By Barbara Starr
CNN Pentagon Correspondent
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has been asked by Special Operations commanders to not release the names of the 22 SEALS killed in a helicopter crash Saturday because they belonged to a covert unit, two US military officials confirm to CNN.
Even though many of the families have come forward and publicly identified their loved ones, the concern is that families and friends could be tracked down if they are identified, officials said. If the names are not published by the Pentagon, it would appear to be precedent setting. Officials said they can not recall a time when names were not released 24 hours after next of kin are notified following an incident.
A separate US military official also confirmed that the SEALS were called in as an ‘immediate reaction force” when the Rangers who were on the ground in a firefight saw some Taliban break off and begin to escape. The Rangers wanted the SEALS to go after those insurgents. The official said the Rangers were “not pinned down” but simply wanted more combat power.