D-U-M-B. He's got all the reporters trying to get the scoop and the story to boost their ratings.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:40 am | Report abuse |
    • J

      Yes you are naive. All it takes is one nut on a military that American Muslim shrink a year ago who shot up a bunch of people. Home grown terrorists and sympathizers are all over the place.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Kana

      I think you are naive. You think just because we live in America we are safe. It's not the 1950's with June Cleaver, and everyone leaves their doors open. Those days are long gone. Not only do we need to be concerned with Al Qaeda in the middle east, but other extremist and criminal organizations right here in the United States. These groups will exploit our weaknesses in order to inflict death and destruction to your fantasy world. They don't care about you or your family.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Dingle1969

      Rick, the big deal is this...... Once you give out the team that did the job, it isn't that hard to figure out who is on that said team. Once you figure out who is on that said team it is even easier to figure out who their families are. And..... are you kidding me?!?! Safe? Seriously? 911 ring any bells? Do you know how easy it is to get in to the United States? How easy it is to get on to almost every single military base in the United States? Sure, they have security at the gates, but what about everywhere else around the perimeter of our bases? It is a joke.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:52 am | Report abuse |
  9. jemk

    Absolute utter nonsense.

    May 13, 2011 at 6:29 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jasmine B

    They Say Thee world Gone Come To An End In 2012 ii Think This iiS The Beginning Of Somethingg Horrible Thats About To Happen. This World iiS Eff'd Up . . Shakingg My Head

    May 13, 2011 at 6:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Kana

      News alert.... some believe the date for the end of the world has been pushed up to May 21, 201. You might want to start getting your affairs in order.....

      May 13, 2011 at 6:51 am | Report abuse |
    • miz

      Learn to spell. Ghetto-text will not do you any favors in the long run.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:58 am | Report abuse |
  11. Bilbo

    Yeah...thanks to Obama for spiking the ball....he just HAD to meet with them....moron.

    May 13, 2011 at 6:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Lauren

      Agreed – the presence of Seals in the mission should never have been mentioned. Obama and his people scored political points, as is the usual game.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:50 am | Report abuse |
  12. Samhain

    Dude...go have a cup before posting in the a.m., or take your meds before bedtime.

    May 13, 2011 at 6:36 am | Report abuse |
  13. LordMerlin

    There was absolutely NO REASON for anything to have been released about this operation other than Osama had been "neutralized". Now, the very men who were part of this operation have to be concerned for their own safety as well as the safety and well-being of their families. What ever happened to the notion of security and of not saying anything that doesn't need to be said.

    May 13, 2011 at 6:38 am | Report abuse |
  14. satish

    Seals seem to be QUITE PROFESSIONALS. CNN is NOT. IT seems that for the past few weeks,CNN is trying to release as much info as possible about SEALS. If they really are concerned about the safety of the SEALS stop reporting every thing that is related to the operation.

    May 13, 2011 at 6:39 am | Report abuse |
  15. Carol

    Kevin, your an idiot. Michael, stop making fun of someone who's first language is obviously not English. I agree that it is the Seal's job and they made certain choices (to join up) and it's a little late to start worrying now. I'm with Bill, in that I think everyone ought to give thanks that they killed Osama bin Laden.

    May 13, 2011 at 6:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Kana

      I think you mean SEALs, the US Navy special forces team. Seals on the other hand are aquatic mammals that eat fish.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
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