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“Ridiculous,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

“When people, including you in this room, are working on articles, books, documentaries or movies that involve the president, ask to speak to administration officials, we do our best to accommodate them to make sure the facts are correct,” Mr. Carney said. “That is hardly a novel approach to the media. We do not discuss classified information.”

One development is clear. SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force have enjoyed a special place under Presidents Bush and Obama. Both units have increased in size — to several hundred Team 6 members and more than 1,000 Delta Force troops.

Overall, the special operations budget has surged from $6 billion five years ago to more than $10 billion today, according to the Congressional Research Service. Special Operations Command will surpass 60,000 troops next year, as conventional ground troops will shrink by 90,000 in the next five years.