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. gvnn688

    We had to know Bin Laden was killed and how or we would have not believed them, some still do not. Don't be afraid Nave Seals they are going after the president's grandmother. Simply put, don't be afraid of cowards.

    May 12, 2011 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • skytag

      Don't kid yourself. They are not cowards.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
    • An American

      "BRAVO ZULU" Seal Team 6.

      May 21, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  2. jake

    the story is sad but what are you going to do really?the world knows that one day there will be someone who knows someone that was involved in all this and it will surface that is the 21st media for you folks ain't nothin' a secret no more ,nothing.

    May 12, 2011 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bob USAF Retired

    The problem is and always has been our stupid politicians. They just cannot keep their mouths shut, always playiing to the camera for votes and $$$. That is all they care about.
    I sat listening to Obama say how some of his closeted advisor, even the wife did not know about the raid ahead of time. I thought how stupid? How stupid is the interviewer? The President? The first rule of security is "You must have a need to know" to get access to intel reguardless of your clearance. If you don't have a NEED to know you won't know.
    How many time has a congressman, or Senator revealed classified information? Yet none are brought up on charges as they should be.

    May 12, 2011 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Stefan

    That is what you get for commiting cold blooded murder against an unarmed man.

    May 12, 2011 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • sparky

      eat a$$

      May 13, 2011 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
    • sparky

      seriously, eat a$$

      May 13, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
    • NMJ

      You are correct. It is sad that the military personnel believe they are defending America when what they are really doing is serving as hired guns for the elite and their masters to acquire all the wealth of the world and finish making the people their slaves. That is not what Washington, Jefferson, Adams and even John F Kennedy envisioned for America.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
    • sparky

      you too – suck one

      May 13, 2011 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
    • StefansLowIQ

      That is what OBL gets for killing 3000+ unarmed and innocent people.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Candid One

      That's what he got for 9/11. Nearly 3,000 unarmed to 1 unarmed. Not a great ratio.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
    • usaf44

      your an idiot

      May 13, 2011 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
    • nostradoofus

      You have got to be the biggest moron to ever post.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
    • scorpioman

      Hey buddy, a real true American you are. Not.

      IMHO, you are very pathetic to make such a stupid comment.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Greg Clapton

      Stefan, your ignorance and incompetence are showing!

      May 13, 2011 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Brandon

      Stefan.. go home... I say again go home... before its too late!

      May 13, 2011 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
    • jim

      Yep. Unarmed.

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

      some hero OBL was... hiding out in a "mansion" more like a run down crack house.. that place was disgusting...and you see him sitting there like a frail little old man watching his tv with bunny ears..lmao.. wrapped in a dirty old blanket...hope he had lots of viagra for his 40 virgins... and if they looked anything like his wives....that aint no reward.. hahaha.

      I really hope the fact that your hero got waxed burns your azz because that man deserved every bit of vengeance.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:54 am | Report abuse |
    • NMJ

      So, we intentionally try to control the rest of the world for its resources, not because we care anything at all about the people. Quote from a Navy Special Ops man: "Unless the country has resources we want, we don't do jack. Three tours in Vietnam, then in Grenada, Bosnia, the first iraq war and I was fooled into believing I was serving for national security. I finally wised up and figured out I was being used and abandoned afterward."

      May 13, 2011 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Unreal

    The issue is that the President went too far by authorizing the release of Operational details that should never have been made public. I understand his need to demonstrate that he did indeed authorize this OP but far too many details were released; no one should ever have identified which group executed the raid. This is not a partisan rant, just the facts from someone who was a Marine and worked in the Intelligence field. I'm afraid that by trying to "prove" the death of OBL that the President has no only jeopardized the safety of those involved (and their families) he may have also made this a PR issue as it will appear, to some, that he released details to bolster his re-election bid. Again, I have no political affiliation...but the President may have undermined both safety and his agenda by allowing this to happen. There was just too much to risk personally for the DevGru Team and politically for the President... a bad call overall.

    May 12, 2011 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      You're right, a photo would've been much less damaging to "National Security"

      May 13, 2011 at 3:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. Penny

    Why does article mention the team by name? This is the very practice it is talking about. Thanks, CNN, for endangering out troops.

    May 13, 2011 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
  7. sparky

    get that poof from wikileaks to shut his hole...

    May 13, 2011 at 12:08 am | Report abuse |
  8. Double G

    Like always people have their opinion on both sides but seem to not understand that the only voice out there that can't be heard are the 3000+ dead from the 9/11 attacks.

    God Bless our troops and thank you Navy SEAL team 6 for carrying out your mission and ending the hunt for OBL. I don't care what people say about how we killed him I'm just glad he is dead. He deserved a worst death than he got. It was not criminal for them to kill him, it was justice......... just ask the thousands of family members that lost their loved ones on 9/11.........

    May 13, 2011 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
  9. keylargo

    Just think though OBL's in heaven with his 7 virgins , word is they're all huge hairy legged men. Have fun boys!

    May 13, 2011 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
  10. ari

    what is so hilarious is that seal team 6 doesn't actually exist as that name anymore? It was created under that name several years after Team 1 and 2 were formed but was actually changed into a slightly different group with new classified name.

    May 13, 2011 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
    • scorpioman

      Yes but, whatever name they now go by, their base location should NEVER have been made public.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
    • John Brown

      Thier current name is "The Unit". NBC had a recurring expose on them, thier families, and thier missions on TV a few years back.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jay Jay

    Thank you SEALs for all you do for this country. I doubt we would have heard any real details if the helicopter hadn't had that freak accident. I for one am incensed that news organizations are trying to out you. Thank you.

    May 13, 2011 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
  12. Kenny

    "Loose Lips Sink Ships". Now, that having been said, we need to put members of Congress on a ship and tell them a secret and tell them not to repeat it or the ship will sink and no effort would be mad to save anyone. That way we will know we got the right one. If we put them on the ship this morning at sunrise, it should sink before lunch time and we can start with a new congress and do the same thing with them and continue doing it until a ship does not sink. Then we will have found a congress we can work with.

    May 13, 2011 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
  13. SEALs R Not Tough

    I thought SEALs were tough and not scared? What happened? They are scared someone armed with kick their butts when they aren't in a group with high tech weapons fighting a single unarmed man and a few women?

    May 13, 2011 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
    • waynelair


      May 13, 2011 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
    • scorpioman

      Hey Mr. know it all, did it ever for one minute enter what passes for a brain in your head, the thought that maybe, just maybe the married Seals are very concerned about the safety of their wives and children?
      And just because they are tough does not mean they want to prove it by taking an AK-47 round in the chest!

      Get a life.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Stinsy

      Lame attempt at humor

      May 13, 2011 at 9:09 am | Report abuse |
  14. waynelair


    May 13, 2011 at 12:34 am | Report abuse |
    • bob willis

      Your caps lock in ON

      May 13, 2011 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
    • smurfette

      yah ok...fatal blow to our military??? you got high hopes Mr... good luck with that.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  15. steve mcpherson

    Let's rejoice as Americans for our ENTIRE military family. Let's also honor the secrecy of the troops who engage in similar operations for their safety and that of their families.

    May 13, 2011 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
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