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. friedel

    Very Interesting murdered an unarmed Osama, is your assertion. This person kill over 3,000 unarmed peole, in this country and countless others around the world. You speak as if this person was some innocent cleric leading hi peaceful devoted flock. This man is and was a self proclaimed terrorist, who was proud of the death he brought. How dare you speak as if he did nothing, how dare you speak as these men wrongfully killed an innocent person. Under the fog of combat he knew what to do and he chose not to. This person got what he deserved and now he is burning in a hell much worst then the hell he cause on 9/11.

    May 13, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. james

    I once worked in special ops for the USAF as a AFSOC helicopter crew chief. I can tell you, the seals are a quiet bunch of people. Not once did thay responcd to my questions when thay boarded my Airforce helicopter.

    I would have to say, who ever leaked that it was seals that did the raid on the Bin Ladden compound only increased there family sense of vulnerability and stress level. Living on a base takes some of your freedoms away "always in the presents of authority" so, alot of men and woman on base leave the base for a night on the town to blow off some steam and be whole thay are for fun. Now, this leak happens and I am not impressed.

    May 13, 2011 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
  3. DAN

    Forget about our President because unfortunately he gets the crap end of the stick should anything happen. my comment is as follows. If the people who are responsible for keeping the information " TOP SECRET " screw this up and there is in fact retribution. Our gov't better prosecute the responsible individuals to the full extent of the law under military tribunals. The fact that somebody is leaking this information or could be starting to, this is a complete stab in the back to our great men in the SEALs.. Shame on the leakers how dare they. when will this country wake up? when will our elected officials fight for our security not just national how about armed forces as well. The last time i checked they are citizens as well. This is to the person or persons who are leaking this information. YOUR DAYS ARE NUMBERED. YOU WILL BE FOUND AND IF CAUGHT, YOU WILL NEED MORE THAN GOD TO HELP YOU!!!!!!!

    May 13, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Thank-you

      There are so many Muslims in OUR government and I believe their the ones betraying us with the releasing of SECRET Military operations.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  4. Thank-you

    Thank-you SEALs for getting this evil man. I will be praying for you and your family. Why does our government always tell what needs to be kept secret and keeps secret what needs to be told.

    May 13, 2011 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  5. HBK

    "SEALs, short for Sea, Air and Land teams, are known as "quiet professionals."
    So,what are they afraid of?

    May 13, 2011 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  6. akna10

    It is called FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Don't like it? Move to North Korea where the government controls the media.
    OK. So, you approve of PFC Bradley Manning's actions, too? Or are you one of the hypocritical lynch mob who would make him do a gallows jig without the benefit of a trial?

    May 13, 2011 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
  7. stan

    MAYBE the administration should have given out fewer details on the mission, instead of identifying the team, their home base, etc. No forethought into making preventing these servicemen, and their base and families a target? One in awhile, the government should share less. This administration continues to operate like amateurs.

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

    There is every indication that bin Laden murdered 321 Muslims in the Twin Towers. He was also responsible for bombing two embassies in Africa, where many Muslims were killed. His cohorts and minions carried out terrorism in h is name as well, where Muslims, if not specifically targeted, were also killed. This is often glossed over by our press. But Muslims know he murdered many of them as well, and this has been a source of great consternation in the Arab world. Many Muslims believe that bin Laden brought the U.S. INTO their countries...and would have probably stayed out if bin Laden had not committed those acts of terrorism in the first place.

    May 13, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
    • billyc

      Dich Cheney said in the Tony Snow show in 2003 that they never ere able to directly connect OBL to 911.
      Then GWB said that he wasnt to concerned about OBL, wonder why?

      Top Doctor Confirms Bin Laden Had Marfan Syndrome

      An MSNBC hit piece that attempts to debunk Dr. Steve R. Pieczenik’s assertion that Osama Bin Laden died from Marfan syndrome in 2001 unwittingly provides corroboration from a top Cornell doctor who first made similar statements in an interview with Salon magazine two months after 9/11.

      Pieczenik’s assertion that Bin Laden has been dead for years is also backed up by a myriad of other intelligence professionals and heads of state, including Former CIA officer and hugely respected intelligence & foreign policy expert Robert Baer, as well as former FBI counter-terror head Dale Watson, who have all gone on the record to state that Osama was dead long before the raid on his alleged Pakistani compound earlier this month.

      So, this proves that whoever they killed a week ago in Paki certainly WASNT OBL !

      May 13, 2011 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
    • smurfette

      The Military needs to order some kind of cease and desist order against the media.. We know OBL is dead and we know the Seals did it.. thats all we ever needed to know. Stop already!! By relentless reporting on the team who did this you are compromising national security, Just forget it already. Even reporting on this at all is over kill. Gates should just be quiet ..what ever happened to things going on behind closed doors. The public doesnt need to know everytime someone "farts"...and love how everyone in this discussion gets off topic and starts btching and moaning about everything else accept the headlines.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  9. akna10


    Very Interesting murdered an unarmed Osama, is your assertion. This person kill over 3,000 unarmed peole, in this country and countless others around the world. You speak as if this person was some innocent cleric leading hi peaceful devoted flock. This man is and was a self proclaimed terrorist, who was proud of the death he brought. How dare you speak as if he did nothing, how dare you speak as these men wrongfully killed an innocent person. Under the fog of combat he knew what to do and he chose not to. This person got what he deserved and now he is burning in a hell much worst then the hell he cause on 9/11.
    Very true. Around 150,000 muslims have been killed by al Qaeda and its minions

    May 13, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
  10. jean2009

    I agree with Secretary Gates. The American people should have been told the bare minimum Osama bin Laden has been killed by an American military action, and his body buried at sea. The name or number of the Seal team, the name of the vessel he was taken to should not have been divulged, and definitely no photos. We do not need to endanger our Navy Seal's their families, a ship when it enters port, and no we don't need to see gory photos. The American people need to know this is not a circus it is people's lives. Obviously our young do not remember WW2.

    May 13, 2011 at 10:23 am | Report abuse |
    • smurfette

      OBL is dead.. was killed by US Military... End of story.....Thats all we needed to know.. The news and people responsible for listing details and such should be held accountable for their actions. They need to stop reporting on this nonsense RIGHT NOW. Even about his wives etc and the intel....WHO CARES...we dont need to know. I am sick of seeing his name every day. Enough already. News media outlets are just adding fuel to the fire and giving him the recognition he loved.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:24 am | Report abuse |
  11. akna10


    Many people have problems with English, disabilities, and many reasons that spelling is difficult. To call them on it in a blog is very rude. Feel blessed that you do not have such, and, show kindness. It can be a very painful life trying to be "ok" in the normal world. Ridicule is not good.
    Enough with the criticism of people's grammar/linguistics. For all you know, English may not be the native tongue of the writer, who may nonetheless speak your language a darn sight better than you can speak his/hers. Stomping on people's ideas because they can't express themselves in such flowery prose as you may use is the height of arrogance, as well as a classical bully-boy tactic.

    May 13, 2011 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
  12. Caesar

    Show me your proof that OBL did 911. Do yiou have any forensic evidence to back your claim? No, you don't or you would have been posting it by now. (it's been 10 years)

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

      Well lets see the orginization that he was the leader of claimed the attack. "Yes your honor I did kill mr such and such" Well that good enough for me. He claimed it he 'got it' end of story. Damn I love you conspiracy under every rock types.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Shotgunman006

      Bin Laden claimed responsibility for the 911 several videos. he even said that he hadn't expected the buildings to come down but that was a bonus for him. Geez. Whats wrong with you people

      May 13, 2011 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • 1whowonders

      Totally agree my friend. Show me PROOF. Don't TELL ME...SHOW ME. There are so many holes in the 9/11 Commissions final report that it is not even funny.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • 1whowonders

      Listen to this and THEN share some thoughts on 9/11. Just give it 30 minutes

      May 13, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  13. John

    why do they need protection- if they have the guts to sneak into a country in the night and kill unarmed yet dangerous-4 men and scare 20 or so women and children for 40 minutes and leave completely legally -if they can do all that why need protection.
    On the other hand if they were fighting mother nature-such as floods etc maybe their families will need help. it is always best to ask protection when dealing with enemies of equal strength and when one has not done anything(including egotistic behaviours,double standards and bad foreign policies) to start the problem in the first place.

    May 13, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Shotgunman006

      they didn't know they would be unarmed when they attacked. It was dark so there was no guarantee that these men didn't have access to a weapon or have a bomb strapped to them or located somewhere they could remotely detonate. I don't think anybody would be complaining if Swat raided a house of a known serial rapist or child molester and killed the guy in the process. they would be like "Good Riddance!". Yet Bin Laden Killed so many more and planned so many more deaths that if he went to trial he would have got the death penalty anyway. And all the time he was in custody, people guarding him would be under threat of being attacked or their families being attacked in an attempt to free bin Laden. Its better he got shot in the process of the raid.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Jason

      They don't...their families however may. After all, they are not home to protect them. Break into a SEAL's house when they are home, you are a dead man. Break into a SEAL's house when they are a have a stay of execution until they get back and find out what you did.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justme2222

      Really? YOU deserve the dumb post of the day award!

      May 13, 2011 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justme2222

      Jason and Shotgunman006. That was meant for John, not either of you.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Caesar

    And I highly doubt OBLs friends and family will accept the old "i was just following orders" excuse used by paid assaisins for decades. Of course they are afraid. Who would murder a suspect before he had his day in court and not be?

    May 13, 2011 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
    • smurfette

      its obvious OBL is your hero... So just deal with it ok.. he got waxed ..end of story.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Shotgunman006

      I think a lot of people need to be shot before even going to court. I would have shot bin Laden. Half of America would...some would have paid for the privilege. Trials are for people who might be innocent. Bin Laden never was and never pretended to be anything else besides a murder of those who didn't believe in his point of view.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  15. Theresa

    I do not think that military and intelligence information should be shared with the public. All it does is compromise future missions, reputations and puts our military and private citizens in danger! The Navy had a phrase "Loose lips sink ships" zip it up and stop sinking the ship!

    May 13, 2011 at 10:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      So true

      May 13, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • jana lalewicz

      Absolutely! Some of us don't need to hear every 'mouse fart' our goverment passes.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
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