ASPEN, Colo. – Recent national security leaks have put lives at risk and may ultimately cost Americans their lives unless there is an effective crackdown, the head of the Special Operations Command Admiral William McRaven says.
"The President and Capitol Hill are taking these leaks very very seriously," McRaven said Wednesday night at the Aspen Security Forum. "We need to do the best we can to clamp down because sooner or later it is going to cost people their lives or it is going to cost us our national security."
In his first wide-ranging public interview since the Usama Bin Laden raid in May 2011, McRaven told the annual conference, which brings together the nation's top minds on national security, that President Obama was a "fantastic" commander in chief.
McRaven also heaped praise on former CIA Director and current Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who he said was not fixated on who would get the credit if the mission was a success.
On Afghanistan, the Admiral expressed a sense of trust with the Afghans they work with, and seemed to suggest that U.S. forces may be in the theater beyond the administration's stated goal.
"I'm not sure all U.S. troops will be out by 2014," McRaven said.
In the wake of Monday's spate of deadly bombings in Iraq, McRaven said Al Qaeda in Iraq, also known as AQI, is a problem, suggesting the group maintains the ability to reconstitute.
By comparison, the Admiral said the number of Al Qaeda members in Afghanistan, which is in the 100's, is dwarfed by the terrorist group's ranks in Yemen and Somalia.
While offering virtually no new details about the Usama bin Laden raid, which was a classified operation, McRaven said some members of Seal Team 6 spoke a second language.
More broadly speaking, the Admiral explained that the "average operator" was 34 years old, married with two children.
McRaven said the ideal Navy Seal can think on their feet, can react quickly and has the life experience and maturity need for the challenging position.
The forum, which was moderated by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, included light-hearted moments such as when the Admiral confirmed that he had majored in journalism before settling on a career in the Navy.
At the end of the 75 minute discussion, Blitzer asked the Admiral if he had given up his ambitions to be a journalist. Without hesitation, the Admiral said absolutely.
Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.