Excerpted from Yahoo News: SEAL Team 6, the classified special operations unit best known for killing Osama bin Laden, is largely shrouded in mystery.
Around the globe, the unit embarks on some of the United States’ most dangerous military campaigns — considered too perilous for conventional troops.
The Pentagon does not publicly acknowledge the name SEAL Team 6. Instead, the exclusive group officially operates under the cover name Naval Special Warfare Development Group.
On June 6, the 71st anniversary of D-Day, when the Allies stormed the beaches at Normandy, the New York Times published an in-depth account of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, who are in many ways their contemporary counterparts.
The Times interviewed dozens of current and former SEAL 6 team members, as well as other military officials, and reviewed government documents to piece together the inner workings of the country’s most mythologized military group, one that has at times, it reported, blurred the “traditional lines between soldier and spy.”
Here are some of the highlights of the findings in the sweeping New York Times report:
Since Sept. 11, 2001, a deluge of cash has enabled SEAL Team 6 to expand its ranks considerably to about 300 assault troops and 1,500 support personnel.
Over the past decade, the once small group of elite warriors has transformed into worldwide terrorist hunters.
Some insiders worry that this rapid expansion has watered down the unit’s elite culture and caused top brass to squander the troops’ abilities on lesser missions.
“By 2010, guys were going after street thugs,” a former Team 6 member said. “The most highly trained force in the world, chasing after street thugs.”
In Afghanistan, between 2006 and 2008, Team 6 was sent after what seemed like a never-ending succession of targets. On many nights, the team would log 10 to 15 kills.
“These killing fests had become routine,” a former officer said.
In the past 14 years, more team members have died than in all the group’s previous history. A former team member said that about three dozen assault troops and support personnel died on combat missions.
Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, who was a SEAL member in Vietnam, warns that special operations forces like Team 6 are being overused: “They have become sort of a 1-800 number any time somebody wants something done.”
Team 6 operates in the shadows. Joint Special Operations Command, which oversees the unit’s missions, investigates allegations of misconduct but rarely reports these cases to Navy investigators.
Advocates argue that Team 6 must operate in secrecy if it is going to occasionally flout international law.
Others warn that the dearth of outsider knowledge could lead to endless secret missions with limited accountability.
“If you’re unacknowledged on the battlefield, you’re not accountable,” said William C. Banks, director of the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism at Syracuse University.