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. rikers

    How would al qaueda know where these SEAL training facilities are located? Unless someone in the administration relayed that information, and that would be treasonous. Didn't Obama just visit one of these locations in Kentucky?

    May 13, 2011 at 7:40 am | Report abuse |
    • keith

      He visited Fort Campbell

      May 13, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  2. Laura

    The name of people/person/group should have never ever been released EVER! As a military wife of 30 years you know that information like this should have never been released to the public. Back in the day when special missions were carried out it was hush-hush, now all the press and polictions want to do is run their mouth. They don't care, it's not them or their families that in danger.......

    May 13, 2011 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Boneco

      The PAO is responsible for this

      May 13, 2011 at 7:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Bird

      Agreed. Why in the heck would CNN or any news media print this information for the world to see??? Keep your mouth shut CNN. You would then be doing your part to safeguard those who put their lives on the line so you could keep yours.

      May 13, 2011 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  3. Boneco

    The PAO in that base needs to stop stop the media digging more into this.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:46 am | Report abuse |
  4. Andreas Moser

    Who would be stupid enough to take on the SEALs?

    May 13, 2011 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
  5. Ivan Bial

    We need several new federal laws:
    1- Make it a capitol crime to harm a member of Seal Team 6 or there families.
    2- Make it the same penalty to threaten a member of Seal Team 6 or there a family as it is the President.
    3- Make the funds available to move families if they feel threatened.
    4- Bring home and financially support member of Seal Team 6 so they can look after their families.

    This we owe them, at the least.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
  6. USMC 00001

    Loose lips sinks ships. Why cant people just be quiet and not reveal everything. This nation and the media has lost all its pride and respect.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Bird

      Totally agreed.

      May 13, 2011 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
  7. GoFaster58

    SEAL Team 6 is widely believed to have returned to American soil? Didn't the almighty great one, the big O have a meet and greet with them on American soil? Secrecy has gone out the door with prying news people and organizations like Wikileaks.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |


    May 13, 2011 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
  9. 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 7:53 am | Report abuse |
  10. Captain Jenks

    That's the downside of being cool video game hitmen who shoot unarmed people in front of their families. boo hoo- live by mafia rules- die by them.

    May 13, 2011 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      There are at least 3,000 people that if they were alive would disagree with you. Sympathy for the family of a mass murderer, you must be a sick liberal, demented and so eat up that the fact you breath air is a waste of time and space. Crawl deeply back into the hole you came out of, go so deep they have to pump you sunshine.

      May 13, 2011 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
  11. laughing duck

    Not sayin we shouldn't protect them, but think about it; targeting SEALs is like looking for dynamite with lit matches.

    May 13, 2011 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Teddy

      agreed...most definitely

      May 13, 2011 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Nav

      do you think that these terrorists care. 2 suicide bombers just blew up 80 people in pakistan.

      May 13, 2011 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  12. vizi

    surprising , its a defence operation , dont know why people join the forces and fight for country by pledging their life

    and then worry about all this

    May 13, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
  13. Paul W

    There's an old expression and it still applies: "Loose lips sink ships". The names and whereabouts of these brave soldiers should NEVER be revealed.

    May 13, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Those who leaked this to the press should suffer the same consequence as Osama, center of mass and head shot! It is time to end the cycle of security leaks.

      May 13, 2011 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
  14. Dan

    If harm comes to one hair on the head of a SEAL family member then unlease them, provide them will all the firepower and technology let them end this terror, leave no terrorist or their family members alive. Let the Dog of War have their day! It was once said that any country that harbors terrorist shall in fact become a target; why does Pakistan still exist; they are not our friends in any way, shape or form. Pakistan would look far better as a glass desert and mountains terrain. I send this with my pinky up so I won't be condiered discourteous!

    May 13, 2011 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |
  15. wsi261

    All this could have been avoided if we did to BinLaden what we did to Tim Mcveigh,capture him,turn him over to the judicial system ,have a trail,then upon guilty execute him,everybody would be involved and they could go after no one,thats how the USA should work,not by the methods of our Nobel Peace Prize winner !!!!!!God help our country with OBummer in charge !

    May 13, 2011 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
    • joe

      obummer? you really "burned" Obama with that gayass folksy crap didn't you?

      May 13, 2011 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
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