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. Tom Smith

    Why is CNN making this seem like the seals are scared? CNN is also the ones inciting any potential violence against these Navy Seals! I am really disappointed in CNN.

    May 13, 2011 at 6:45 am | Report abuse |
  2. Mike, formerly from Syracuse

    Too bad the amateur in the White House didn't think of this threat before blabbing.

    May 13, 2011 at 6:45 am | Report abuse |
  3. Talibani Banana Hammock

    OK so this has devolved into an English lesson and a party finger pointing session. Of course these guy are going to worry about their familes. That's the job. That being said, did they need to say which SEAL Team was responsible? Did they neeed to have them on TV? Not really. They won't release pictures of UBL with his head blasted open, yet they'll post pics of the other horrible mutilated bodies and have ST6 on TV.

    It's politics (or scitilop for the dyslexic). Who cares what party spends more? They all spend a lot on their own special interest group. Unfortunately none of us are their special interest group.

    Gates is probably right on this one. I don't think I would have given so much information out. "A Navy SEAL Team" would have said enough.

    May 13, 2011 at 6:47 am | Report abuse |
  4. The Last Federalist

    It is unacceptable that we allow people into the highest echelons of our government who have had zero military experiance. I believe that an individual should not be allowed to run for presidential office unless they have served a minimnum amount of time and recieved an honorable discharge. To place people who have not ever lead a military force into the position of commander and chief of those armed forces is tantamount to defeat. Would anyone here allow a child to drive a car on a freeway? Perhaps my dog can run for office as he is of age (dog years)? We would never consider these things as they are absurd as they are dangerous. So why then do we place people in a position to lead a military force who they themselves have had zero military training and zero military experiance. It's like giving a child a gun, telling them to be responsible, and then leaving the room. Something in the room is going to be destoryed or the child will get shot!

    Required military experiance for the leaders we vote for is what I am asking. Responsibility and accountability attached to life experiances of such service would forge greater men to lead us. Not spineless democrats and republicans who only desire personal gain over the greater good of a nation and its citizens.

    May 13, 2011 at 6:48 am | Report abuse |
    • The Last Federalist

      What I was trying to get at it is unacceptable the level of intel that was leaked out by leaders who are ignorant in security and military matters who now put fighting americans and their families lives at risk.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
  5. FCR

    I've never served in the Teams but I was regular Navy. Operational secrecy is a thing of the past. It starts with keeping your mouth shut. The more potential enemies gain intel on our capabilities, it further erodes the element of surprise. We all want to be famous but some things need to go to the grave with you. Just imagine the next mission they go on and you blare out a capability with the enemy waiting to take your son out or plant an entire team in Arlington. When they start saying "I'll not confirm or deny" look out, something is about to be confirmed.

    May 13, 2011 at 6:49 am | Report abuse |
    • BillP

      I completely agree with you. If the news would quit blabbing about everything they wouldnt be in this mess. There is a reason why the goverment has top secret information. Is for protection. But nosey bleeding hearts in the world always want answers. Who why how somethings are better left unsaid. The report should read "Military kills Bin Laden" no further information.

      May 13, 2011 at 6:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Ynotturbo

      You are correct. As a retired Navy guy, I think that the media needs to be blocked from certain types of info, and others that have knowledge of things that may or may not happen need to keep the PIE HOLE shut. It worked in WWII.. Noone new about the A bomb until we used it... I think its time the media moves on to something else important like the flood victims and tornando victims in the United States... Bin Laden is dead, lets move forward. O' ya, Thanks for serving Shipmate.

      May 13, 2011 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
    • JC

      100% agree.... They just need to stop brining "SEAL Team" Up in the media..if they are concern for there safety why announce it to public?? ..from my understanding they got like 200 missions under there built...this is the only one they been on that they are concern about their safety?..wish them luck..

      May 13, 2011 at 7:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Cleve

      Can't agree with you more, the media has no interest in the safety of these men and their loved ones, they just worry about the furthering of their careers.

      May 13, 2011 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |
  6. jerry

    Do like I do.....Carry a hand gun.....

    May 13, 2011 at 6:52 am | Report abuse |
  7. joel q.

    Tell everyone to be quiet. Talking about our special forces should be instantly and severely punished...they do not exist.

    May 13, 2011 at 6:54 am | Report abuse |
  8. clarke

    You are a very disgraceful person

    May 13, 2011 at 6:59 am | Report abuse |
  9. Carl

    Dont blame Obama, he got the job done, and he will get elected, get used to it...hahahahah

    May 13, 2011 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Don't hold your breath on that one.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      Yes, do blame him for releasing the details of the raid.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Roger

    It's ludacris. Those idiots in Pakistan, Afganistand, and whatever-stan don't have the BALLS to even come near our special ops and intellegence. Peace... chill people.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
  11. jrc903

    Gates is both right and wrong here. First he is right that too much is being said about the SEALS. Second, he is wrong for talking about the SEALS–especially that they are fearful.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:02 am | Report abuse |
  12. Ugh

    If this information is so secret, why is it blasted all over the Internet and TV?

    May 13, 2011 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
  13. Sagebrush Shorty

    Well, the Seals did their part. Too bad our big-mouthed government can't do theirs. What a bunch of idiots.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:07 am | Report abuse |
  14. ThanksObama

    If Obama was a proper leader, he would have taken out Osama and then just kept his big mouth shut. Killing Osama in the middle of the night and leaving without a word would have been a lot more effective in the long run. However, such professionalism will never happen with Obama as long as there is a camera and a teleprompter around. The man wanted to score political points in an attempt to divert attention from his main other failings (jobs, economy, housing, debt, etc)

    -Anyone But Obama 2012!!

    May 13, 2011 at 7:08 am | Report abuse |
  15. Sunil Weliwitigoda

    Booohoooooo! Barrack Hussein Obama did something nasty to his fellow Muslim Brother Osama and then betrayed the SEALS to get political mileage, with re – election in mind. Typical Politician with no sense of caring for the Brave SEALS, who did their nation proud. And now Gates is having to pull up his Commander In Chief. What a Mess!

    May 13, 2011 at 7:09 am | Report abuse |
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