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. chris

    "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"....come on. This was going to leak so the president could feed off the success of the team and the media could have their story. The pictures of Bin Laden will eventually hit the front pages and a search for the names of this team will not end until a movie deal is struck. NObody cares about their security, and we don't believe anyone does. Gates knows this and I;m sure is biting his tounge to say what he really feels.

    May 13, 2011 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
  2. bman

    Whatever happened to home of the brave?

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

    Great job America.. let's just give every other country the "blue-prints" to our military while we are at it. Whoever leaked this information about what SEAL team gave this country closure should be shot in the face themselves, and all who disagree can line up to the right...

    May 13, 2011 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
  4. Mo Brown


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

      Caplocks can be cured see your doctor.

      May 13, 2011 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
  5. berber87

    Eal team 6 looking for helicopter pilots.

    May 13, 2011 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
  6. docode

    Being famous cowards for killing an unarmed old man ,now you have to pay the price

    May 13, 2011 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
    • JR

      I'm sorry, but you're absolutely retarded. An unarmed old man? Did you not pay attention in history class? Have you been asleep for the last 10 years? You feel bad for the kingpin of a murderous terrorist organization that has killed thousands of people? I hope you die soon, because you are a terrorist sympathizer, and I don't want anyone like that alive on this planet.

      May 13, 2011 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Reall

      You sir are a complete moron. "An unarmed old man" really?? This man has been the mastermind behind the largest act of terrorism in the country's history! If you want to defend the ba stard so much, why dont you sit in his compound so we can get your a s s next....

      May 13, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
  7. Ben

    So to all of those commenting about putting an armed guard at their do realized that every one of these men of SEAL team Six are some of the most highly trained and skilled professionals in the world and their skill individually probably equates to 30 armed guards....not to mention the fact that simply putting an armed guard at their house is basically the same as putting a giant florescent sign above their house that says "SEAL lives here!".
    A witness re-location type program with CIA constantly watching over their families is more likely to happen.

    And to all those commenting about how they knew what danger they were getting into before they killed bin laden... these guys , as do all soldiers, expect their leadership to keep information that can compromise their safety under a very tight lid. They dont expect a toolbag politician to blab to the media of classified operational security information that impacts their security.

    May 13, 2011 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
    • DaveNYUSA

      The best thing would be for Obama to STOP using this to garner future votes!

      May 13, 2011 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      You have a point about the presence of armed guards being a tip-off, but even though a SEAL may be worth several armed guards, the SEAL isn't always at home or awake or with allies. Also, why in the world would it be the CIA who looked over the families? That doesn't even make sense. If anything, it would be some kind of military protection.

      May 13, 2011 at 8:36 am | Report abuse |
    • DaveO

      @DaveNYUSA Thanks for being the poster child for the dumbing down of America. I know, you probably don't even know what that means. Which is my point, you ignorant jerk.

      May 13, 2011 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
    • McLuhan

      Really? This rant is rediculous.

      May 13, 2011 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • terry

      It stinks that the some losers in the u.s. gov had the need to attach themselves to the victory of getting bin laden. Felt the need to prove they were in the "know" by outting the seal team . All i can say is the Seal's had better make their own arraingements because you will probably find out on wiki leaks, all that is known about them . blah, what a way to treat our finest .

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

    If you get point, why play english teacher.

    May 13, 2011 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
  9. kerberus

    dyslexia is greek in origin and is generically translated into english as "bad reading" or "saying". The medical and other professions have more specific and detailed explanations of what the generic meaning includes in their area of professionalism. english as used in america has no such guiding principle other than "commonly used' meaning which is of course why english is often an incoherent language in discussions of this type, that is, on line and anything goes.

    May 13, 2011 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  10. berber87

    OBAMA to Chinese ambassador to the U.S......Can we have our stealth helicopter back? Please? Pretty please.

    May 13, 2011 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jim

    If you get point why play english teacher. Is it so hard to stick to the story?

    May 13, 2011 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
  12. Dr. Lecter, Ph D.

    Thanks, CNN, for headlining a piece of information that the public does not need to know and has no control other, but will only potentially harm others. Not one of your useless readers has the capability to affect this.

    May 13, 2011 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. David

    It is a good call by Gates, but by the same token, your announcing it to the world in such a public forum also plants the seeds of ideas that can grow.

    May 13, 2011 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
  14. Armyduck

    There is no SEAL TEAM 6. If such an organization existed it would be used as a cover for the real organization that took down UBL.

    May 13, 2011 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  15. Judge Dredd

    I killed Osama

    I am the law

    May 13, 2011 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
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