May 6th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

Letters to the President: #837 'What we don't know'

Reporter's Note: President Obama went to Ground Zero today. And I wrote another letter to the White House.

Dear Mr. President,

Here is something I don’t say all the time: I envy your job today. The fact that you are going to meet with the Navy SEALs who attacked Osama bin Laden’s compound is really quite intriguing, and since they will never - or at least not for a long time - be able to tell their story, I wish I were with you to hear it.

Related: In commandos' home base, pride is deep and lips are sealed

One of the big reasons news people get into news is to have a front row seat for history and when we have to wait outside the room it’s frustrating. Oh well.

That said, I have to admit that I’ve heard about all I want to hear about the raid at this point. Despite my dedication to collecting and sharing information for a living (I had an aunt like that, come to think of it), I do think there are limits to what we can safely know about operations such as this.

Even with Osama bin Laden gone, we live in a world where there are plenty of people who would like to do us harm - from dedicated enemies to freelance nuts - and in my experience such groups often include folks who devour every scrap of information about how we collect intelligence, plan our attacks, and handle information - all with a goal of making it harder and harder for us to keep track of their efforts or do anything to stop them.

This operation has already revealed details of the cloaking capabilities of our helicopters; the size of our rapid strike, covert forces; and the operational patterns we follow in such attacks. Oh sure, we can change all of that, but I’m sure plenty of military leaders would just as soon have kept it all private.

Sure, we have to know enough to make sure that our troops are acting legally, and in a way that our country can support and be proud of. But they also have to have a play book that their enemies can not see. They must keep some secrets, because that is part of being safe.

So I hope you enjoy your meeting with the SEALs. Listen to whatever details they can or will provide. Offer them congratulations. And then, just as they do, move on and say nothing more about it. Because as much as I might want to know the whole story, unless there is reason to believe something untoward happened, we may all be safer in the long run if some details remain behind closed doors.


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Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. William Miller

    Mr. President I do not envy your job today, I can only imagine the soul searching you endured prior to making the decision to take the life of another human being. I can only say I respect your courage it was a decision that had to be made and thank you.

    May 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  2. Courtney


    I'm glad someone else is worried about our security. I agree we don't need to know every detail of the raid. People who don't already believe that it truely was bin Laden never will, regardless of any evidence provided. Also no one is talking about anything else that is happening in the world. What is going on in Libya and Japan or anywhere else for that matter? I know the raid on bin Laden was a huge victory for the U.S. and that's great but it's time to move on.

    May 6, 2011 at 9:54 am |