Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates reiterated Wednesday his plea for an end to the release of information about the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, arguing that the disclosure would compromise future missions.
He quickly got backup from Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“We are close to jeopardizing this precious capability that we have, and we can’t afford to do that,” Mullen said. “From my perspective it is time to stop talking. We have talked far too much about this. . . . We need to move on.”
It was not the first time that Gates has worried publicly about the extensive and detailed coverage of the raid. A week earlier he told Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C., that top administration officials watching the raid in the White House Situation Room had all agreed to stay silent on the details of the mission.
“That all fell apart on Monday, the next day,” Gates said.
At a Pentagon news conference Wednesday, Gates was asked if he felt that the White House, which conducted an extensive on-the-record briefing of the raid on May 2, had in its excitement said too much. The defense secretary refused to single anyone out for blame.
“My concern is that there were too many people in too many places talking too much about this operation,” he told reporters. “We want to retain the capability to carry out these kinds of operations in the future, and when so much detail is available it makes that both more difficult and riskier.”
Mullen added that government officials were not the only ones spilling the beans about the mission.
“We’ve had far too many retired people who’ve spoken up,” he said.
Gates said that the SEALs from the raid, whose names are classified, “did express concern, not so much for themselves but for their families,” when he met with them a few days after the raid. The defense secretary suggested that the Pentagon was exploring how best to protect their loved ones from reprisal attacks by terrorists.
“All I will say is that we have been taking a close look at that, and we will do whatever is necessary,” Gates said.