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. ken

    Well, Obama seems to screw up everything he touches. He gets OBL and probably will end up killing the families of the Seal team because he had to brag and get the state run news media to pump up his numbers. News journalists and Democrats seem to lack common sense. And if this were Bush, the media would demand murder charges!

    May 13, 2011 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
    • dean IN

      While, do they let you out of the house without adult supervision.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  2. Tom

    Every presidency since George Washington has has blood spilled somewhere. Understanding and accepting the cruel and harsh suffering that others may have to incurr is part of being president (and the head military leader) – because SOMEONE has to do it. Don't make it personal about Obama.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  3. earl snyder

    Captain Jenks, Since when is killing a terrorist who,on his orders killed thousands of AMERICANS. There was a bounty on his head and any decent, freedom loving American would have shot him,if not for the reward,in retaliation

    May 13, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  4. AmIMissingSomething?

    Didn"t OBL declare war on America and it's Allies? Didn't OBL orchestrate acts of carnage against America and it's Allies? Didn't he put an 'army' together and train them to kill? Weren't we ate war with OBL and his followers? So why is it any big deal that he wasn't taken alive? He was not a 'Head of State', he was a terrorist.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  5. BOB

    That's because of OBAMA'S BIG MOUTH, he had to tell the World how HE, ME got Bin Laden.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • breeze6843

      Never heard it that way. Don't know what news your watching but change channels and get some real facts.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • dean IN

      BOB, REMEMBER - Mission Accomplished, Short memory, huh.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  6. justen

    waynelair–actually I work for a living, don't receive public assistance at all, own my own car, my own stuff and I am in debt to no one.

    So, why don't you take your5th grader comments and your 5th grader grammar and go back to school.

    The fact remains–the seals claim to be a tough bunch–and they are worried about their families-guess they are not as tough as they try to let on.

    And considering that the news has reported that they shot unarmed people–well in most circles that makes them murderers...

    May 13, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Thurman Johnston

      Meet up with a Seal and you will find out how tough they are so why don"t you go back to school smart ass
      Retired Seal MCPO

      May 13, 2011 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
    • dean IN

      JUSTEN. internet is a wonderful invention and it protects individuals comments that they would otherwise be afraid to make face to face.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  7. neal kelley

    "Tar Baby"... idiot.. you tried to slip that one in there thinking no one will noticed. I hope your on the navy seals next hit list because you are an American Terrorist and a coward!

    May 13, 2011 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
  8. Deborah

    You are incorrect. The blood of those people are on the hands of the animals who set the bombs.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
  9. mrh

    LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS!! Too much info released by "SOURCES" in the highest levels of GOVT.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ed Sr

    Just look at the expression on Gate's face!!!!!!!! Bet he was the little kid everybody chased home from school for being a snitch and a wise ass..........

    May 13, 2011 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
  11. glj

    What I want to know is why the President ever mentioned the SEAL team was involved at all. He could have just as easily said a raid killed bin Laden. Very careless on this administrations part.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
  12. Pips

    You mean blood on OSAMA'S hands.

    Obama is a national war hero.

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

      WAR HERO?? REALLY?? no i can't give that tilte to someone who has NEVER served his country. I will however say i'm very glad OBL is gone and don't care who was President when it happened! But War Hero... no sorry can't go there!

      May 13, 2011 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      Commander in Cheif of the armed forces of the United States of America, yeah, that makes him a war hero... or are only white male presidents considered war heros?

      May 13, 2011 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Iwasthere

      War hero??? Not a chance. I am glad he continued doing what was set out for him by the previous administration and that he actually had the ballz to make the call to kill OBL. But he will never be a war hero, he is only a mediocre leader at best.

      May 13, 2011 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • dean IN

      I agree, the president shouldn't be classified as a war hero, but he ansered the call to make a very difficult decision by going in and getting Usama. As far as a medeocre leader, only history will answer that, as he may do great things in 6 more years in office. Now while on the subject of medeocre leaders, well, better I don't bust your bubble of the last administration

      May 13, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. sykoh963

    No it's not, the blood is on the taliban's hands. Obama took measures to eliminate one of the greatest terrorism icons of this age, and put thousands of families minds to rest.

    The only problem our country currently has is self-righteous republicans such as yourself who take every possible opportunity to bash our president. I wish we were living in the middle ages so you would have your head severed for talking about our country's leader.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
  14. Onegood1

    Please! I am not racist any more than any one else so cork the race card. I am wondering where is the outrage about innocent people getting killed as a result of American foreign policy.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  15. Felicitations

    The White House is supposed to be run by adults who have some self discipline and judgment. The White House shouldn't be led by the press. They were falling all over themselves blabbing and blabbing and contradicting one another. They should have kept the facts secret! I'm glad Secretary Gates had the courage to speak frankly at Camp LeJeune.

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