Sound Off: Does SEAL Team 6 Need Oversight?



On Sunday June 7th, the New York Times published an 8800-word epic article called SEAL Team 6: A Secret History of Quiet Killings and Blurred Lines.” The online version of the piece features GIFs, maps, large photos, video set, a glossary, a video interview and no less than six reporter bylines. That’s a huge amount of information about a unit that doesn’t officially exist.

While the reporters are careful to give a lot of background on SEAL Team 6’s notable sucesses (taking out Osama bin-Laden, rescuing commercial sea captain Richard Phillips, Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch and Dr. Dilip Joseph), what they’re really investigating is JSOC’s use of SEAL Team 6 in an intelligence role in cooperation with the C.I.A. and whether those missions have adequate oversight.

That’s a complicated question with no easy answers and a discussion that conflicts with the popular culture image of SEAL Team 6 as the military equivalent of the Avengers or the X-Men. Should a unit designed for tactical rescue be involved in “advance force operations” (a/k/a military intelligence)?  Should there be outside oversight of Team 6 or should the operators be trusted to make their own decisions about appropriate field methods?

Whether or not you agree with the newspaper’s conclusions, this is a must-read piece for anyone who cares about U.S. Special Operations. Check it out and come back here to discuss below.

  • Rivrat 1970

    The Bottom Line? They have missions assigned. If any increased oversight, direct to SECNAV. But if we think DEVGRP is a bit hot, try the Marines FORCON or Force Reconnaissance. If you see them first they have failed the mission even if target handled per ROE.

    Don’t mess with SO folks. Hold the force commanders to the ROE.

    • guest

      Obama and congress are the ones that need OVERSIGHT!!

      • mike lee

        That’s the truth. Leave team 6 Alone. I was a member of team 2 communications, when they brought several of us together and called us team 6 because each of us had specific specialties. I was in from 1976 to 1982. It was a good idea then and it’s a good idea now. Let us do our job. And the results speak for themselves.

    • chief

      DevGrp doesnt need oversight. The PR Dept does. Our operators dont seek publicity. They are Quiet Professionals doing a job and making difficult choices that no one else is willing to make. They need to be left alone to operate as they always have Quietly. The NYT and all the rest of the media have endangered these men and women as well as their families. All of the notoriety is costing lives and mission successes. Leave the Spec War Ops alone .

    • ES1957

      All I can say is to let these men of extrordinary honor do their job an knock off the Liberal BS

  • guest

    Didn’t read the article. All I can say is the NYT is the nation’s newspaper of record. They are the newspaper all the rest are judged by, and the gold standard of news reporting. People in the know think they are objective and fair to a fault. If the NYTs thinks something is not right, than you can be sure that there are big problems and trouble afoot. Congress needs to get busy and do some in-depth investigation and set matters straight with the SEALs.

    • Steve Tew

      The NYT is the World Standard for US Liberal Reporting on a grand scale. Leftists agree it is a great news organization. If the NYT says there are problems, there are. And those problems would be the failure of the organization they are reporting on to keep info secret… Obfuscation, opinion, blatant lies, extrapolation and Liberal insanity are hallmarks of the New York Times.

      • Gary


      • Airboss

        Double AMEN!!

    • walkerny

      Only a liberal thinks the NYT is the “gold standard”. Two examples, Abu Grahb was a cover story for longer than either the first moon landing or the DDay invasions. Second, the former Clinton NSA Sandy Berger caught stealing top secret documents stuffed up a pants leg: buried on page 17. Could give similar examples all day long.

    • Just A “Guest”(:>

      I’m often curious when reading commentaries on an article in this, and other forums as to why some contributors sign on as “Guest”. Why use such an anonymous signature, perhaps because your normal log in ID would be recognized? Is it possible that, in this case, you are connected to the publication in question? Just an observation . . . .

    • southie1983

      And Guest, who is protecting your freedom? While you sit and hide behind a computer? These men are the most physically, smartest men on the planet. They should not have to go into dangerous situations having to make split second life and death decisions due to ROE. When was the last time you have encountered danger? Your computer malware?

    • Travis

      I will ask you and the NYT to cite their sources. If what they say is true then let the investigations roll. However, if they are unwilling to cite sources other than hearsay and third person accounts, then let them be held accountable for liable.

    • Charlie Benda

      Maybe many, many years ago the NYT was the standard but not today. They have a far left agenda and it taints everything they do!!

      Leave Seal Team 6 alone and be grateful for what they do for all of us. Their job is tough enough without a bunch of idiots looking over their shoulder.

  • American citizen

    I rest soundly at night knowing there are men who risk there lives to do thing that no one else will do to keep me safe. There are people in this world that want to do our country harm. These men do what is necessary to prevent that from happening. Until you are willing to pick up a rifle and return fire instead of hiding behind a reports computer or a political desk, keep your mouth shut. Remember they and those before them secured your rights and you live in AMERICA.

    • guest

      As long as the military obeys the law, and only acts within the law. Otherwise it becomes a rogue organization.

    • Amen. Those who write stories about our Special Operators should consider the harm you put them all in. Thank God Almighty that the United States Have such Men and Women of COURAGE to go get the job accomplished that no one wants to do. They need no oversight from short sighted, small minded politicians who have become the death of America. Carry on Seal Team 6, be Swift, Silent and Deadly. Send those other rotten SOB’S to go meet their maker before they kill us. Semper Fi.

    • IaintBob

      I rest better at night knowing the NYT’s are writing articles like these. If it wasn’t for the Times the public would be clueless about Seal Team 6 and their nefarious ways.

      Get smart shop S mart.

    • JLBS

      Well said American citizen! Most civilians can’t EVEN imagine what it takes to defend and protect what is dear to all of us. Even the freedom of speech they enjoy!

  • KenLand

    The military has a role of providing security to the nation. We don’t need to go all bureaucratic on operations that defend our country.

    • guest

      So you’re telling me the military is not a bureaucracy? ROTFLMAO…..

      • Eric Elliott

        Yes the military is a bureaucracy. However, the SO community isn’t and that is one of the many reasons they are so successful. Don’t mess with something that works.

    • SFC BigC

      Totally agree. What we don’t need are a bunch from Congress who screw up anything they get involved in, too tell the SEALS how they can fight!!!

  • daryl

    Sounds like bad guys r writing for nyt

    • guest

      And editing too! The NYT is so leftist, it defies logical reassoning to believe other wise….Didn’t they just tell a story about the Administration telling fibs about the death of Osama Bin Laden? Like hundreds of people could keep that secret?? cmon, now……nothing even remotely that impoprtant could be covered up by so many. Yes, the NYT has BAD GUYS working for them.

  • Dave T.

    From a certain movie that nails it…: I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”

    • Steve

      Perfect Response

  • LT Z

    SOCOM should answer to SECNAV…they don’t make these missions up on their own…comes down the chain of command…NY Times bottom line is to sell newspapers…we saw how oversight on Benghazi worked…waste of taxpayer money…interesting story…

  • JohnD

    They do have oversight. It is call Special Operations Command and the Joint version! What, no senator strap hanging on every mission? Get real! They have over sight, do you think they just go out on missions? They get autonomy in operational choices but the missions are supervised! Remember the Bin Laden hit? The president, his staff and a ton of Generals in Afghanistan and D.C. were watching!!

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    Questions about how Team 6 (or any other component of SOCOM, I guess) are used are always worth asking. There was some expressed unhappiness over some of the things for which parts of the Team 6 were used; there was a quote from a former member about “the best trained soldiers in the world chasing street thugs.” Also worth asking, and clear in the article, is whether it has become too easy for policymakers to deploy SOCOM personnel in the absence of a clear overall strategy. When you have a superb hammer, does every problem look like a nail?

    There was a sourly funny comment about oversight of Team 6 that probably applies broadly to SOCOM in general, that “Congress doesn’t want to know too much.” I’ll just bet they don’t. And the article had some funny history, such as a young McRaven being removed after he tried to discipline the unit; although not clear, I suspect that was back in Marcinko’s day.

    • stewamart

      Yep….Dick was an interesting character!

      • stewamart

        How about Richard was an interesting character!

  • DesertSharkman

    All personnel are trained to gather Intel. and push it up to higher.

    If the asset happens to be in the A.O. and available for use then use them, there are plenty of former JSOC assets that have crossed over to OGA’s that work in the Intel field so there is a comfort level of dealing with guys that you have history with.

    Oversight should be handled at the SOD level as ultimately the personnel belong to the military and are only on “loan” until ETS

  • Dustin

    Fuckin ppl, please keep us safe but we are gonna micro manage the way you do it to make sure no one gets hurt. Shut the f up, enjoy your freedom.

  • Payday

    The media is the enemy..

    • Brian B. Mulholland

      Did you bother to read the article?

  • Norman31

    Here we have a seal team that gets the job done and Washington wants to put restrictions on it. Do our leaders need a brain scan to see if they are fit to lead?

    • guest

      It’s not how you do the job, but whether it gets done within the ROE, within regulations and within the law. The ends do not justify the means.

    • Rivrat 1970

      In regards to brains scan, the theme song to X-Factor….”do you really want to know? ”

    • Bill

      Leave them alone. Obama is micromanaging the military like hitler did. We need more oversight on Obamas admin. And Congress isn’t doing there job. As far as the NT Times….does Pravda sound familiar?

  • BobSacamano

    The Times had a preconceived conclusion they wanted to achieve and I wonder if they have an alternative for what they bashed, does the Times have a solution for the enemies America faces? Maybe they do, but after reading what I thought would be an objective piece, it quickly descended into criticism and I never got to the part where the Times had a clean fix for terrorism!

    • guest

      The NYTs job is to investigate and report the news, fairly, accurately and objectively. Finding solutions is not their mission or job. The NYTs does it’s job very well. Finding solutions is the job of our elected officials and their staffs. They don’t do their job well.

  • 504thABG

    NY Times article on the Special Operations, Seals, and Seal Team 6 points out unnecessary killings. Our military does a good job of supervising its units. True, most of the men in Team 6 may be cocky; that comes from its culture. The only way to breakup this behavior is to disband its present members and start with a fresh group of men. The acquired cocky influence the presence members have over new comers to Team 6 may cause friction. I think it is best to keep what is secret a secret and let the JOCOM take care of it’s problems.

  • guest

    I believe and trust the NYT.

    • guest

      have some more obozo kool-aid

    • guest

      Then you are naive . Sorry, but there is NO news organization today that is completely or even mostly trustworthy. Someone said it prior, but the NYT’s job is to selll papers. And by hiding sources they can get away with a lot. These interconnected missions with gathering Intel, and the C.I.A have been going on for over 40+ years. I do not have inside information on this, but, have been reading about it all during this time. In many newspapers and individuals autobiography’s and other resources. So what is new, depressed circulation? :-)

  • Sqwerty

    I’m of the opinion that before we go mucking with “oversight” of an organization that is clearly serving our country well, we get some oversight for the New York Times … that isn’t.

    • guest

      The SS served Germany well, that did not make them right.

  • Brian B. Mulholland

    I wonder how many of the people complaining of the article actually read it. My $0.02 is that most haven’t and won’t; what we’re getting is standard complaints about the MSM.

    Concerns about the extent to which policymakers overwork and overuse SOCOM in general, rather than develop strategy, are appropriate, reasonable and overdue.

  • balais

    NYTs is a organization of liars and charlatans (and, pre-ww2 era, dictator worshippers), even though they may bring up the occassional decent points; there is not too much I disagree with in this article with a couple points

    They did a good job selling the American public OIF and quickly backpeddled like a rogue freed from his restraints, teetering from the edge of the plank. Therefore, it will take more than a half-way decent article to convince me they’ve changed their behavior.

    But i digress. Welcome to the dirty, unintended consequences of pax americana. Who said pax (anythings) were free in cost?

    Ill also add their omission of “dead cell” when regarding marcinko was rather questionable.

  • Travis

    Leave these men alone! They do a job that most of us could never or would never do. They protect our country and carry out the dirty work of our country. They sit on the wall and keep us safe at night, shut up and be happy it’s not you and your family doing it!!!!!

  • Sgt Heart

    Seal team 6 has many jobs to do so as all other special opps in other branches. They can’t do this if exposed. If it is not your business stay the hell out of it.

  • Pat

    The NYT is a leftist rage with no credibility and is only propped up by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. No time for micromanagement, getting the job is!

  • Mike B.

    Our nations special warriors are top notch, intelligent men. They can be left to do their job. If anyone needs oversight its Obama and congress. They are supposed to be in charge giving orders to Special Operations Command. If the NYT doesn’t like how REAL men operate, blame the leadership, as in the elected political (so called) leadership.

  • Stan

    I read the article, and also a reply by a former SEAL Team 6 member, Chuck Pfarrer. Chuck Pfarrer is a former Assault Element Commander at SEAL Team Six. He is the New York Times bestselling author of SEAL Target Geronimo: Inside the Mission to Kill Osama Bin Laden, and Warrior Soul: The memoir of a Navy SEAL. Pfarrer serves presently as an Associate Editor of The Counterterrorist Journal and is a distinguished fellow of the US Naval Special Warfare Institute. In brief, he calls the NYT article a bunch of slanderous garbage. There’s always two sides to any story.

  • DBW86

    I can recall quit a few “hatchet jobs” for the Democrats and Liberals to whom the NY Times leans! As for Seal Team 6 it was Obama who “outed” them world wide. Prior to that they were never talked about as it should be. Since Obama took office we have seen the largest purge of General and Flag Officers in the history of our nation and the NY Times never noticed it! When the Special Operations Command was set up it was one of the best things that has happened in our military, though we need to guard to keep it a Joint Services Command and not allow it to become another Armed Service in it’s own! What they do, how they do it and what they accomplish needs to remain in the shadows and the White House needs to shut up about it. Oversight of each branch’s special operators needs to remain with their respective services Secretary but when assigned to SOC then their oversight rightly belongs with SecDef only reporting to the respective Oversight Committees of the Senate and House and the White House. The White House needs to pull back and allow the SecDef to run his own operations with broad guidelines or targets only. Then step back and allow the system to function instead of the current micro management such as LUB did during Viet-Nam and we all know how that turned out! Successful SOC operations are either silent and unprovable or quick, decisive and violent and still not quit provable. That is as it should be!

    • Guest

      Marcinko outed the SEALs twenty years before Obama came along.

      • Mountain Man

        As DBW86 wrote, the President outed Team 6. He did not say the President outed the overall Seals, its mission or its command or various mission structures. As Commander and Chief, I guess he feels he can let the world know of our organization and tactics if he choses, which he did. It kind of opened the media flood gates and gave team members a license to chat up the press and their personal publishers. Good move Mr President.

    • Jim Young

      Let’em roam!

  • rosko

    It’s obvious that opsec in Seal Team 6 is lacking. Give the high profile missions to aDelta


    Seal Team 6 are given mission orders and then execute those order. I do not believe that any non-military have the need or the right to direct how a military unit carries out the orders. The Civilian control of the military is to tell the military what to do not how to do it. The military leadership is the one who best understand how to do the job.

  • dan barrett

    Not any more oversight than they have now.//I started reading the NYT in high school over fifty years ago but stopped reading it because I had to keep asking “Is this true?” The answer too many times was no. Their political leanings today always trump their obligation to tell the truth, a failing of most mainstream liberal media organizations.

  • Bob AMU

    The role of the politicians should be to authorize an OP then get the Hell out of the way and let the military do its job with no political interference. Oversight by militarily ignorant politicians is the Kiss of Death.

  • txkboy

    SEAL Team 6 are military. They report to their Commander, who reports to his Commander, and so on. The NYT’s needs to stick to reporting instead of speculation. The CIA needs to manpower their own missions and reserve ST6 for what it was meant for…to kick butt on a moments notice!

  • dan

    someone has to do it .politicians need to clean their own house first.we are doing just fine.semper fi.danno

  • Sandy

    There is already much oversight – the HPSCI, SSIC, a whole battery of lawyers, and Flag Officers. Please, they have so much oversight that it sometimes interferes with the mission. They also have to work under CIA oversight when not in a Title 10 (war area) environment (Title 50). Don’t break anything that isn’t broken.

  • George N Roll, Ltc.

    Much too much detail on spec ops was presented in this article. To much trade craft is exposed. In night close in combat when you are potentially outnumbered by enemy and seconds count decisions have to be made I’m milli seconds correct and you live wrong and you and maybe your team are dead! Monday morning quarterbacking by rear area personnel is unrealistic! Walk a mile in an Operators shoes and you will learn what it is really like, you probably won’t like it much. Thank God we have men like these to go after our enemy’s before we have to face them here.

  • Travis

    I was always taught that good journalists have good sources. NYT and writers, where are your sources? What you have written amounts to hearsay and speculation based upon second and third person accounts. Surely you can defend your actions?

  • grunt

    Leave them alone!! go report on so many other news items out there. Don’t look at them for following their duty and honor look to the chumps that are in charge!!! plan and simple I love these dudes. the world is not such a very nice place and we have about a 100 hot spots around the globe always to deal with and this is the A team for America!! f yes they “ROCK STEADY” !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • droggen

    dumb question …of course

  • OddBall

    You wont be able to keep an eye on ST-6, in fact, you wont be able to accurately say what they did.

  • OddBall

    Until it`s manned, ST-6 does not exist………..

  • R.Miller

    Are you kidding me? Do they want them to stop in the middle of a mission (one that is assigned to them and they gladly take because it is part of their DUTY, HONOR, CODE) and ask for the permission from the masses of bleeding hearts that sleep under the very protection that they afford. I have read the article and ask the NYT this one thing: Who provides the freedom for you to print such things and what gives you the right to target those who quietly serve the greatest country in the world. Put the oversight to bed and allow those who have been trained to do their job.

  • john

    I say let the SEAL’s alone. The more they are recognized the more vulnerable they become. It takes a SPECIAL person to do what they do. They have to do the dirty work, when no one else will. In fact they need to go back to the days of Richard Mirchinko. They need to blend in to do their jobs. Look folks, war is dirty, so let these guys do their job! Remember they are getting the bad guys. If we start putting rules that take secracy out of the equation they don’t have a fighting chance in the world of dirty war. Do you think that the terrorist play by the rules, hell there are no rules in their book. Go Navy! Go SEAL’s!

  • GER

    Leave these people alone and let them work . We the public does not need to know everything .

  • Tim Kelly

    They do not Exist!—-Give what they want.

  • R.Wright

    Enough micromanaging ! Our dead no longer sleep in peace due to our inability to defy clerks and protect our country.

  • Rocky

    I sleep well at night knowing the SEAL’s are awake.
    It’s micro-managing that disrupts the completed assignments.
    But, some SEAL’s need to be more silent.
    That’s NAVY talk-SSN

  • Lori S.

    Very interesting points. My uncle, with immense help, developed today’s Navy Seal. My family, over the years, welcomed many hundreds of service men and women into our house for Christmas, 4th of July,
    etc. sorry I certainly got off track here…. I lost my dad, brother, and uncle over the last 2 years and miss them so much. I write once a week to the USO, try to often visit Veterans,
    Thank you God for creating Men such as these. Where would we be without them?
    A special thank you to Michael Murphy. I entered the 2 annual ‘Murhp’ fundraiser, but alas, ( I ride horses)
    my times can use improvement, wait ’till next year. Gratefully, Lori

  • Who?? Team 6 doesn’t exist

  • Chuck

    No, let them do their job, and let them do it in a timely manner (ASAP). There is already too much over sight.

  • Rob

    Short answer: NO! There is a very specific reason SO has been so incredibly effective for this long. Unconventional warfare does not need to be conforming to conventional oversight. Bottom line, the Teams are doing well with the bureaucratic dog mess they have to deal with now. More will only serve to weaken what is intended to be strong.

  • Brian

    THAT ARTICLE is a COMPLETE FAKE. No heed should be given to it at all.
    AND on the subject of this article; if you don’t want to stand behind our troops, feel invited to stand in front of them.

  • Regulator 2-2


  • Rich42

    Dear complainers, leave my country. Please? Please leave soon. You don’t deserve the freedom you have. You belong in the sand with the rest of the cretins.

  • defender2

    Leave them alone. Their chain of command is their oversight. NYT is the liberal rag that given the opportunity would release all our country’s secrets. My hat’s off to Seal Team 6.

  • Dennis J Herdina

    LEAVE THEM ALONE.. Top down management by some so called expert only leads to mission degradation. These groups work much better with minimal supervision. Every body assigned as an expert to manage such a group is going to have their own views on how to manage and as the people change so will the managing. If such a group needs more managing then it should be by an individual who has much of the same skills and experience. The regular military brass have been trying since day 1 to seize control of these groups because they do not operate within normal military guidelines and have independent money from the budget and first call on what they need when they need it. Do you really think some leg general officer is capable of dealing with the capabilities, the mind set and the quiet professionalism of such a group? These people were specifically tested out of the regular military because they were over achievers and lets face it rebels. Another layer of oversight will only slow down and degradate the response times and capabilities. Look at history……we have a problem lets gather a bunch of office pogeys and have a staff conference! Crap! When a situation arises that fast reaction time is needed you going to wait for a division or carrier task force to respond or do you want some hard charging self motivating troops who can put their feet to the door? leave them alone!

  • Top Bo

    I think I heard a lawyer yes a lawyer say it best when we were getting or pre deployment brief at OPM. He said we do what’s in the ROE until the ROE doesn’t fit adding we are on the ground. I also remember senior Bush while at the company declaring the. American people need to know and their want to know gets confused.

  • Army SF (ret.)

    Worked directly with SEALs on live operations. They are out of their box and elements. DOD and the country have the Army and Marines who are good and should do the land operations. SEALs and the Navy need to stick with water ops where their competencies and core skills are. Nobody in the Navy chain knows land ops to provide adult supervision to the SEALs, the joint community is afraid to do it for fear of appearing biased. SEALs are the only folks who claim to be able to do everything, everywhere – ridiculous… They cover their land failures by lauding their people and inflating their awards. They are the least respected among the US and many foreign special ops forces for many reasons, including their propensity for self-glorification.

  • Rosko

    Give the high pofile missions to the Delta Force. They don’t talk and they surely will not quit the Army or kiss and tell for a lameass book deal.

  • Brian

    THAT ARTICLE is a COMPLETE FAKE. No heed should be given to it at all.

  • MSgt Donald V Sharron (Ret)

    Keep civilians away from SO. They do not need oversight. They are the best in the world and need to be left alone.GOD BLESS THEM ALL.

  • Mike

    I have read the NYT article (read it when it first came out) and found it to be more of the NYT history of pushing a liberal agenda which seems to be devoted only to advancing the interests of those who the paper thinks is its patrons, i.e. feminists, US haters, the gay community, and anyone else who is NOT a white male. If the NYT views were made policy and law, it will only further contribute, if not totally tip, to the country’s continued decline and decadence. I am surprised now that anyone who is not a flaming liberal would refer to an article from the NYT.