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. Chuck

    Our politicians are such glory hounds and want to get their 15 minutes of fame that they endanger the lives of our most elite troops and their families by giving detailed information about the mission to take out Bin Laden to the media, Those politicians are a disgrace.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Adam

    Hey I've got an idea, let's tell everyone around the world that our 'elite' SEAL's are afraid of terrorists - WOW, what a message CNN! Stupid. Try using better context next time in your headlines. Your acting like a low rate news resource.

    May 13, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  3. John9999

    I hope the SEALs involved in this raid understand how much the People of the United States appreciate them. I can only hope that the secrecy involved does not keep these people from receiving the appropriate awards for their service, including the time after their public service is concluded.

    This raid required courage the likes of which are seen only once in a generation. Courage of this type must be rewarded.

    As far as the threats to their families, if Bin Laden's followers want to see suicide bombers, I will gladly put my own body between Al Qaida and these SEALs, for whatever that's worth. These dedicated US military serviceman have earned our eternal respect and deserve no less.

    May 13, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • jana lalewicz

      I couldn't agree MORE! Those guys were totally amazing. Those men had only a limitted idea what they would be facing when they walked in there. Intelligence can only go so far. They had no idea who might be armed, their helicopter loses lift & nearly crashes. They had no idea how that may have alerted those inside yet they storm the place anyway. I get goosebumps all this time later still every time I think of it. I AM IN AWE & I hope they know how very much we appreciate what they have done for us & what they do EVERY SINGLE DAY just so my family & I can be comfortable sleeping in our beds. They deserve anything they are asking for. It disturbs me when I hear people say this mission simply never took place as if it were some sort of conspiracy. To me, it belittles what these fearless men have done for us.

      May 13, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dr. Strangelove

    This is EXACTLY why we need to start cloning our soldiers – so they do not HAVE any families that can be retaliated against. These mindless-drone killing machines can then just be disposed of after an operation and that's that! No fuss, no muss.

    May 13, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dr. Strangelove

    Dyslexia is when you transpose letters or words – it's not when you misspell your for you're. That's just simple ignorance – and something to be expected from any moron ending his posts "Hoorah". Stop hiding behind a learning deficiency when it's just willful ignorance. You could spell things correctly – if you were just intelligent enough.

    May 13, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. AllyCat

    That's because CNN can never keep their mouths shut. Why do you think they didn't tell anyone ahead of time what they were up to? Because the media would have leaked it. Duh

    May 13, 2011 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. MP

    Obama and the WH release the intelligence of this mission for political points and once again they do not think beyond their political gain. Everything that this WH does is to maximize political capitol, He did the same thing with his comments on the border, when he made a joke about providing moats and alligators, to the people living on the border or in the border states, this is not a joking matter, the WH clown once again, puts his foot in his mouth....I wonder if he can make balloon animals ?

    May 13, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. MZSD

    I'm a muslim , i don't like bin-ladin , and the u.s.a government , the most evil government on the whole world , and i'm sure that u.s.a government have something to do with this twin tower acciddant , ilsam morals , islam orders = never ever harm any civilians , and the muslims brothers who defend him , even if u.s.a or israel become the most terrorism organization and killed thousands of civilians it doesn't mean that we have to do like them , that's why we are muslims , we stand on our lands to defend back , not attacking , that's how we all studied muhammed pbuh ,salahdin too , but i'm sure that u.s. made OSAMA BIN-LADEN if you don't know more about u.s. you should go read about OPERATION NORTHWOOD !

    May 13, 2011 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. NMJ

    John F Kennedy identified the real enemy of America, confronted it and died for it. Study your history and learn that you are being used. But then maybe you like being used. I don't.

    May 13, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      OF course they would be concerned for their safety if they knew the person they killed was NOT bin Laden. Who do you think would come after them then? LOL> The same people who took out a lot of the crew the flew unauthorized nukes around the country.

      May 14, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ex_NavSpecWarCen_Member

    First off, they serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States. And just because he is President does NOT make him a war hero. But he most certainly is the President. When I served it was under Reagan. It could have been Mickey Mouse though. He who sits in the chair is owed my respect. I don't have to like his politics to LOVE the Country he represents.

    May 13, 2011 at 8:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Oath_Keeper

      As someone that is still serving I agree that one should respect the rank even though you may not like the person, and I have seen some pretty harsh "personality" conflicts. I also believe that one cannot follow blindly and must be willing to stand up for what is right morally. This president is something different and in no way represents the American people. In fact I would call him the least American of any president I've served under. He is a Wall Street financiers puppet. And one more thing. Look at the evidence not allowed in the 9/11 commission report like the third building, WTC 7. Our gov't betrayed us all. It WAS an inside job.

      May 14, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  11. Caesar

    "For the rabbles votes the powerful man will betray [Rome]" –hope i'm not preaching ta yer choir too. and i kinda made up the [Rome] thingy. It's really just plain old Rome. LMAO Hail the tryant! oopsy, preachin' to the choir again. beg pardon

    May 13, 2011 at 9:31 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Caesar

    And What? These men are your heroes are they not. Their security should rival that of a plain old ordinary run-of-the-mill Federal Judge that's faring dust, shiuld it not.

    May 13, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Archie Bunker

    To continue with this bin laden hoax.They may have to do away with those that were involved.

    May 14, 2011 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  14. Archie Bunker

    The truth is at infowars dot com and prisonplanet dot com.WAKE UP SHEEPLE!

    May 14, 2011 at 10:31 am | Report abuse |
  15. marcomac2010

    Retire the number 6, just like the ball players do.

    May 14, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raptor57

      have to now, but thanks guy's....thank you for your service

      May 14, 2011 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
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