SEALs at Risk? Government Fears for Safety of Troops That Took Out Bin Laden

Government fears for safety of troops that took out Osama bin Laden.

May 14, 2011, 9:06 PM

May 14, 2011— -- They are revered as the smartest, bravest and most elite in the American military and yet, there is concern for their safety.

The U.S. government believes there are publications offering money to find out the identities of the Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden.

During a town hall meeting at Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Thursday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates admitted bin Laden's death has intensified the threat of extreme retaliation against them.

"When I met with the team last Thursday, they expressed a concern about that, and particularly with respect to their families," Gates said.

The Department of Defense is looking into ways to "pump up security" for the commandoes. For years, bin Laden was the world's most wanted man, and some fear his death has shifted the crosshairs directly onto Team 6.

In Virginia Beach, where the Seals are based, there's a dangerous new pastime called "SEAL spotting," in which journalists and fans try to pick out members of the elite team.

Don Mann, a former member of SEAL Team 6, said he has been approached by at least 25 reporters asking him to identify one of the SEALs involved.

"A lot of reporters are trying to get interviews. They are trying to get the story, and I wish they would stop," he said. "We are only doing harm to the SEAL community."

Some in the military and intelligence communities are calling it an unprecedented breach of confidentiality to even identify them specifically as Team 6. After all, they were a part of, at least in name, a "top secret operation."

But Mann said the SEALs know what they are getting into when they join this unit that specializes in high-risk operations.

"When you become a SEAL, the aftermath on something like this is dangerous," Mann said.

The defense secretary himself said he was surprised about the amount of information that's been disclosed.

"Frankly, a week ago in the situation room we all agreed we would not release any operational details from the effort to take out bin Laden, and that all fell apart on Monday -- the next day," Gates said.

Government officials are discussing plans to make sure the SEALs and their families are safe, and are also considering legal action to stop any publication that might identify any of the SEALs involved.

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