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. Carlos

    CNN was the main Media outlet that was pressing on with the issue, and offering more information and digging into the matter, and now are posting how the Seals feel that their lives may be a steak. Quit pulling teeth to find more information of these peopl CNN!! You create more havoc for them, like you do in many other cases that you all blow out of proportion and exagerate. I wish there was a law against the Media to stop certain things from being posted, and puts a stop on them making news on topics that are dangerous.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. USArmyOverLord

    It's funny how these things always turn political. The press should back off of the OBL operation. I understand the need for ratings but the Seal team 6 should have never been ID'd. I supported both Bush and Obama, but I'm just a soldier. I think the office of Commander-in-Chief is very tough. No matter what decision you make half of the country will hate you for it.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jeepers

    Well when the dang news is talking about the town they live in...yeah...I can see why. Also...why are we hearing about THIS now? They're not as super secret as they should be you morons. Stop reporting about it! Some things should obviously be off limits.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:03 am | Report abuse |
  4. Whatever

    I dont think that we should tell reports any more of special operations EXCEPT the bear minimum. It will be a national security issue if we say oh this is what we did and this is how we did it and this is who did it. The men are giving enough they dont need to worry about other things as well.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  5. Stephen Real

    The first cat to write his story down from Seal Team Six is going to be a millionaire, he'll never have to by a beer or meal for the rest of his life. There's a lot more people on their side then they could ever imagine. I understand prudent in security but let's not deny the truth that the American people are in love with the US Navy's Seal Team Six.
    There ain't no doubt about it.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  6. laura from willis

    Why in the World would it matter, WHO these Seals are???? It's not as though we are going to personally send them a gift, or anything. All of this commotion isn't worth any fears for them, their families, or soldiers, in general or anyone, for that matter! Same for those photos of the PROOF, that OBL is actually dead. Let it rest. It's done, and if those Officials want to see, JUST SAY "NO"!

    I suppose my age tells me, there are more important things in this World to worry about! BTW: I'm 65 & that's OLD! Thanks for listening.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  7. DEW

    this so call taking credit for the navy seals killing bin laden, obama was going to a party of to the golf course when he got word they found bin laden,all obama had to do is say kill him or bring him in alive thats it, obama didn't do nothing the navy seals kill this man not obama.bush or any other pres. would of done the samething if they knew where he the seals faimly might be in danger why cause obama won't let this story end he want to be in the headline and he don't care who gets hurts as long as he all over the news, im so sick of this so call pres.he's got to be in the spotlight so oprah will have him back on her show

    May 13, 2011 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • MFSB391

      You LIE!!! The president isn't the one keeping this incident in the news. The press does and the idiots who want to see the pics as proof of OBL's death are the ones who keep this going in the nation and throughout the world.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • john b

      Obama never said he killed him. He said "we" as in America. He signed on the order and authorised the attack. But i yet to hear him claim " I did it"

      May 13, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
    • davsan38

      You scared of terrorist? You sound like a little pun*k Biaaach scared of a fight. These men know the risk of their job. They don't need you politicizing their efforts.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Deborah

      He's not the "so called" pres. He is THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. Get over it right winger. He's doing a great job and made very correct, critical decisions on how to proceed with this operation. If he'd been bush he would have bombed the compound and we wouldn't have any proof that we got obl, nor any of the intel the SEALs brought back with them. Oh wait... if he had been bush we wouldn't even have been pursuing obl because 'he wasn't a priority, I'm not even thinking much about him these days' (or whatever that stupid statement was). Thank God for PRESIDENT OBAMA.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      No, he went to a golf course party to make it seem like nothing was going on. The operation was originally supposed to occur one day earlier but a sand storm was in the region. The operation was planned months back, done secretly and very carefully; strategically. Don't post things you know nothing about. I'm in high-school and I know these things.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Herb Gray

      Thsi President gave orders to the CIA to make finding Osama Bin Laden a top priority and it paid off. He has never claimed that he did anything beyond that and giving the order to go after him when finally found. When any President talks about a military action he represents the whole nation.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • papa smurf

      Does it make you feel good saying "so-called" President ?? Hmm?? Go on, admit it - you are so consumed with partisian political belief, yo cannot even bring yourself to call the freely elected President - PRESIDENT. Indeed, you are so brain washed, you will tell blatant DOG FACED LIES (i.e., golf course, etc.) in a juvenile attempt to make him look bad. What is so ironic about it, most REAL Ameriicans respect the democratic process and the OFFICE OF PRESIDDENT. So, if AMERICA bugs you so much, do us all a favor an LEAVE - we don't need naysayers spouting off such nonsense. Truth be known, you are probably a left wing liberal posting such ignorance in an effort to make conservatives sound psycho or nuts. LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT NAZI!!!!!!!!

      May 13, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  8. StIves

    Secretary Gates should have not come on nation-wide media and say nothing about this. If he was that concerned; he should have assemble the leaders and had an immediate close meeting, first, seeking the right open door advice from the President. This make's everything goes up to the RED in status for all of us! Media have a way of changing things from what is actually done or said. Secretary Gates must not turn things inside out and be open to do whatever it is to make the families and those involved with this case at ease.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
    • chris

      I think Gates went to the press becasue he wanted to bring it to the publics attention that some members of this administration care more about the credit and story than the safety of these Navy Seals.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  9. Hmm

    The media has to anally interview all of the SEALS. The yappers want photos. Everyone trying to capitalize for their own self interest. And there is confusion over this why????

    May 13, 2011 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  10. Tone

    Truly amazing to see posts by so called americans bemoaning the killing of OBL because it was at the direction of Obama.
    Truly amazing that OBL is getting any sympathy from so called americans because he was killed at the direction of Obama. that is pathetically ridiculous. When you have Karl Rove spouting off on Fox news that he knows and is friends with members of seal team six, i can imagine why they want increased security for their familes because as smart as he may seem it was quite idiotic to admit you know members of seal team six.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Pips

      He more than likely doesn't know a single person on that team. That was nothing more than my dad can beat up your dad politics. Anyone who takes what he says for granted needs their head examined.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  11. JillAmerican

    Why were who they were made public?

    May 13, 2011 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Thurman Johnston

      A bunch of bigots in DC running off at the mouth.Now the Seals family are in harms way.
      We need a President not a muslin to run the country.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
  12. teafor2

    The secret mission should have been kept as secret as was possible (helicopter left hanging) rather than the Administration trying to boost approval ratings via the media. We need to know he is dead but we don't need to know which Special Ops team was responsible. If we leak such intel to the enemy then we deserve what we get.

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

      Administration hasn't done anything for the media. They've been quiet about it. Obviously the approval ratings are going to jump when you become a national war hero. I mean, we haven't seen anyone this awesome since Patton. We finally have a President that everyone can respect and honor for generations to come.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  13. Steve

    Simple – don't have families.
    Get your profession on . . .

    May 13, 2011 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  14. davsan38

    "Tar Baby" What do you think people are stupid. You are a straight Racist and unAmerican.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  15. Andy

    @ need to have your head examined if you think the suicide bombers in Pakistan is Obama's fault. That's like know what, I can't even come up with an analogy for that because it's so absurd. These terrorists kill scores of muslims but then you embrace them. It is completely backwards thinking.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
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