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. Nav

    In my opinion this OBL killing, seals, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq are given too much of attention. Just stop reporting all of this and it will all just fade away.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:14 am | Report abuse |
  2. RichP, easton, pa

    The only thing that should have happened is OBL corpse should have been brought back to DC and put on display at the DC sewage treatment station for 3 days then processed through a trash compactor and dumped in a land fill some where. Who did it, where, when, how should not even have been discussed.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:14 am | Report abuse |
  3. fronco 123

    These are republicans who are trying there best to expose these seals, all because they are JEALOUS of president Obama of giving the order to get Bin Laden, now they fear for there families,all because of there jealous and bizarre nature.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:14 am | Report abuse |
  4. jrc903

    While I eagerly look forward to the day when the definitive book on this mission is published... I should expect to wait a very long time.. The national security adviser along with CIA director should have not spoken-now that they have– they should NOT say other thing. This war is NOT over- so lets not pretend it is... the books wait till it is over.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
  5. mikael fata

    I was in the navy, i had to keep my mouth shut, why are we feeding this media frenzy. Okay you dont like Obama but give him credit he got him, the republicans senators who want the pictures released are just playing politics, I wish their was no such thing as this two party system they are destroying this nation.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:15 am | Report abuse |
  6. D

    Revealing the name of the team ("Team 6"), in my eyes, is treason. Keep your damned mouth shut. Unbelievable blabber mouths. These men risked their lives for us and all a selected group of people "in the know" had to do was just shut the hell up about it and one of them, a man or woman, who obviously could've never qualified to walk a foot in a Seal's shoes, took it upon himself to divulge information I'M SURE he was told NOT to disclose.

    Treason. He should go to jail. I'm sure his response was " I didn't KNOW..." Oh, sure. You knew. You were told not to disclose ANY details. Now these men and their families; their children and loved ones, will be forever looking over their shoulders for some lunatic with a knife, gun, sword or bomb to make a name for himself.

    Good job, @sshole.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |
    • lila

      Well, FOX and CNN had past members of seal team 6 explaining all about the unit. It seems that those people are making the current seal team 6 very angry. It seems like a betrayal to the brotherhood. So would be the immediate releasing of the bin Laden photo because it would fuel more wrath at team 6 and their families.

      May 13, 2011 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Felicitations

      Obama's team couldn't stop yammering about it. Obama even went down to Norfolk just to make sure everyone knew it was the Seals who conducted the raid. Rank amateurs. Next election vote for a statesman, not a community organizer.

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

    The whole thing is a wasnt the SEAL 6 was another really believe the govt?

    May 13, 2011 at 7:20 am | Report abuse |
  8. OaktonT

    Maybe CNN should consider canceling its special "Inside the Mission" after the Defense Secretary's comments.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:20 am | Report abuse |
  9. Bob

    What I don't understand is why they Name the team that took him out, why not just say Special Operation soldiers, Why name SEAL team 6? I don't think they need or want the press. This is something the White House did, probably because it sounds good. If it was a special forces team they probably would have given the ODA number.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:21 am | Report abuse |
  10. EFGRHG

    Of course, you DO realise that we need to keep the economy going. It's red-blooded American capitalism, by golly! We need amazing stories filled with exclusive info, so that people will log on or watch, or read to this or that program or site and see the ads. Insurance companies, soap companies, car companies, they all need exposure. What, are you trying to ruin the ECONOMY for a few lives? (For the stupid among us, I am being sarcastic.)

    May 13, 2011 at 7:23 am | Report abuse |
  11. xAirForce

    The media and civilians just don't get it! KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT! Civilians want to know way too much, and the media can't wait to report it!

    May 13, 2011 at 7:24 am | Report abuse |
    • xNavy

      Why should we be quiet when things are going on around out there? Surely your ignorance should be told just what to do and dont tell. You dont have a family, you dont have friends, you're a nobody. No one cares about you. Yep, no one really care what happens to you. People got families, loved ones, fathers, are out on the field battling terrorism. We are at war. We want to know.

      May 13, 2011 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
  12. publius scrimmage

    So will the person or person who leaked the information that Mr. Gates refered to be joining Bradley Manning? I don't think so, because this secret leaker is probably Joe Biden or Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. They are exempt from the rule of law. So let's just jam up Bradley Manning. He's a private in the Army, right? You can never go above corporals when there is blame to be spread.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:24 am | Report abuse |
  13. milo Etsrada

    This is odd, they are Navy Seal Team 6 Assassins kill sometimes defenseless people on orders, no thinking,no heart then they fear for their lives and their families. Is someone given intel to the opposition that they know might be true, this is the only way they are afraid for themselves and families. They need to be brain washed some more to over come fear.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:26 am | Report abuse |
  14. Danny

    SEALS should be selected from individuals that are single, limited families etc... This is a unique line of work that requires a unique type of individual.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:26 am | Report abuse |
  15. Badonkadonk!


    May 13, 2011 at 7:26 am | Report abuse |
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