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. Kim

    As a MILITARY WIFE i do not share info to protect my husband and my family. I am sick that so much info is being given out about the team that took out OBL. To even send news reporters to my hometown to even talk about who they could be with locals is irresponsible. Not only are our guys at risk for retaliation but so is their families. I read someones comment that the team is protected..live on base. Most military families live off base. In public neighborhoods.

    May 13, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  2. Lol

    LOL @ U

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

    I think it's extremely disturbing that the subject went from the security of our forces – to people being extremely petty about whether a person can spell or has bad grammar... get over it – some people know the language – others have a basic understanding of it – I bet they have better grammar skills in english than you do in their language.. then it went from there – to obama being a war hero.. no – he is NOT a war hero... he has bashed our military in the past AND would stip it down to nothing to pay for social programs if he had a chance. ALL of the glory should go to the men an women of the millrtary – NOT a socialistic bureaucrat.. He has no business even being talked about in the same breath as the great men and women of our military.. He never served.. NEVER served.. he can't even begin to comprehend the sacrafices that our service members endure to keep our great nation strong... and that goes for any modern day president.. you give me one who has served – in combat – then and only then will i agree that he can be a war hero

    May 13, 2011 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Justme2222

      Good post!

      May 13, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mary

    Several and many posts ago someone listed a Navy Seals rank and first and last name, then someone mentioned the name of a state that one of the pilots who flew the helicopter came from. I hope that info is not correct, but to the persons that gave the info WHY?? Don't you think you just put that person in danger by some nut that might take you serious? Why would you do that? Your not the sharpest tool in the shed are you? MARY~

    May 13, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  5. BoliviaMark

    Situation Room highlights... Obama "Spiking the Football" ... White House reception for Seal team. Hmmm, can't imagine why folks might be worried. What ever happened to covert operations being just that...? But then again, I can't imagine any president wanting to miss such a great photo-op.

    May 13, 2011 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  6. asrar3mri

    http://www.asrar3mri.com/vb/

    May 13, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  7. smurfette

    I personally believe that Pakistan was aware of OBL hiding out and I find it funny that his " followers" have bombed Pakistan and innocent people as a big " thank you" for keeping him hidden for 10 years. Sorry Pakistan.. you reap what you sow.

    May 13, 2011 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
  8. smurfette

    AND – I think we need to get out of Afghanistan and Iraq and bring our troops home. Such a mess.. There will always be bad people in the world but we cant keep sending our troops to babysit them, Let them fight amongst themselves...seriously...we have our own problems at home. Slipping Dollar...High Oil Prices...Unemployment...Floods...Tornadoes...all kinds of things we need to be taking care of here....Peace out.

    May 13, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Shotgunman006

      so many billions of dollars that could be spent at home to help the economy. If you work for the state you are probably feeling the pinch of furlough days etc. Lord knows we could use the money in the schools. As a tech guy I'm trying to keep 8 and 9 year old computers going.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • smurfette

      Thats right shotgun... all the money we spend on other Countries is redonkulous!! It needs to be spent at home...we could fix all our problems in a short period of time if the Gov would just FOCUS on USA.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kevin B

    Considering that the Taliban just retaliated by blowing up a part of northern Pakistan, I don't think they have the ability to reach the USA.

    May 13, 2011 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • smurfette

      That was their way of saying " Thank you for hiding our hero for 10 years "

      May 13, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • hamza

      the "heroes" are not so brave when 18 of them are not facing one old man,three women and some kids.

      May 13, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  10. smurfette

    What I dont understand is how a run down crack house with dirt and garbage all over the place becomes a "mansion" and how a dirty old man wrapped in a blanket watching a beat up TV becomes a hero?? ...

    I hope he had alot of viagra for his 40 virgins..but if they look anything like his wives.. ..doesn't look like much fun at all. 😦

    May 13, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • jana lalewicz

      LOL! Seriously:) What a sh..hole. Mansion?? When I saw the video of that place I was asking the same question. Does this mean 'mansion' only in Pakistan?? What a hovel!

      May 13, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      LMBO! Now THAT is comedy! Too hilarious

      May 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • maria mccants

      bin laden sitting in his cellar

      May 13, 2011 at 7:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • hamza

      the same way as slaveholders washington and jefferson.what do you know about virgins?in america that dissapears behind the school building before the age of 12.

      May 13, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. g.r.r.

    Hmmm. Why was this info released in the first place? Beyond that, we SHOULD consider moving them into hiding, by putting them into different teams, position. If the men want to retire, then lets get them jobs somewhere else where Black Ops has a meaning of BEING QUIET.

    May 13, 2011 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • MARINEWIFE

      As if our troops aren't In enough danger, lets lead the badem straight to thier families door. No MORE OPERATIONAL INFO SHOULD GO OUT .. THESE MEN AND THIER FAMILIES GIVE SO MUCH . THEY SHOULD BE PROTECTED LIKE NO OTHERS

      May 13, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. the real point here

    The real issue here is the fact that we killed UBL was even disclosed it in the first place. The guy was in hiding. If we had gone in, killed him, as well as everyone in the compound, and left it would have been end of story. No retailation, ability for US to keep fighting terrorism by saying we are still hunting UBL, no seal team security issues, disorganization within al qaeda and massive internal disruption, etc. Instead, Obama tried to get some political mileage out of UBL assasination and the whole thing backfired. US being accused of anti-muslim sentiment for burial and international killing, seal team exposed, retaliation bombings, what a damn mess. All for the chance of a second term at the expense of american soldiers safety.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alan

      I agree that things like this are wrongly used as political points, but I have no doubt that if Bin Laden had been killed while Bush was in office they would have flaunted it even more. Maybe I'm wrong, but Bin Laden being killed helps the cause against terrorism in the long run. There will be more revenge attacks in the short term but I would have to think this discourages new recruits to Al Qaeda and puts some serious doubt in the minds of their present members. He is a martyr to them, but now they know anyone can be gotten to.

      May 13, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • real issue

      the killing of osama had to be put out there. pretending to keep hunting OBL is what the bush administration was practically doing by going into iraq. dont blame the president for wanting to tell us the truth. jeez

      May 13, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. wardpro

    Do we not also need to include the responsibilites of the media in this discussion. We expect politicians to get diahrrea of the tounge and and explosion of the ego, but if the media showed a little more restraint on what they would report perhaps a few politicians would catch on and you would not be setting there high an mighty wringing your hands asking why this story is being reported. try looking in the mirror for once.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • the real point here

      its the medias job to report EVERYTHING. selectivity would engender their own ideas rather than provide and open view of the issues. go check out china or russia and see what selective reporting does to society.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Brad

    Who farted?

    May 13, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jcbacallao

    Thank god we had the wisdom to get rid of osama bin laden,god bless the united states of america.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
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