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. I'm smart so I post things on the internet

    Look people, the facts are irrefutable. Throughout the history of the United States, more troops have died in combat while serving under a white president than a black president, pure and simple. Therefore, President Obama is clearly a more proficient leader and Commander in Chief of military operations than any other president in history. End of story. I have a Ph.D. from a very prominent university too, so I know what I'm talking about.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Barack Hussein Osama

      You look like an idiot saying things like "I'm smart and i went to a prominent university"

      May 13, 2011 at 9:58 am | Report abuse |
    • I'm smart so I post things on the internet

      Dear Mr. President,
      Please look down from your teleprompter long enough to look up the word, "sarcasm."

      May 13, 2011 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  2. DandyStryker

    Remember that dick Cheney did a similar thing to Plame.

    Last time I checked, that dick isn't in jail. We need to get serious about traitors that release the names of American heroes, and in the process put the lives of those heroes in danger. Investigate, charge, convict, jail.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  3. oldster

    ..and bin Laden didn't murder the people on the planes and in the twin towers? Just consider his death an execution for the thousands of innocent men, women and children that he murdered.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  4. Eybrows Raised

    Cannot believe this response..... These types of missions have existed for years and are important for the safety and security of the world. Its Just too bad we live in a society where people can't take things at face value. Hopefully we really haven't affected our ability to do these types of jobs in the future. The day been Laden was killed was one of the proudest moments in America's history. Anybody who calls it murder is certainly not a patriot and certainly doesnt deserve the justice which America provides to it's citizens.... sometimes even at a price.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  5. Rick

    Let them carry weapons all the time, maybe they can fix a few more problems with angry muslims.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  6. Rambo

    OMG! poor osama. who cares how he died, as long as he was killed. how soon we forget how many innocent people he has had a hand in killing..burn in hell Dr. and osama

    May 13, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  7. Onegood1

    This is your conscious. I am not going away. There is innocent blood on America's hands as a result of current foreign policy. Think about it while you try to sleep tonight.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  8. Dom

    Perhaps Obama shouldn't have carted them out on national TV to congratulate them. Don't get me wrong, congratulations are in order and God bless the troops and their families, but if we are worried about security, showing their faces on CNN while Obama gave a speech probably wasn't the best idea

    May 13, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  9. Brian

    aww poor unarmed osama...he's unarmed still now burning in hell mr. delhi

    May 13, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  10. Sarah

    Waaaaaaaaah waaaaaaaaaaah, I'm a scare little PU$$Y.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  11. 13Directors

    Hey Doc, I don't really care if he was unarmed, so uh, bite me.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  12. Carlos

    Washington should have not mention anything about navy seals. The mission was set and completed and that should have been the end of it. The media should not be showing anything having to do with navy seals or any special op group in our country. By not publishing any information the enemy will be shaking in their pants, not knowing what or who took out obsama bin laden. They will be worring if they are next on the list.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jason Viper

    The US Military is way too open with the media. As a citizen who watches/reads the news, I would be all for shutting off media access to the military in times of war. It's a matter of national security, and there is just way too much information making its way onto the airwaves. It seems like every unit over in Iraq and Afghanistan, even the more secretive ones, have a journalist and camera crew embedded with them.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:54 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mike Tubbs

    I agree with Jacks Grandpa ... Loose lips sink ships!

    May 13, 2011 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  15. Onegood1

    And I still don't get why people would pull the race card for using a "tar baby" analogy. Does this mean that Mark Twain was racist?

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