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. Argle Bargle

    Loose Lips Sink Ships. People need to learn to keep their big mouths shut.

    May 14, 2011 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Spartacus

    ya know, I am so happy the US govt got Bin Ladden, but I have to say this.
    In the past 50 years of my life I have never heard about or read of or watched any news show on TV or heard any on the Radio
    that ever perpetuated a more BRAIN DEAD concept what so ever, than a US navy Seal, being afraid for his life.
    AFRAID OF WHAT EXACTLY? these people go through the most rigourous mental and physical training of any kind in existence in any relm or facet of ahuman life...the totality of it....on order to make sure THEY ARE NEVER AFRAOD OF ANYTHING. And that makes something very very very very wrong here with both the CIA and the current adminstration which is either LYING through it's teeth...or just fighting desperately to hold onto whatever last vestages of power it has left.
    Then there was Obama's reason for NOT releasing photo's of the raid and of the death of Bin Laden claiming.."it's not who we are" and "we don't spike the football" well...ya know what...yes it is, it is exactly WHO we all are and it is exactly what we do in a situation like this...EXACTLY WHAT WE SHOULD DO...spike that football.
    The extent to which Hillary Clinton and Obama are completely out of touch with the reality of this situation is ASTOUNDING.
    Find me ONE AMERICAN EVEN that can go out their door right now, and go find a NAVY SEAL...I mean even if they had their name address and telephone number they would never get close...they are the single most well priotected groupd oof individuals on the face of this earth. They flew into anohter country and completely exposed it's very sovereignty under radar and in the middle of a military complex the size of HATI, and now that they are safe and sound and under the CIA's and NAVY's watch you are telling me these guys are "AFRAID FOR THEIR LIVES?" This is a scam on the level of PAKISTAN telling the world it was not complacent or involved in any way or even negligent in the whole Bin Laden Capture. And I take great great offense to HILLARY CLINTON being allowed to see any photo of Bin Laden's Death before say...the parents of Nic Berg who have to watch the video of their sons' head being cut off on national television over and over and over again. This adminstration id a good thing, and then completely ruined the hadling of it like just about every single otehr thing this adminstration has ever or will ever do. The thinking is just FLAT OUT WRONG here...and it is soooo wrong it STINKS at a level that screams conspiracy, because none of this makes sense. More than decade later we capture and kill Am,erica's most notorious terrorist/criiminal and your governament claims we cannot see the photos are get the proper details of what happened because "THE NAVY SEALS ARE AFRAID FOR THEIR SECURITY" ??? EXACTL HOW DUMB IS ANY SINGLE PERSON WHO ACTUALLY BELIEVES THIS???????????????????

    May 14, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. asaif

    Du lebtest ein ruhmreiches Leben, und du starbst als ein

    May 14, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  4. AL

    PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!!!! I don't care what party the PRESIDENT OF THE U.S.A. is,What counts is who's watch that ELIMIATED that POS! Thank you MR.PRESIDENT, JOB WELL DONE.

    May 14, 2011 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Tracy

    I am confounded that people feel sympathy for Bin Laden...and are making the U.S. out to be the "bad guy." Give me a break! It boggles the mind. Our country was unified against this monster after Sept. 11th – No liberal/conservative – we were together united against the monster. Where is that patriotism now? The conservatives are whining because it wasn't "their guy" who got him...Grow up! And yes, Obama deserves credit. I am proud of OUR president.

    May 15, 2011 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
  6. PJ Parker

    We as a country need to close ranks and demand the protection of our military heroes.

    ANYONE who would breech the security of our country is a traitor, and should meet the same fate as bin Laden.

    Our enemies want to hurt us, and they cannot be given a specific target.

    The things we have witnessed over the past decade have eroded my trust in the integrity of some with a political agenda.The Valerie Plame incident comes to mind, as well as the Wikileaks scandal.

    America will come together on this issue. Zero tolerance for treason.

    May 15, 2011 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  7. Tim H.

    To all of the naysayers; The helicopter that "malfunctioned" was a deliberate act. It was a calling card the American forces were there. It would be of total ignorance to think that the Aministration would perform a mission of that type without being able to deliver. To release pictures of bin Ladens corpse will only bring out more of the same- that they are fake, computer generated, etc. He's dead- the arab nations concede to this.
    Most people of intelligence know our government has betrayed us in the past. We have no one to blame but ourselves. It will continue until people learn truth over propaganda, and learn of the past, and the history of this country.
    As far as the way bin Laden was killed, the teams were justified without a doubt. Most armchair quarterbacks don't realize that anyone in that compound could have been wired-ready to die. The only way to ensure the safety of the team was a headshot, or instant kill. The moment any resistance was evident, the team did what it was trained to do.
    It is time to stop giving foreign aid and protection. It is time to strengthen our infrastructure and manufacturing capabilities here at home, before we crumble beyond repair helping these other nations that refuse to take care of their own.

    May 15, 2011 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. MP in VA

    I will pay more taxes to help protect these soldiers and their families.

    May 17, 2011 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
  9. A. Ramos

    "...and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." – Philippians 4:7.

    May 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric of Reseda

      What the...? Biblical sayings don't stop suicide vests worn by determined terrorists....What are you, crazy?!?

      May 21, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • chris

      anyone that reveals these brave soldiers names to those outside the special ops should be tried for treason and jailed for a looooong time!

      May 25, 2011 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • S1N

      @Chris – I'm going to have to disagree. Trials take too long. Then we have to feed, shelter, and protect the inmates. In this instance, let a vigilante mob kill anyone who does it.

      May 30, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • A.G.I.

      Eric of Reseda – Love you – platonically... God never protected anybody, WWII, Somalia, Yugoslavia, well too many to name... God are you there.., maybe there..., no you are not here – did you take a break?
      By the way: I'm Roman Catholic – I really am!!!! They baptize me.

      June 3, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • adam

      Go away

      June 6, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. hero protection

    Well, we all know they are trained and can be trusted, so I say the government should give them lifetime permission to carry concealed firearms for their own protection. Judges, prosecutors, etc get this sort of benefit for putting themselves in harm's way, so these guys certainly deserve the same consideration. I know in many states they can already go in and apply for a permit, but to cover them in non-permit states, etc. a federal permit should be issued. Don't give me the "there isn't a federal permit" crap - this sort of thing has been done before. It's as simple as making them "reserve U.S. marshals" or something like that.

    May 19, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • OfraHaza

      Ahmen! and to Chris above, no jail time, just SHOT ON SIGHT to ANYONE who would betray his protecter for any reason. G-d bless our soldiers!

      June 1, 2011 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  11. Bob

    God bless them

    May 26, 2011 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  12. DON

    just finished reading "the lions game" by nelson deMille. A story of just why this situation may cause some ulcers

    May 26, 2011 at 8:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. jim

    This is not English class! Try to get the point instead of correcting people.

    June 1, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. anti-bubba

    oh, goody, the quiet professional killers bagged themselves another trophy. Probably took the body back to the carrier so they could strap it to the hood of a jeep, drive around in circles sucking Jack while shouting HOOOOA and BRAVO ZULU. Now they are afraid. Poor professionals...

    June 1, 2011 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • adam

      You are an embarassing example of an Internet warrior.

      June 6, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob III

      Adam hit it spot on the nose.

      June 8, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charlie

      your nickname is wrong, anti-intelligence would be more appropriate.
      hey i have an idea – move to pakistan, you will like it there
      until you are beheaded

      June 10, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Joe Sixpack

    I'll be worried also if I had committed murder...

    June 3, 2011 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
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