Why Haven’t the Names of the 30 Killed in Helicopter Crash Been Made Public Yet?

Aug 9, 2011 6:32pm

ABC News' Luis Martinez (@lmartinezabc) reports:

The names of the 30 Americans killed in this weekend’s deadly helicopter crash in Afghanistan have still not been publicly released by the Pentagon as is standard practice.

Delays in these kinds of announcements are to be expected as the Defense Department has to abide by a law that requires 24 hours to have passed following next of kin notifications before the names can be released publicly.  This was passed by Congress as a protective measure to give families enough time to grieve without having to worry about media interviews.

Though it is Defense Department policy to release the names of all servicemembers who have died while deployed in the War on Terror.  However, in this case Defense officials say the names have not been released yet because no decision has been made about whether it would be prudent to release the names.  Why? It appears some officials in the Special Operations community are opposed to the names being made public.   A Defense official says some of the arguments they have made to the Defense Department involve ensuring the safety of family members of the special operations forces killed in the crash.

25 of the 30 servicemembers killed in Saturday’s crash were from the special operations community and most of the Navy SEALS killed were members of the elite SEAL Team 6 that participated in the Osama bin Laden raid last May.

Though SEALs killed in the crash did not participate in the raid there is concern that their families,  or potentially other Team 6 members, might become potential targets.

The irony is that despite an official release of names by the Defense Department, the majority of the names have already appeared in local news outlets as family and friends react to the loss of a loved one.

Releasing the names of the fallen is Defense Department policy, however, a Defense Secretary can change policy or make an exemption as needed.    

Defense officials say Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has been presented with arguments about the pros and cons of making the names public as has always been the practice.  It will be interesting to see if Panetta decides to follow the current policy or heed the concerns of special operations commanders.

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