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. JustAnotherAmerican

    Onegood1:

    You are a jacka#%! President Obama made the choice to eliminate a threat to our country. If he would have sat back and ignored the intel and another attack happen on US soil, your ignorat self would be crying of how he did nothing to protect this country.

    The blood of the 80 people killed this morning in Pakistan rests on the hands of the militants who committed that cowardly act. To bomb innocent men/women/children to take revenge on another murderer-Coward in every sense of the word!

    May 13, 2011 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  2. Onegood1

    Oh Boy, did I hit a sore spot? Truth hurts doesn't it!

    May 13, 2011 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
    • jean2009

      Racism is racism, and answering to that is never a point of your version of so called truth hurting anyone. Instead it a way of pointing out to you your lack of being unable to see truth for your racist flaws.

      May 13, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  3. Baldwin

    Finally I am amused and encouraged by spell checkers. Great job! For too long too many people keep writing rubbish for correct sentences. "Your" is a possessive pronoun that has been badly abused by too many. Do we even realize that HE, SHE and IT only go with DOES ? If so why do so many say "It don't matter" when it should be IT DOES NOT MATTER? English for God sake has rules. Is that why we refer to a male as HE and a female SHE? If something is more than one, doe that not make it plural ? Why do so many say , "there is two" when the correct grammar is THERE ARE TWO ? Is ARE not the plural verb instead of IS ?

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

      Does it feel good, the ego-masturbation, that is?

      May 13, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Gracko

      Is you getting help for you obsessive compulsive disorder?

      May 13, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Spell-check

      Baldwin, you may want to spell-check your own rant.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
    • PeteFanortney

      What's with the extra space before your punctuation?

      May 13, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Spelling For Dummies

      Baldwin wrote ..."doe that not make it plural ?" ... Since you are very smart, I feel bad to inform you that your statement should be "does that not make it plural ?".

      May 13, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • uh?

      take your pill and a breathe baldwin. geeeez.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Jas

      We take everything very lightly. Not only language, we are distorting every thing that comes in our life. You raised a very valid point and I hope people are listening to you!

      May 13, 2011 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      You should read "Pearls before Swine" comics, in particular the croc strips.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Adam

      Baldwin, unfortunately not everyone in the world is as "educated" as you are. Also, not everyone who reads CNN and decides to comment are native English speakers. It is unfortunate that individuals today still have to deal with the ignorance and criticism of others when they attempt to share their views and opinions. Why not try and discuss or argue something relevant for a change? Perhaps something to do with the above article?

      May 13, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • fbnut

      You have A LOT of time on your hands, don't you?

      May 13, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Paula

      That's why crap like this needs to stay where it used to stay SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH... the media has access to tooo much info nowadays because our Government can't keep it's mouth shut!

      May 13, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Challenged

      Ever hear of "informal" communication? Some brilliant people can't type worth a sh**. If they were writing a report or letter I'm sure the product would be different.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • GetConfidentStupid

      Who cares? Despite the technical errors (aka noisy data) there was no information lost in the communication of this article. In this day and age creativity and intellect is better spent expanding the information frontier, not worrying about random glitches (that may be smoothed out) in that information.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  4. Thurman Johnston

    Obama is out for media attention let the word out Team 6.Needs to stay the hell out of it.
    Retired Seal here was first in UDT till it was changed to Seals in 1962.
    Go Seals Go

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

      Props brother. Preach it.

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

      I am surprised with this administration and all of their talking. All of the treasures we got over there, a small library, computers, notes...all of the stuff that I nor any one else needs to know about. Now I am just wondering when they are going to publish the names and addresses of the seals that took part in the raid.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Brandon

      You were a Navy SEAL, huh? A Vietnam SEAL at that, I don't believe it one bit. You would have to be pretty old and I doubt you would be preaching about it. Plus its not spelled "Seals" brother, it's "SEALs"

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

      Obama did make a huge mistake in the way the WH spewed out the publicity. He wanted, as Oliver North put it, his "victory lap." I am no fan of North, but he is right. Obama should have kept his big mouth shut, and directed his entire administration to do the same. This problem stems from the fact that it has been a LONG time since we have had a Commander in Chief who really served in the military. Obama of course did not, Bush dodged the real thing, and Clinton dodged it all. You have to go back to Bush, senior, to get someone who understands the military culture.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  5. sue maddern

    do you think because obama took out Bin liden that its is fault for relalition will I got news for you this all goes back to the bush administration and the start of a war and 9/11.these nuts will never stop because they thing their doing good because of allilah and their muslim faith.I believe we should bring all our troops home.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • 1 Bored Corporal

      please reconsider the statment, obama killed the terrorist, the armed forces killed a terrorist, you know it gets old having people give all the credit to the president, the credit goes to the boots on the ground and the generals planning.

      May 27, 2011 at 7:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. smokey

    I guess the moral of this is, if you are at all concerned about the safety of your family, don't go into an occupation that could put their safety at risk. Just another day in the united states of derp.

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

      Well said.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
    • psifactor

      F$%K YOU. Brave souls that put their lives on the line to protect not only Americans, but 1/2 the freaking world and do it for little pay and no fame. They do it because its in their hearts and they believe in the value of their efforts. To say their families are fair targets because of the profession they are in is BS. You should be ashamed, I'm guessing you forgot that someone DIED to give you the right of free speech.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • PCola Vet

      No smokey, that's NOT how it works. MOST spec ops, whether it be Seals, Delta, or whatever, you NEVER hear about their missions, but because of the this one being OBL, the media was just all over it, and wouldn't let go, and also the White House also wouldnt' keep their traps shut. Seals DON'T want recognition.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      We all undertake a certain level of risk as a result of being American. To ask a member of our military to refrain from maximizing his or her operational capability and living up to his or her potential for fear of his or her family's security is ridiculous.

      The members of the the team that conducted this raid should be offered full military retirement under a program that would be similar to the Witness Protection Program. New names, new (fabricated) backgrounds and careful redacting of anything that could lead to the identification of the participants. Calling it Hero Protection Program would be appropriate.

      It is unpatriotic to minimize or marginalize the work and sacrifice that each of these personnel and their families endured to bring us to this point. What would have happened if the task had been left in your hands?

      May 13, 2011 at 9:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Nina

      Hey Smokey, SOMEONE HAS TO DO IT and instead of the ADMINSTRATION doing what they said they were going to do which is keep under wraps of the details, they decided that it was better for OBAMA's POLL #'s to get the information out there, so they put the Navy Seals at risk and their families. SO before you speak, think about it and be grateful for those WHO CHOOSE to sacrifice so you may be FREE!!!! SO THANKS to the Administration and OBAMA, YOU SOLD OUT FOR BETTER #'s, IM GLAD IT WORKED>..

      May 13, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
  7. earl snyder

    Carl, OBAMA got OSAMA is not going to get OBAMA re elected in 2012.The American people aren't that
    gullible. It's time for a change.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • hoopster`

      Yep, time for a "family values" and tax breaks for the wealthy and well-connected guy like Newt! Love to have someone who serves divorce papers on first wife when she is in hospital recovering from cancer surgery and has affair while married to second wife leading our country. Anyone who thinks he can be trusted should have their head examined. And it gets better-Ron Paul is back for a 3rd run. The election is theirs to win, yet the GOP can't even put forward a serious candidate!

      May 13, 2011 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
    • John W

      They voted for Bush Jr. twice, didn't they?

      May 13, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • ivyleague200

      Perhaps,but do you think they are guillibloe enough to fall for what any of the repubs are offering?

      May 13, 2011 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  8. PAM

    CNN did a report on where the Seals live and eat. They interviewed some people in a coffee shop asking if they could tell when a Navy seal would come in compared to a regular military person. I thought it was pretty stupid at the time to do such a report, opening up the location of their base and where they eat! CNN needs to be more thoughtful and responsible!

    May 13, 2011 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  9. Onegood1

    So you pulled the whole thread? And I thought CNN was maybe a little open to civil discussion. I guess I was wrong.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  10. Kent Leighty

    These individuals risk their lives on a day to day basis and put a great amount of trust in those who make decisions to send them in harms way. It does not surprise me in of the lack of integrity and greed of those that gave the command for this mission.There is more too this whole issue than what it is the surface. It is about integrity and leadership – something that is lacking at the top and throughout our government leaders. It is about using people for their own well being no matter what the cost to someone else. I think one should write a law that states the "confidentiality of these individuals" and if a government official breaks that law then they will go to prison for 25 plus years – no plea agreements or other conditions. Our troops don't ask questions when told to do a mission. They figure it out and then go do it with the trust that those who command them to do such will honor and keep their integrity. We need to start holding all these government officials accountable for their actions.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  11. RW

    I can't believe that any of you actually believe that there really is a group called Seal Team 6. Insiders are laughing their fannies off at you people and especially those of you in the media that have bought into this Seal Team 6 story. Have any of you ever heard of misinformation? Well this Seal Team 6 story is a great big dose of it, and I am very proud of our president and military leaders for coming up with it. Do you really think there is anyway that they would identify the actual group that pulled this off. Seal Team 6 is a ghost that they want the bad guys to chase. Heck, even Dick Chaney got in on the scam this past weekend. Do you really think Dick Chaney would mention Seal don't like Dick Chaney, but at least he is not Carl Rove. He would not out a real secret military unit. I was skeptical about Seal Team 6 to begin with, but when Chaney mentioned Seal Team 6 this past weekend I knew it was fake for sure.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • DickMarcinko

      I suggest you read my book Rogue Warrior (published in 1992). Seal Team Six does exist (as does the army's Delta force), even if the military won't formally acknowledge it.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • psifactor

      Seal Team 6 was created years ago by Dick Marcinko after the failed Delta attempted rescue in Iran in 1980.

      Check your facts you'd be amazed at how many stories are reality when it comes to military secrets.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
    • John W

      Holy #$%@ is that the real DickMarcenko? Gotta say, props on Seal team 6. You are the man incarnate.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • that's some...

      ...real sound logic there. *eye roll*

      May 13, 2011 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  12. Hans Gruber

    Why are we glorifying mercenaries from America? We have soldiers killing for god and country. Our currency says "In God We Trust." People are following the wrong god if they believe violence towards others is acceptable. An appropriate song is "Nine Inch Nails, Head Like A Hole." America

    May 13, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  13. IAMGOD1014

    F&%# THE FREE WORLD

    May 13, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • TSgt Bourland

      Fu@k your Mom, I hope the free world crushes you!

      May 13, 2011 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • DickMarcinko

      Ironic post. Only someone living in the "free world" would be able to access the internet and openly post thier beliefs. People living in police states such as North Korea generally don't have access to Western web sites. Are you just another misguided suburban white kid with mommy issues? Do us all a favor, get out of your parent's basement and head to the local Marine Corp recruiter. They will straighten you out and bring you back into reality.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • John W

      Hear hear, Demo Dick

      May 13, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  14. Gracko

    CNN did more potential harm to the safety of the SEALs through their exhaustive reporting on who they are, where they live, what they look like and don't look like, than wikileaks could ever do.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. Bee

    Not putting the SEAL team down but what about the troops still serving over in Afghanistan risking their lives EVERYDAY. Still getting rocketed or experiencing IDF attacks...are we really more concerned about the SEALs team safety more than those men & women still overseas?

    May 13, 2011 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
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