This is making the rounds on social networks:

enter image description here


Over 20 Navy SEALs who (allegedly) "killed" Osama Bin Laden are now dead.

Is there any truth to this (today as in 8 May 2015)

  • 14
    I can see an ambiguity in the claim. Do they mean (1) "Of the one Navy SEAL who actually killed Bin Laden, 20 are dead?" Clearly not. (2) "Of the 79 JSOC and CIA operatives involved in the operation, 20 are dead." But not all were SEALs. (3) "Of the hundreds(?) of people who were alive and working as Navy SEALS (or perhaps SEAL Team 6?) in 2011, 20 are now dead." Plausible, but misleading.
    – Oddthinking
    May 8, 2015 at 10:25
  • 50
    Given that the exact identities of the people involved in the actual op are classified, this claim is pretty much unfalsifiable -- we don't know the identities of those involved, so we can't confidently state whether any of them are alive or dead right now. On the other hand, unless the person who's making the claim has access to classified information, neither can they - and if they do have said access, they've just committed a pretty serious crime... May 8, 2015 at 11:22
  • 6
    @JanVladimirMostert There is only Team 6. Seal Teams 1-5 do not exist. Naming the special forces unit of the navy "Team 6" was done solely to confuse the Soviet secret service. When the cold war was over, the unit was renamed to NSWDG (Naval Special Warfare Development Group), but the name "Seal Team Six" stuck.
    – Philipp
    May 8, 2015 at 12:30
  • 12
    Interestingly enough, at some point in the future this claim will be true. Maybe the originator of this claim is prophet ;) May 8, 2015 at 13:52
  • 5
    The "allegedly" and the scare quotes looks like the image is trying hard to imply something like: "The US Government never really found OBL, and now they're covering that up by killing the soldiers who can reveal they were not on the mission the government says they were on." No matter who is or isn't dead, that conspiracy theory dies immediately when it turns out the government never did claim that any named person was on the mission. Even if it was all faked, no soldiers would need silencing: just let them all keep thinking some other SEALs were on the mission. May 10, 2015 at 2:02

2 Answers 2


This is not true.

In August 2011, 38 people died in a single helicopter crash, including 15 members of NAVY SEALs' Team 6. The accident has been described as "the worst battlefield calamity in [the team's] history". A U.S. Boeing CH-47 Chinook military helicopter was shot down while transporting a quick reaction force attempting to reinforce an engaged unit of Army Rangers in Wardak province, west of Kabul, Afghanistan. This is what the above image and caption is referring to.

We do not know the exact makeup of the team that killed Osama, however according to official sources:

All but two of the SEALs [killed in the crash] were from SEAL Team 6, the unit that killed Osama bin Laden, although military officials said none of the crash victims was on that mission in Pakistan against the al-Qaida leader.

The image above has used a photo collage from this article, which also contains the above quote. Confirmation of this can also be found in a report by CNN, BBC, NBC and in other sources. Specifically, an article in USA Today explains that the men killed belonged to the Gold Squadron, while the soldiers involved in the assassination belonged to the Red Squadron. Team 6 has four line squadrons: Blue, Gold, Red and Silver, plus a reconnaissance unit known as Black Squadron. Furthermore each squadron is divided into three troops. The crash wiped out an entire troop in Gold Squadron.

TL;DR The image above represents people who have died in a helicopter crash, a lot of them were members of SEAL Team 6 but none of them was involved in the assassination of Osama.

Moreover as Philipp pointed out in the comments, SEAL Team Six (United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group) isn't a small group and has roughly around 200 people amongst its ranks.

  • 2
    Have I understood correctly? Your argument is "the photo used to illustrate the claim does not correspond with people who were, according to the military, on the Pakistan mission, so therefore the claim is false."
    – Oddthinking
    May 8, 2015 at 10:15
  • 10
    @Oddthinking I think the argument is that the photo is from a news article which describes a crash in Afghanistan and which says (as quoted in the answer) that "none of the crash victims was on that mission in Pakistan against the al-Qaida leader": i.e. that (some, other) US Navy Seals were killed, but not those who killed Osama Bin Laden.
    – ChrisW
    May 8, 2015 at 10:21
  • @ChrisW: I wonder if we can make that argument clearer, because this took several reads to get that meaning. It also leaves a cop-out clause: maybe the photo was poorly chosen to make it a memeable graphic, but the textual claim correct.
    – Oddthinking
    May 8, 2015 at 10:28
  • The argument is that the image itself is referring to the crash, the people represented on the images are US Navy Seals, however none of them were involved in the raid that killed Osama.
    – MMM
    May 8, 2015 at 10:32
  • 27
    It should also be mentioned that the name seal team six implies that the unit is much smaller than it actually is. The exact number of soldiers is of course classified, but the so-called seal team six consists of 7 independent squadrons which consist of three groups which consist of several teams, so one can assume that the number of seal team six operators in service at any given time is about three-digit.
    – Philipp
    May 8, 2015 at 12:24

Like most conspiracy theories, this claim is unfalsifiable.

The identities of the SEALs involved in the assault on Bin Laden's compound were not released to the press or the public -- in fact, the one time FOX News attempted to out one of them they caught a great deal of flak over it.

Those identities are classified information, and without knowing who they are it's pretty much impossible to conclusively state whether any of them are alive or dead.

Of course, conversely, the person who made this claim is working from the same lack of information - if he or she is capable of conclusively stating that 20 of them are dead, he or she would have to know their identities first... In which case they have access to highly classified information and probably shouldn't be spouting it on the internet as a meme.

So in conclusion, either the originator of the claim is ignorant and made it up out of whole cloth, or they're not and at an absolute minimum violating multiple laws dealing with classified information.

The fact that (as MMM points out) they're using an image that pertains to an unrelated incident certainly indicates the former, but either way this isn't answerable without more information than the people on this site are likely to have access to -- and even if any of us did, we'd be legally bound to deny having it.

  • 1
    if wikileaks realeased this kind of information, would it be considered in the public domain and usable information? May 8, 2015 at 13:16
  • 4
    @JanVladimirMostert IANAL, but I personally wouldn't like to use "someone else committed treason and published that data, but I'm not to be blamed for reproducing it" as a defense. May 8, 2015 at 13:28
  • 3
    One possible route to falsification without requiring identity information would be if a showing could be made that fewer than 21 SEALs were involved in the assault. I have no idea if this is the case or if there is any publicly available information about it. May 8, 2015 at 13:45
  • 1
    @DougMcClean The Fox story quoted in this answer says, “Rather than keeping the details secret, intelligence officials and senior administration officials briefed members of the press. It quickly leaked out that the mission was performed by 24 members of the elite and classified counterterrorism SEAL squadron, known as SEAL team 6.”
    – ChrisW
    May 8, 2015 at 13:51
  • 5
    @reirab, and to anyone who has once held a clearance, losing your clearance or letting it become outdated doesn't absolve that oath. And saying something that gets someone killed is saying something that gets someone killed. It may not be treason or premeditated murder, but it is something.
    – Poik
    May 8, 2015 at 16:54

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