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. Dr. Necessitor

    These guys want to mess with Navy SEALs, they'd better bring their A-game.

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

    How shameful of CNN to headline "Seals Live In Fear" then link to the real article about a legitimate concern about not their safety but their families safety. If we didn't have so many islamists here they wouldn't have to worry so much about their families.

    May 13, 2011 at 2:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom Wills

      I agree. I worry about my kids (boys) because we have so many Catholic priests here.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
    • KB

      You are RETARDED.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
    • 12-21-12

      I thought living somewhere like France would be the best haven to ride out the coming Armageddon...

      ...but even though the views from Monte Carlo are splendid, as well as those of Monaco...

      I spoke with a client today that recently moved to Los Angeles from the land of Ringo Starr & Robert Crumb...

      ...she told me that the Muslins were praying in the streets, which made driving almost impossible...

      Viva la L.A.

      PS: What about Switzerland? What would the Alps look like on 12-21-12???

      May 13, 2011 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
    • WhoisME

      Whats the catch here. Nevy Seals are real heros. Lt me ask CNN abot this. Why OBL wasn't killed soon after 9/11 or later in Bush Admin. Why Saddam was targetted for WMD whats the catch, did anyone showed oil or money? What ever the politics are ,Navy Seals are there in the frontline.First admire that. We Americans are real heros when it comes to military an patriotism.Try to trust and Support Seals

      May 13, 2011 at 2:17 am | Report abuse |
    • John Doe

      Are you serious? This whole article is an oxymoron. These guys are Navy Seals they know what they're getting into when they sign up for this. These soldiers are the best in the world! And you're telling me after they brought down the biggest terrorist in the world are in fear of their lives???????? This is just so stupid...they just want to take all Muslims and lock them up like the movie Siege. This is such garbage and Americans are buying into this propaganda. Navy Seals are in fear of their lives.....garbage

      May 13, 2011 at 2:22 am | Report abuse |
  3. brad

    Biggest problem is no one keeps there mouth shut anymore and how many years is the media going to beat this dead horse

    May 13, 2011 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
    • People!

      Not trying to sounds too sarcastic, but they should of thought about that before they accepted the mission on killing OBL. You know that they were VERY PUMPED UP knowing they were going to kill him. Thats the price you pay, eh?

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

      They expressed concern for their families after someone decided to announce their unit to the enemy. The SEALs did not expect some politician to make their families targets. None of them ever said they were were personally afraid and I doubt they are.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:37 am | Report abuse |
  4. keith gore

    Wikileak may leak the names of the seals...We have to protect the unsung heros.

    May 13, 2011 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
    • 12-21-12

      I'm sure there's info on SEAL Team 6 everywhere!

      May 13, 2011 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
    • 12-21-12


      May 13, 2011 at 2:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Al Gore

      Maybe we need to send Seal Team 7 after Assange.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:19 am | Report abuse |
  5. Rob

    This is clearly a propaganda push to make us think the government should be as secretive as possible about everything. It's not even newsworthy, it's all about the agenda behind it.

    May 13, 2011 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Luminar Saman

      A black helicopter full of Lizard people has been dispatched to your house armed with infinite rectal probes. We cannot have geniuses like you disseminating the truth to these CNN true believer rubes.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      There's definitely something to that, Rob. In this case secrecy makes sense for everyone, but looking at the bigger picture, you're right. The government will use any given situation to increase its own power. People really are clueless about how tainted the media is by government and private companies.

      May 13, 2011 at 3:58 am | Report abuse |
  6. Anonymous

    You wouldn't hear this kind of story if it had been the SAS that had done the job. End of.

    May 13, 2011 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Tengu

      The same SAS who got captured by some rag tag rebels in Libya?? Yeah the less we hear about them the better(for your nation, and your ego!)

      May 13, 2011 at 2:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Luminar Saman

      Way more SEALs have been POWs than SAS. And the SAS does way more dangerous and daring missions.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. Big Paulie

    When you join the military you accept that death is imminent. It's like a life guard asking that they not have to get wet. These soldiers bragged to their friends that they killed OBL yet don't want any of the downsides associated with it? Can't have your cake and eat it too.

    May 13, 2011 at 2:07 am | Report abuse |
    • opinions

      Brilliant! I'm in the military, does that mean I'm about to die? You have the right to say whatever you want, that's America...but I have the right to call you out on it, too.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Dustin

      They didn't brag to there friends you idiot because they're not allowed to tell anyone. You are totally disrespectful to what they do day in and day out.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
    • dj

      there is not one shred of evidence that they bragged about it, they would not do that, I am sure not even their families know. But I am concerned whom released the team name because that should never have been released

      May 13, 2011 at 2:15 am | Report abuse |
    • opinions

      Big Paulie as in the mob boss?!?

      May 13, 2011 at 2:19 am | Report abuse |
    • People!

      Agreed, you know that that SEAL team was pumped up to go kill OBL. Now, the reality is that they have to live with the reprocussions

      May 13, 2011 at 2:21 am | Report abuse |
  8. opinions

    As just a "run of the mill" military member, I thought as soon as news broke and they released which unit carried out the raid that an attack on their families sure would be bragging rights for some splinter cell stateside. There are terrorists stateside, for those with their head in the sand. Likely? I'd like to think not, but keeping some details quiet doesn't mean we're covering things up. Too many leaks out there.

    May 13, 2011 at 2:07 am | Report abuse |
  9. Name*steve

    They did a good job they protect our freedom all you people who don't like it get the f#$k out of this country

    May 13, 2011 at 2:07 am | Report abuse |
  10. Von Clausewitz

    Biden's big mouth...
    He makes Palin look like a reasonable alternative!

    May 13, 2011 at 2:07 am | Report abuse |
  11. Tom Wills

    Did ya all hear the news – Osama Bin Laden was killed in a raid!

    May 13, 2011 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
  12. D Grant

    These people are NOT at risk. I wasn't fool by the crap coming from the sick media during the Bush admn. and won't be during Obama's. Think free America!

    May 13, 2011 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
  13. Rob

    This story is ridiculous, clearly there's a hidden agenda behind posting something like this. Wake up ppl.

    May 13, 2011 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
  14. KB

    Paper soldiers advanced technology and training but no real courage...shot him as soon as they saw him out of fear for the most part...he was scary indeed...little boys come back home.

    May 13, 2011 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Dustin

      I dare you to say that to there faces and see what happens!

      May 13, 2011 at 2:20 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jerra

    They are concerned for their safety ? Get another 20 SEAL's to look after them. That's what it took to take out an old man.

    May 13, 2011 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
    • KB


      May 13, 2011 at 2:11 am | Report abuse |
    • dj

      maybe we should have sent you to get him, then you would be the dead one.

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