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. opinions

    Some pretty smart people and even more intelligent comments on here!

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

    its not hard to pick the liberals out, is it

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

      Your comment makes about as much sense as $20 billion in tax breaks to oil companies. Lay off the Fox News!

      May 13, 2011 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
    • marge m

      Huh? How does liberal/conservative have anything to do with this story?

      May 13, 2011 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Holy cow, what ignorance!


      First, do you realize this is a democratic administration expressing concern for the safety of the SEALs?

      Swcond, your comment indicates SEAL members involved and thier families should be exposed!

      Not only are you are an embarrasement to the Republican Party, but also to America.

      Your parents did us a favor by deciding to not have any more children

      May 13, 2011 at 2:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Carlos Cafe aka Charlie Brown

      Just as easy as picking a crazy right winger

      May 13, 2011 at 2:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Koki

      Yes they need to stop releasing information. The job was done and now they should not even tell the public about the plans that Bin Laden had, nothing at all. All they would do is inflame a situation. The important thing is that the job was done now we should put the matter to rest.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:47 am | Report abuse |
    • SDN

      No more so than to pick out the frightened and desperate.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. brad

    The cowards just killed another 69 people we need to tell them this is it one more attack and mecca is wiped of the map

    May 13, 2011 at 2:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Dillon

      Also, next Catholic who pulls anything and we nuke the Vatican.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Mallon

      The actual bad guys would be tickled pink about the destruction of Mecca or any other site sacred to Islam, because it would only incite more hatred of the West in general and the United States in particular. The particular brand of jihad espoused by the terrorists you read about or see on TV is not what real Muslims believe, any more than most Christians agree with pro-lifers killing doctors who perform abortions. There are fundamentalists and extremists of every creed and religion in the world.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:39 am | Report abuse |
    • SDN

      If people with your level of emotional control were in the business of US military policy, we now be looking at WW16.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:42 am | Report abuse |
  4. Rob

    Hmm it doesn't really sound like they're living in fear, sounds like they're just expressing concern. Perfectly normal and totally different fear. Quit trying to push this bull on us CNN. Clearly there's an agenda behind this article, I just hope others see it as well.

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

      And that agenda would be what, exactly?

      May 13, 2011 at 2:39 am | Report abuse |
    • rob

      Think about this: the story is a contradiction in and of itself. You want to keep the families safe, that's great and all, but what makes this even newsworthy? This is the kind of stuff that should just be kept between the military and the families, it's all about promoting opaqueness in government and vilifying transparency. They're saying they don't think the members of the SEAL team should have been identified, and I completely agree with that. That's not even the issue...think outside the box.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
    • opinions

      Ok, Rob. I think I agree with you...I think. Secrecy bad, but no need to list a white pages of SEAL Team 6...that sum it up? Secrecy on other issues, too...both sides of the, economic, medical plans, etc? Is there a level headed thinker in the crowd of Left and Right wing crazies?!?!

      May 13, 2011 at 2:56 am | Report abuse |
    • opinions

      Reading more, maybe not.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      I may not know everything about everything, I just wish people would open their eyes and see how the media is using these stories that nobody should even care about as stepping stones to enact new policies that infringe upon our rights.

      May 13, 2011 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      **correction** I may not know everything about everything, I just wish people would open their eyes and see how the media is using these stories that nobody should even care about as stepping stones for govt. to enact new policies that infringe upon our rights.

      May 13, 2011 at 3:31 am | Report abuse |
  5. woodjawoodja

    aren't seals the best of the best? i can understand being afraid for my family, but stop giving this team so much press and there shouldn't be anything to fear because of their anonymity.

    May 13, 2011 at 2:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. (ret)mm3/campbell(first name withheld)

    Anyone who thinks that the names of any special ops unit members or any members of the military be published are wrong and should leave this country we call america because your not only undermining what our nations four fathers believed in and signed over 200yrs ago but, your spiting on their legacy that keeps this country free today. As one veteran to others out there, being free is our choice and god giving right as americans and I will not let some sideshow walk over or shredd our four fathers beliefs. That's the bottom line cause this former honorary US Navy Seal said so. Hoooya

    May 13, 2011 at 2:22 am | Report abuse |
    • marge m

      Please, it's "forefathers" not "four fathers." Spelling really does count.

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

      Former honorary seal, what did you help one of their grandmothers cross the street and get a little hat, only to have it taken away again for making blindly patriotic comments?

      May 13, 2011 at 2:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      YOU are undermining it by suggesting that other people and their opinions are not welcome in America, and you are wrong.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:37 am | Report abuse |
    • flimflam74

      "honorary US Navy Seal"....bwahhahahaha!!!! you must've got the navy seal decoder ring out of the rice crispies! or ordered the outfit off of bazooka bubble gum.....

      May 13, 2011 at 2:40 am | Report abuse |
    • rob

      You forgot about "former", the ring must've busted.

      May 13, 2011 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
  7. Gauntlet

    Of course their lives are in danger! Any terrorist with enough money, can buy that information. No hidden agenda here...they are in danger because of too much publicity. As long as their security is dependent on other humans, there will always exist a weak link that can be broken. There are a handful of ways that the federal government can successfully protect those SEAL's. Doubtful they will undertake any of them.

    May 13, 2011 at 2:24 am | Report abuse |
    • AnonymousVet

      Let's just hope there are no more PFC Mannings out there to publish this information.

      May 13, 2011 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  8. Debo23

    Idiots like the ones above with the sarcasm have never picked up a rifle and defended the rights they so loosely abuse. If you really want to call somebody out, speak on the republicans wanting the info out in the public. These guys did a job and did it perfectly. If their are concerns about their families it should be addressed. They put it on the line when the average solder can't. Anchors aweigh and salute

    May 13, 2011 at 2:26 am | Report abuse |
  9. (ret)mm3/campbell(first name withheld)

    So your saying that the seal teams familys shouldn't be secured? What if that was you and your family was in danger? What would you say or do then? You would be doing the exact same thing as they are doing to protect your family. Also, anyone who thinks there is an agenda behind this is 3 fries short of a happy meal. Hooya

    May 13, 2011 at 2:28 am | Report abuse |
    • (ret)mm3/campbell(first name withheld)

      Plz don't correct me michael, I have dyslexia. As for everyones thanks and praises to me & my fellow military comrades in arm`s, your welcome and I gladly do it all again. HOOOOOYA

      May 13, 2011 at 3:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Ahmad

      I thought dyslexia was like an inability to write words/numbers in proper order...what does being dyslexic have anything to do with using the wrong "you're?"

      May 13, 2011 at 3:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Bleah

      You're right. That is stupidity, not dyslexia.

      May 13, 2011 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Nothing. I'm dyslexic and can spell better than most people. Just write things backwards sometimes–but "your" and "you're" have nothing to do with dyslexia. This is just one of those guys who has a "beatify me" complex, thus his imaginary military service.

      May 13, 2011 at 3:29 am | Report abuse |
    • cnnreader

      Why don't you look up what dyslexia is?

      May 13, 2011 at 3:40 am | Report abuse |
    • U.R. An Idiot

      You didn't seem to have any problem with this post so what's up with this dyslexia nonsense. What you have is not called dyslexia. It's called ignorance. You need to be corrected. Deal with it.

      May 13, 2011 at 5:20 am | Report abuse |
    • LearnEngRish

      Seriously, stop posting. Reading your posts gives serious headaches.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
    • smurfette

      I would take a dyslexic military man over a moronic egocentric pencil pusher anyday. WOOT!

      May 13, 2011 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Marinetard

      didn't your mom teach you anything? Acting like something bothers you only provokes people. man... some people never learn. HOO YA

      May 13, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rush

      Do you feel better? I am sure everyone understood his post. Some people are horrible at some things but great at other things. You are obviously great at being an ass.

      May 13, 2011 at 4:11 am | Report abuse |
    • ArmyDotCom

      Sheesh! Or is it "She'esh"! Put the exclamation point wherever you want!

      May 13, 2011 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
    • ksc

      Many people have problems with English, disabilities, and many reasons that spelling is difficult. To call them on it in a blog is very rude. Feel blessed that you do not have such, and, show kindness. It can be a very painful life trying to be "ok" in the normal world. Ridicule is not good.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Moni G

      Yes, I think sometimes that manners are so sadly lacking now.

      June 1, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • thomas mc

      Religion is the seed of mental illness.
      Seek help.

      June 7, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tony P

      By the way, oh master grammarian, the name of a language is capitlized, English, not english.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
    • mad minute Pat

      Filmmaker Michael Moore is upset we killed Osam Bin Laden. I saw him say that on TV. He said it was an horrible "execution". And was so sad because Osama was in bed with his wife. Well if a couple helicopters landed in my yard, and there was a 40 miute fire fight downstairs; it seems unlikely I would still be in bed with my wife (though I love her dearly); plus sixty to eighty Spec OPs soldiers shooting everyone and on their way up to get me. Michael Moore is the only thing funny about this whole story. What a looser. Hilarious!

      May 14, 2011 at 3:54 am | Report abuse |
    • oilfeilds

      i understand about ur concern. but this isnt new. past history military pple went on with their lifes when something like this happened. you have to being in fear isnt one thing u want to show the bad ple.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      Their families are secured. No one knows who the seal teams are, and their families reside on base.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • rich

      Great email, Michael. Love it. Too many people in this country who are content with ignorance.

      And for the record, Team 6 was carrying out orders. Congrats to them for carrying out the mission that was handed to them.

      May 13, 2011 at 9:48 am | Report abuse |
    • NMJ

      It goes with the territory. They knew that when they signed up. They have risked themselves and their families doing what they like to do. The U.S. has had it's nose in many countries' business for over a century for the elite and their masters. When you stick your nose in somebody's business, sooner or later it gets busted. We would be better off keep our nose out of their business and cleaning up America and protecting its border. If Obama likes to kill criminals so much without due process, let's take all the felons out of prison, cap them and let them lay and rot; then do the same thing with all the illegals.

      May 13, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Goofy

      Kurt, is that you?? BUDS96??

      May 31, 2011 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  10. Shawn

    Of all the people to go after, going after a SEAL would be pretty dam*ed stupid.

    May 13, 2011 at 2:28 am | Report abuse |
    • UtahIndie

      Having read this headline, I almost thought I had mistakenly landed on the "National Enquirer" website. As if these Seals or any other member of our military or military elite groups would be afraid of anything!

      CNN almost lost me with this "news".

      However, I like reading the user comments too much. 🙂

      May 13, 2011 at 2:40 am | Report abuse |
    • Li

      Actually it's pretty simple. Canada hooks and clubs seals all the time

      May 13, 2011 at 2:40 am | Report abuse |
  11. john

    the id of the navy seals should for ever kept secret , there is no need to give them publicity any more.

    May 13, 2011 at 2:34 am | Report abuse |
  12. Altee11

    So why did secret information get released to the press?

    May 13, 2011 at 2:35 am | Report abuse |
  13. Rafik

    I wandered from this media propaganda did you don't understand that al quada waiting and understand all what you don, How can Obama talk to them at media ? you will cee

    May 13, 2011 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Weyoun

      what in the blue hell did you just say?

      May 13, 2011 at 2:50 am | Report abuse |
  14. TheJanitor

    Would someone please turn out the lights at CNN. Obviously there's no one at home – with any sense of patriotism or triple digit IQ.

    May 13, 2011 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
  15. Terry Brookman

    I really doubt this bit of drama from the Whitehouse, first how would they know who did it and second how would they breach the base if they did know, third would they really want to take on all the SEALS on the base? I doubt it!

    May 13, 2011 at 2:37 am | Report abuse |
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