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. Lisade

    There has been way too much info on the news immediately following the raid about where the President went to meet and speak with those involved, too much info about where they are stationed at, to the extent I think it puts members of that unit that weren't directly involved and their family members at risk. I recall a wife of a unit member that wasn't directly involved was interviewed on TV and she was talking about how they never talk about missions, stress of being deployed and away from family, and I just cringed because that woman's face is now identifiable and even though the news said her husband is a unit member that wasn't involved in the raid he is a member of a unit that was. Way too much info, in my opinion, and I can see how that would be a huge concern.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
  2. Ann Burchfield

    Yes I believe our government. Why would they use team 6 as a decoy?

    We need to ALL BACK OFF. bin laden is DEAD leave it alone.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
  3. Robby

    No where in this artical did anybody say that the name of the Seal team members where revealed. One person in the comments say that for Prapaganda effect and then it ends geting repeated like fivty times.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
  4. Malakas

    He's NOT really dead! He's alive and well and teaching philosophy at NYU!

    May 13, 2011 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
  5. imagine

    these seal are at least smart enough to know obama cant help them...its amazing he was not on vacation during the raid like he was when libya was attacked...

    May 13, 2011 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
  6. milo Etsrada

    I forgot to mention I hope they killed the right men on this raid, to me I saw the videos of OBL that were released and sure dont look like OBL. Obama and CIA play tricks all the time, they lie to much, no credibility.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:31 am | Report abuse |
    • greek

      Now that is absurd... and we wonder why info is leaked. Every one wants to be a critic... Sure you did! You're a Tea Bagger operative, maybe a "Deather" admit it. If so why are you posting on this stupid message board. You're as bad as the media... of which you must be a part of, or better yet, maybe you're a high ranking govt official.. if so out yourself and don't use AKA's.... idiotic.

      May 13, 2011 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
  7. ShutUP

    If only you knew who REALLY did the dirty work you would literally have kittens. 'nuf said.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:33 am | Report abuse |
    • DC

      So let me try to understand this. The activity that took out Bin Laden is now concerned about their families? These guys knew the risk and completely understood it. Your no different from any law enforcement officer who has to deal with bad guys everyday. You should blame your bosses for leaking all that classified information about the operation.

      May 13, 2011 at 7:41 am | Report abuse |
  8. thymat

    ...As most policemen,lawyers,procecutors,judges know,the person who receives the citation,jailterm or warning neverforgets them and carries that grudge forever..........No one is save in this crappy world..........

    May 13, 2011 at 7:33 am | Report abuse |
  9. Rachboo

    Reading these comments about "sacasism" and dyslexia are ridiculously funny.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:34 am | Report abuse |
  10. rs

    The mission should never have been discussed; no one should ever have known how Bin Laden was killed or who conducted the mission. How missions are accomplished is always classified and only released for political gain

    May 13, 2011 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
  11. John

    actually in the time since he took Office Obama has increased the deficit at a rate 10 times Bush did. In just a little over two years vs eight.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
    • keith

      Bush left off the cost of both wars as well as his prescription drug plan (medicare part D) from the budget. Obama includes them.

      May 13, 2011 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
    • spiffy53

      John, you need to look at the deficit numbers again, because you are completely full of it. take an economics class when you get a chance. and by the way, where were you when bush was running up the debt? that's what i thought. don't forget, operations like these are now in the budget as opposed to when bush was in office when they were supplimentals. thanks for playing. FAIL!!!!

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

    I voted for Obama. I was going to vote for him again in the next election. But apparently this civilian who never served a day in the military has no idea what operational security is. He is bragging about is NS meetings. He leaks all of this information in order to pump up his political campaign. Shame on you, Mr. President. You have lost my confidence and my vote.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. HH

    What break down in security..I am surprised we did nt have a meet and greet for a photo op with the president.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
  14. Michelle

    Im sure the Special Forces have plenty of home security and privacy. This shouldnt be a "story", we all know they will get what they need. Why is this a big story?

    May 13, 2011 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Just Shellz


      May 13, 2011 at 7:52 am | Report abuse |
  15. Boneco

    OK, there has to be a Navy PAO overseeing all this. PAO, can you drop the hammer and stop this? You don't have to provide info or assist the media in regards to this. The buck stops with you, in case you didn't know about this. STOP IT NOW!!!

    May 13, 2011 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
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