The first thing to know about the U.S. Navy's SEAL Team 6 is that there is no SEAL Team 6.
You know I'd love to help you, man, a former Navy SEAL told Business Insider contributor Robert Johnson when he asked him about the rescue of Jessica Buchanan.
I can't say a word about Team Six. There is no Team Six.
The special forces unit that saved Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted from Somali pirates is one of the most elite military groups in the world.
But the group's real name is classified, and has never been available to the public.
Inside SEAL Team 6
SEAL Team 6 is considered a Tier-One counter-terrorism force in the Navy, similar to the Army's Delta group. All members of the team are black operatives, existing outside military protocol, engaging in off-the-books operations, and bending or breaking international laws.
As a result, their missions rarely make it onto any documents, much less the newspaper front pages.
But on May 2, 2011, President Obama announced that Osama bin Laden, the man believed to be behind the 9-11 terrorist attacks, had been killed.
The raid on bin Laden's Pakistan compound made SEAL Team 6 a recognizable name. And now their rescue of Buchanan and Hagen has made them front-page news.
As everyone from writers at The New York Times to social media sites like Twitter buzz with theories as to who's in SEAL Team 6 and what mission they've accomplished, here's a look inside how the operation got started.
Find out what missions the elite Navy team has been involved in (that we know of), how the group got its name and how much President Barack Obama knew about the Somalia mission.
Finally, get a look inside how the team operates on the ground from someone who knows: Dr. Howard E. Wasdin, a former Team 6 sniper.
1. How Did SEAL Team 6 Begin?
The Navy black ops group was formed in response to the 1979-81 Iran hostage crisis.
A 1980 rescue mission by the Army's Delta force, ordered by President Jimmy Carter, fell apart, and the monumental failure of the attempt prompted the armed forces to look into creating a counter-terrorist team operating outside military law.
The name itself was an attempt to confuse Soviet intelligence during the Cold War. There were only two other teams of Navy SEALs, but the U.S. wanted to keep spies confused as to how many were operating at any given time.
2. How Are Members Chosen?
Members of the elite SEAL Team 6 are chosen from the top operatives in other Navy SEAL units after Hell Week, a notorious training program. Those selected go on to learn everything from infiltrating a naval base to two-man unarmed combat.
Although no names are available for current SEAL Team 6 operatives, the CIA is reported to recruit heavily from their numbers for its Special Operations Group, and there's reportedly a lot of crossover between top secret missions.
SEAL Team 6 members traditionally excel in missions revolving around Navy operations, including ship rescues or taking on land bases connected to water. Other members, like Wasdin, were elite snipers.
But what binds the men of the SEa, Air and Land forces together (and yes, they are always men), is what drives them, according to Wasdin.
Very motivated, highly athletic, above average intelligence with just an intense desire to serve and be one of the best of the best on a very elite team, he said of what distinguished SEAL Team 6 from other military groups.
This is the best of the best, he concluded. Being able to adapt to an ever-fluid and changing situation-being able to adapt, improvise and overcome.
3. What U.S. Missions Have Involved SEAL Team 6?
Besides the killing of Osama bin Laden and the rescue of Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted, there are several engagements where SEAL Team 6 is known to have been involved.
One is Operation Urgent Fury, also known as the 1983 U.S.-led invasion of Grenada. The invasion of the Caribbean island nation was triggered by a military coup that ousted Grenada's revolutionary government.
The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States appealed to America for assistance in getting rid of the new rulers, and the invasion resulted in a restoration of constitutional government. Cold War politics, however, which had influenced President Ronald Reagan's decision, and the act of invading a country still part of the British Commonwealth, caused the United Nations General Assembly to condemn the invasion as a flagrant violation of international law.
Other notable missions include the 1985 TWA Flight 847 hijacking, Operation Just Cause (the 1989 invasion of Panama), Operation Celestial Balance (the 2009 Barawee raid on al-Qaida allies in Somalia), and Wasdin's attempt to take down Somali war lords Osman Ali Atto and Mohamed Farrah Aidid, detailed in Wasdin's book SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper.
4. Is SEAL Team 6 Truly Outside the Law?
Yes and no. Wasdin, in a 2011 interview with Kirkus Book Reviews, insisted that his role as a sniper was not that of an assassin.
On every op we go on, determining who dies and who doesn't is something called justifiable use of deadly force, he said. [That code] is why I wasn't allowed to shoot Osman Ali Atto and Mohamed Farrah Adid when we were trying to capture them in Mogadishu, Somalia.
That's how you train for thousands of hours, thousands of runs with compliant and noncompliant [subjects], he added. Seeing what they have in their hands, what they're doing, how they're moving.
And when it comes to outside involvement in SEAL Team 6 missions, Wasdin insists that though the engagements may be off the books, what happens is not a free-for-all completely outside of the law.
I don't think, especially with this administration, I don't think it was, 'Let's go execute', Wasdin said about the raid on Osama bin Laden. We don't do that.
5. How Involved Was President Obama in the Somali Rescue?
All of which begs the question: Just how involved is the commander-in-chief in SEAL Team 6 operations?
According to Wasdin, presidents are usually kept well informed of all SEAL Team 6 missions, while still having the ability to deny knowledge of the operation if the mission goes south.
According to the Guardian, Obama authorized the rescue mission two days before the team parachuted into Somalia. Just before he made his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, he was heard telling Defense Secretary Leon Panetta good job tonight, but didn't mention the raid.
For Wasdin's part, he feels that Obama's handling of SEAL Team 6 missions has been impressive, especially for a Democrat.
Now, I'm a die-hard Republican, he said. But I'm having to give the president a lot of praise lately... I mean, the guy has really stepped up in my opinion.
Right before [the bin Laden raid] was going down, he was like zinging jokes at some type of White House function. For him to have that kind of poker face and not tip his hand, in my view, is the mark of a really great president.