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. Jim456

    They can move into the Bin Laden´s Manson. Nobody will know for years. Ask the Pakistan Government!

    May 13, 2011 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
  2. andrew

    more 'American lives' are endangered by obesity, driving with out seatbelts, and general stupidity.

    Honestly tho does this remind anyone else of the press conference in Rocky IV?

    May 13, 2011 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. fireman


    May 13, 2011 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
  4. rau


    May 13, 2011 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Right. A professional soldier who jumps off a helicopter a shoots the world's most feared and wanted terrorist in the face is a wuss.

      May 13, 2011 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
  5. Thankful Dude

    I am grateful for these guys who put their lives on the line for me, my family, and our country. The least we can do is assure their security back home. They are heroes.. nothing less.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  6. Kenny

    I'll stand a watch to insure their safety and the safety of their families. When called upon to do their job, they stood their watch for us to have a safe nights sleep. I have no problem with protecting them and their families.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:51 am | Report abuse |
    • octopus

      Don't worry, they're going to be just fine.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
  7. James

    Attention CNN headline writers: Concern does not equal fear.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Concern doesn't grab as much attention as fear.

      May 13, 2011 at 3:51 am | Report abuse |
  8. mocha

    Loose Lips Sink Ships...the transperency thing has gone way too far. peeps need to start keeping their mouths shut. I am concerened about our seal teams too. The gov should stop giving out information.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:53 am | Report abuse |
  9. Dover

    I have never criticized CNN as tempting as it can be. I use as my home page on all of my browsers and have for years. This headline is pure yellow journalism.

    May 13, 2011 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
    • April

      What do you mean by yellow journalismmm?

      May 13, 2011 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
  10. TMI

    As I watched the myriad of shows describing in detail how the SEALs operate I hoped for two things:
    1) it was purposefully disseminated misinformation or
    2) the people leaking the informtion would be found and gagged.

    I find it hard to believe that President Obama's team would play this close to the vest then authorize the release all of these details. The media coverage was unbelievable. TMI. I don't think there was a need to see a re-enactment of how the operation was carried out and how the SEALs train over and over and over again. I haven't watched television since May 4 for this reason. The initial pictures of Bin Laden's interior living quarters and the aerial view of Pakistan were all I needed to see.


    May 13, 2011 at 2:00 am | Report abuse |
  11. quackattack

    I just have to say...Navy SEALs living IN fear? Are they afraid of becoming national heroes again when they kick the a$$ of whoever tries to off them?
    But seriously, I hope their families keep safe; I just think that the SEALs can take care of themselves pretty fine...

    May 13, 2011 at 2:00 am | Report abuse |
  12. TheOttomanMan

    I think the average CNN keyboard commando would have killed Bin Laden, and already have posted their own name and address in this forum while laughing about everything they have accomplished with their lives.

    May 13, 2011 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
  13. Ed

    Osama is dead. I think that's all anyone ever wanted to know or care about. The least we can do is let the story die down and stop focusing so much attention on it.

    May 13, 2011 at 2:01 am | Report abuse |
  14. joe

    being afraid.. won't make America.. strong...

    May 13, 2011 at 2:02 am | Report abuse |
  15. roland

    Don't identify them. This should be part of thier training: "NOT TO BE IDENTIFIED "

    May 13, 2011 at 2:03 am | Report abuse |
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