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. Jerome

    Make me as fearful as you possibly can.

    May 13, 2011 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
    • justen

      the US government does its' best to keep everyone terrified every day–makes the sheep easier to control.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      Jerome–Report waynelair. He's making weird racist comments that don't belong on this, or any, website. Don't stand for it. I've already reported him.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
    • jim

      Yep...Job #1 is to keep everyone fearful. Stop watching TV and stop being fearful.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  2. waynelair

    sacasism is all you losers know and that is why you are limited to these kind of comments.

    May 13, 2011 at 12:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Lou50

      good call

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

      Really what does Liberals/Conservations have to do with this. Everyone and their dog wanted this man a GREAT Thanks to the SEAL TEAM 6, I don't know why I should have to know what team did kill him or why people are concerned. I mean just use tax payers money and put an armed guard outside if it floats your boat at night. Sorry to be sarcastic be our nation is like 10 trillion in debt and we don't make anything...oh what a few cars,crops, and craftsman tools which I like hah but what the hell like I change anything right, libs love to spend spend spend spend spend... it's friday friday friday getting down on friday hahahaha

      May 13, 2011 at 3:20 am | Report abuse |
    • JamieIRL

      Statistically, more money was spent spent spent when a Republican president was in office. It's a statistical fact and it would make you.......wrong.

      May 13, 2011 at 3:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Lecter, Ph D.

      Statistically, more people have died in wars while a Democrat was in office.

      May 13, 2011 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
    • NYUHistoryProf

      That simply isn't an accurate statement.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
    • jean2009

      Actually, the deadliest US war was the Civil War and a Republican was president.

      May 13, 2011 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • pcvirginiabeach

      uh, Lincoln was a republican my man... you may need to re think that statement.

      May 13, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bogus

      One that is not a statistic.. 2 Obama has spent more than any other president ever combined. he is democrat!

      May 13, 2011 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Catholic MOM and Wife

      Because 9 times out of 10 they had a Dem Congress – which controlls spending. Know your facts before lashing out at someone please. Because you would be the one that looks the fool.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Captain Jenks

      Speak for yourself. I could have cared less about OBL and I don't cheer the murder of anyone unarmed in front of their families. Russian mafia have more a sense of decency.

      May 13, 2011 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
    • smurfette

      I cheered ! Wooo hooo......

      May 13, 2011 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • in the mix

      I LOVE your humor ! Your good at it but furthermore, I agree with you ! Great weekend to you !

      May 13, 2011 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Independent thinker

      Bill not sure how you can find a way to attack liberals in response to this article. Does not seem to have anything to do with political parties. Well other than a democrat president was the one to give the order. Keep in mind that during the campaign John McCain said he would not go into Pakistan to go after bin laden because it was a sovereign country, Obama had the cojones to do it. Just move on already. start checking facts before you post so much bad info.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • A.G.I.

      I am with you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      June 3, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Etienno

      Is that a sarcasm?

      May 13, 2011 at 3:28 am | Report abuse |
    • An American

      Enough already about the Seals. All that needs to be said is "BRAVO ZULU".

      May 21, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Fwdthinker

      I would love to respond to you post but I have no idea what "sacasism" means. Were you attempting to write "sarcasm"? If that was the case, then you are wrong...on both counts (grammar as well as substance).

      May 13, 2011 at 5:21 am | Report abuse |
    • jim

      And spelling is what you don't know.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Johnny Megan Smitherson

      Bravo !

      May 26, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jeff

    Seals are concerned about their security? Are you fricken kidding me? I guess we need to somehow once again play the victim role. We send commandos in to basically murder an unarmed man and we are the victims. Wow... and don't get me wrong, I think the Special Forces are amazing and I admire them tremendously but when you shoot an unarmed man in his own house it is an assassination, and you have lost the high ground. So Sec Gates save us the emotional pandering for sympathies for these men who willingly signed up for this service.

    May 13, 2011 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
    • scorpioman

      You say- "it is an assassination".

      I say-No kidding. Maybe that was the objective of the Operational mission to begin with.

      When you are out to kill the # 1 enemy of America, screw the high ground.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
    • DecentDiscourse

      Yeah, so what. It was an assassination. So are the Predator drone strikes. It's done because it's necessary and unfortunately nothing fits properly into the categories we need them to fit into to carry out things in a way that meets our normal standards or justice. 9/11 qualifies as a victim role in my book. But then again, so do the deaths at Shatilla and countless other strikes against non-combatants in the middle-east utilizing American weaponry. I'd say it all evens out, but that would be untrue. It's a dirty war. But that still doesn't mean fighter's families don't deserve protection.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
    • El Jefe

      These guys did sign up for a difficult and dangerous job and they fully understand the inherent risk that comes with performing their duty. That inherent risk to them and their families does not include being jeopardized because of political grand standing. The Obama administration should be ashamed of itself for putting these people at risk by squeezing every ounce they can from this "opportunity" just so they can put themselves on the >50% side of the popularity polls.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Yoga2010

      They could have bombed the place and killed UBL's wives and kids, but instead they risked their own lives to capture a man who trains people to blow themselves and others up with bombs hidden on their persons, a man who made his wish to be a martyr well known, who would have killed everyone in that compound, including his own wives and kids, if he could have taken out the seals. GD right they have the high ground.

      Maybe we SHOULD bomb the next target like this and take everyone out. Would that restore the high ground for you?

      May 13, 2011 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Earnán

      Jeff, I hope some of bin Laden's pals pay you and your family a visit some night.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
    • jeff

      To Earnan. Why don't you come pay me a visit you POS!

      May 13, 2011 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
    • 4cause

      Hummm, Jeff.... it's the fact that the public is wanting and demanding photo's and details! Our guys are worried because their work doesn't get questioned and they work underground and do so much we don't know to protect us, which keeps them and their families safe! Now, some Americans who don't get this ( like you) want answers and proof.... puts them and their families at risk! You probably still don't get it but that's because you and some like you are that ignorant!

      May 13, 2011 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
    • H

      By the way he did not own the house as you say. He was a coward hiding behind high walls.
      Also due to the irresponsible medial and wiki leaks they are concerned about a few things. Better safe than sorry.
      We all should be happy that this country has such a team.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
    • jeff

      Of course the ids of the Seals should be kept secret, and yes their families deserve protections just like anyone elses. But the issue I have is how the powers that be are always trying to scare us and put us in a victim mentality. And as far as Drone killings go, that is some chicken sh** way to kill someone and create collateral damage and more enemies. The wars this country is going bankrupt on are wrong, period. Bring on your hate....

      May 13, 2011 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Assassinations, which this appears to be, are a legitimate wartime strategy. Throughout the history of the world the leaders of opposing forces have been targeted for assassination. It is not cowardly, it is a sound tactic that may save lives down the line. Him being armed, unarmed, in proximity of a weapon, or else-wise, doesn't matter, as the leader as an opposing force at war than he knew this could be coming. It doesn't have to be about justice, it is about cutting the head off the snake. The SEALs and their families deserve to be protected, that is the responsibility of the government that gave them the order.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:00 am | Report abuse |
    • kento1

      Sure it was an assassination. What was the killing of 3000 innocent unarmed civilians on 9/11, a group hug?

      May 13, 2011 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
    • DecentDiscourse

      Okay, Jeff I kind of see where you're coming from, but tell me how you would adapt to the conditions of today? The other side is not playing by the rules and if we stick strictly to the rules, we'll get slaughtered. Yes, it's a huge concern about the slippery slope, but there's also the concern of paralysis and failure to adopt tactics effective for this war.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |

    You mess with our SEALS-you mess with every American citizen!!!

    May 13, 2011 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
  5. justen

    So a team SUPPOSEDLY as "professional" as Seal Team 6–is "worried about their safety"? MAYBE they are not as "professional" as the government would have us believe....

    Looks like the mystique of the Seals is finally being pulled away to show what kind of men they are–short answer–they aren't.

    May 13, 2011 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
    • waynelair

      Justin, you are a loser who would cry for help from the people who defend your right to critisize them.
      The next contribution you make to the US will be your first. Maybe the Obama, Osama team will give
      you a job during the reelection bid so you can get your big ass of food stamps and unemployment

      May 13, 2011 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
    • CM

      They're a team that spend most of its professional time abroad on classified missions. It's not like they want a bodyguard for missions. They want assurances that their names won't be leaked and their wives and children subject to reprisals. But keep scoring cheap political points on their backs. Even as a Nader-campaigning liberal some of you people are making me sick.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:20 am | Report abuse |
    • 4cause

      I'm not wrong... no doubt- we have to believe that this is not a real American and a foreigner just starting crap because if this person is American -we got bigger problems then I thought in our Country!

      May 13, 2011 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Pat Riot

      Yea...keep underestimating them. I can only hope all our enemies think the same and "pop their heads up" for a patented SEALs final hello.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Brandon

      haha, totally agree with waynelair! Tuck your tail Justen!

      May 13, 2011 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |

    You mess with our SEALS- you mess with every American citizen!!!

    May 13, 2011 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
    • justen

      Oh BS....another arm chair warrior at work.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Ha Ha

      Tough stuff.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      I agree with you. These guys are heroes.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
  7. Ed

    Obama was smart taking out Osama, but an idiot about how to use the intelligence. He allows everyone to announce to the world who did the operation, what equipment, what was found, diaries, videos, etc. Obama and his defense guys are a bunch of idiots to release all this information and are endangering more american lives.

    May 13, 2011 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      You're a dope. They're releasing what they want released. These folks (the intelligence community that understands this stuff) wants to get a message out. You certainly won't know the intent.

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

      Sorry Ed, but you are dumb.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:55 am | Report abuse |
  8. DanteX

    Let me get this right.

    The MOST ELITE OF THE ELITE of the Special Operational Forces in the United States' Military is "concerned" about their safety ?


    May 13, 2011 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
    • waynelair

      yes, a hole you got it right. when will you contribute to your country. wash your underware tonight, please.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
    • CM

      When your job is to be overseas most of the time, how are you supposed to make sure nothing happens to your wife or kids? They're not looking for an entourage.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
  9. Obamaclown

    They had OBL in a pit for years, they just threw him in a room and shot him for BO ratings to increase

    May 13, 2011 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      And this theory seems sound to you? They had him for years? Since the Bushya years? Really? Really?

      May 13, 2011 at 1:45 am | Report abuse |
    • 4cause

      That makes Bush look even worse! But, Bush couldn't ruin relations with the Bin Laden Family!! They have been doing business together since the 1970's. You're dumb =)

      May 13, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  10. DanteX

    Ed – You are an IDIOT and a MORON.

    You are simply jealous because that LOSER Bush and PATHETIC Cheney were not able to do what Obama and his Administration did.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:05 am | Report abuse |
    • 4cause

      Agree! and no doubt Mr. Ed wants the pictures to be released of Bin Laden and has no clue why that would be a bad idea.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
  11. helenecha

    It's a little bit pity that we didn't get the works done before SEALs got concerned. But at least we could get the works done before the concerns were published.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
  12. 4cause

    Conspiracy Theorist Republicans need proof! ….even if it means putting our military and their families at risk. What? Wow, it’s sad! To our soldier’s - sorry that some Americans choose to be so ignorant and uneducated but they are followers and don’t think for themselves and/or are just very dumb people. But, the majority of us Americans get it and feeling more confident these recent days that the majority of us Americans are working on shutting down those Americans because they can’t even try to hide their ignorance anymore.... just that obvious!

    May 13, 2011 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
  13. Micki LH

    Has nobody stopped to think what would have happened if we had taken Bin Laden prisoner? Every extremist nut job in the world would have been taking hostages everywhere to force us to release OBL. So we had three choices: take him hostage, kill him, or do nothing. I think we made the right choice. Now get over it and move on,

    May 13, 2011 at 1:15 am | Report abuse |
  14. cestmoi_in_africa

    Give away the names? Obama would do it in a minute if it would get him on another talk show. I'm surprised anyone believes his empties promises. He wants to be a 'celebrity'. That's it. Anything to get him to that end is possible. Poor guys. I'm sure they were promised all kinds of things and will probably have to end up in the witness protection program and leave any semblance of their former lives behind. All this because Obama wanted to steal some more thunder to take the attention off of everything else he DOESNT do and to get him some more talk shows and interviews. We are all thrilled that Osama is dead and appreciative to those brave men who risked everything to do it. But the CIC has used it only to gain his sinking popularity and handled everything about it poorly and with numerous mistakes.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
    • jerry

      cestmoi, you think like an African monkey

      May 13, 2011 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
    • 4cause

      wow... you really have no idea and think you understand politics. First step ... admitting it! You too have to be a foreigner (hints in_ Africa) or a member of the Tea Party?

      May 13, 2011 at 1:43 am | Report abuse |
  15. A

    If the SEALs fear for their safety, then let's stop bringing them up in the media.


    May 13, 2011 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |
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