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. Jason

    It amazes me to see how many citizens of the greatest nation on Earth are IGNORANT of courtesy and lack the skills to properly research a topic before commenting. This shoot-from-the-hip mentality is destroying the comment section of all cnn posts. And I bet these same uneducated louts are all better qualified to run our country?

    May 13, 2011 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
  2. rfharrir12

    And you would know this how? Were you there? Have you been consulted by those who were there? It is really easy to state information without any proof to back up what you are saying. If you would like to share copies of the military reports, any photos, or any recorded military briefings that you attended we will be glad to hear your OPINION. Without those nobody wants to hear your rant that will just stir up arguments without any basis.

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

    He was RIGHTFULLY MURDERED. This P.O.S. MURDERED 3,000+ people in ONE day... not to mention over the previous years of his regime. It makes me SO happy and PROUD as an American that in his last years of life, he had to cower and hide like a little Bit$H. He could sure talk crap about Americans on camera, but to our faces. Hell no. He will live in infamy as a scared, cowering imbecile. Right now, your "fearless leader" is getting railed in HELL by 22 virgins; VIRGIN pigs!

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

      The word "murdered" is only reserved for killing someone who has some sort of value to society, not an animal like OBL, eliminated is a much more accurate word, just like I am gonna eliminate my breakfast in a couple of hours, getting rid of the waste is all it was....We did not "murder" anybody....

      May 13, 2011 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. Kyirow

    Thanx to CNN for allowng people to comments on all its posts. It makes some under-achievers sitiing infront of a computer feel like heros and super-thinkers when posting useless, zero-sum, convoluted lines of arguements and comments. They will criticise anything and offer an laternative philosophy for any issue. Keyboard geniuses of 21st century?. But they still recoil into their sad lives pitiful lives as soon as they walk away from the keyboard and the monitor. The simple silly things you scorn, like hididng the IDs of the navy SEALs are the ones that make the world roll. Not you!!

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

      It is called FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Don't like it? Move to North Korea where the government controls the media.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  5. Dina

    Obama sent a team/group in with a Kill not Capture mission. Why? Why not capture and question for more information? What were they so afraid of? Why Kill on site? He is not the president/man that I voted for. I agree it is time for a change and Mr. Paul has my vote if he runs in 2012.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • sanjosemike

      Unless you were actually with the Seals who performed the operation, you are in no position to "judge" what they should or should not have done. Their lives were at stake in every moment of the operation. All indications are that bin Laden would have fired back, if given the opportunity. I understand that he was not armed, but that there may have been weapons in the room.

      If one of your family members served on that incursion, you would want them to come back safely. As far as bin Laden "talking" that would be highly unlikely, and I believe you and I both know that. They got a treasure trove of intelligence from the compound that will probably shock al Qaeda for years to come. There was no compelling "need" to capture him alive. bin Laden had the opportunity to just wave a white flag, or lie down on the floor. Had that happened, he would have "forced" the Seals to take him alive. But he did not.

      You are very judgmental in an area where you have no expertise.


      May 13, 2011 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  6. sanjosemike

    Whatever happened to "media responsibility?" Military secrets exist for a reason. I don't want to know who the Navy Seals were that killed bin Laden. You shouldn't either.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
  7. Common Sense

    They killed a war criminal admittedly guilty of planning and executing an attack that killed thousands of innocent people. He took an innocent woman as a human shield to again project his cowardice. I don't think there's a single person on the planet more deserving. I figure he's lucky to die so quickly rather than face the American people.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  8. Boscobear

    Anyone, any organization, etc., that releases these men's names should be tried for treason and sent to jaik for life.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  9. oneshot36

    SHUT UP! He never gave all of those victims in 911 or both embassies in Africa a chance so F&*K him! These guys can take care of themselves if anybody has the balls to attack them unlike you who hides behind that keyboard! Dr. Dehli, whatever! They will be ready if any fool attempts to strike! I am glad they took his azz out and took that intelligence. Because with all that informnation, we will hunt down the rest of them and capture/kill them. Theres an old saying, if you bring a knife to a gunfight, what do you expect!

    May 13, 2011 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  10. Dr. Daddy

    Wow, so now you are ashamed to admit that you are actually Dr. Islamabad.

    May 13, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  11. Former Navy Diver Dude

    Ding Dong Bin Laden's dead, which ond ist, the terrorist, Ding Dong Osama Bin Laden's dead, Team 6 woke him out of bed, a double tap to the left of his head, Ding Dong Osama Bin Laden's dead.....

    May 13, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  12. Robert

    Kill a man and become a murderer, kill a million people and become a conqueror. Or even better, kill a most wanted terrorist and become scared to death (and worried about the safety of your family) for the rest of your life. Nice.

    May 13, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  13. TrueTexan

    Obama did it. Something white man couldnt do for 7 yrs. Black man gets it done in lil' over 2 yrs. Quote: " HIRE A BLACK MAN IF YOU WANT TO KILL SOMEBODY".

    May 13, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • 4another1

      incredibly shallow and opinionated. why do so many people still hang on to simple minded ideas based on color. judge a president by his actions or lack there of, and before you coment pubicly at least have some knowlege based on actual facts. not just emotions and a desire to be heard. no wonder there is so much hate in this country. i did not vote for Obama, and do not agree with much of his policy... i just have little use for opinions based on jiberish.

      May 13, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
  14. Ru

    Good riddens to Osama bin Laden. Stop saying that he was "murdered" because he was the long-beard equivalent of Hitler. Dr. Delhi tooo bad buddy. You sound like one of these crazy Jihadists that want to do NOTHING, but have 18 wives (that can't be seen in public, lucky you!), 55 soon-to-kill themselves over some mythical character children, and murder innocent people. Trust me you are worse than the people you fight.. and you fight with EVERYONE! You even bomb your own country and kill your own innocent countrymen. SO OSAMA bin Laden... GOOOODBYE!!!!! Praise be to Obama!

    May 13, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  15. ricky

    Why did the Seals sign up in the first place if they have concerns for their families?!?!

    May 13, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • BenThere2

      Is there any way you can be any stupider than you already are, Ricky?

      May 13, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Jason


      May 13, 2011 at 10:22 am | Report abuse |
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