WASHINGTON, May 13 – Defence Secretary Robert Gates voiced concern on Thursday about the safety of the US Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden and said security would be stepped up for the commandos.
"When I met with the team last Thursday, they expressed a concern about that, and particularly with respect to their families," Gates told Marines at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
He said he could not divulge details publicly but that "we are looking at what measures can be taken to pump up the security."
The raid against bin Laden\’s compound less than two weeks ago has sparked an avalanche of media attention around the secretive Navy SEAL "Team Six" that carried out the operation.
Reporters have travelled to Virginia to try to uncover more details of the SEAL team, which is based at Dam Neck, and retired SEALs are in high demand as guests for television news broadcasts.
"I think there has been a consistent and effective effort to protect the identities of those who participated in the raid. I think that has to continue," said Gates, whose remarks were carried live on the Pentagon\’s television channel.
He joked about how details of the raid leaked out even though there had been an understanding among the president\’s top deputies at a White House meeting to keep information about the operation secret.
"Frankly a week ago Sunday, in the (White House) situation room, we all agreed that we would not release any operational details from the effort to take out bin Laden," he said.
"That all fell apart on Monday, the next day."
The role of the more than 20 SEALs who carried out the helicopter assault on bin Laden\’s hideout in Pakistan was first publicly confirmed by CIA Director Leon Panetta and Vice President Joe Biden in the days after the raid.
Team Six is an elite unit drawn from the already elite ranks of the SEALs, an acronym for sea, air and land.
The unit is so secret that the military does not openly acknowledge its existence, but its reputation has taken on near mythic proportions and features in books, films and video games.
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