Republican lawmakers want to talk to Marine Corps. Col. George Bristol about the Benghazi terror attack – but he’s nowhere to be found and the Pentagon isn’t talking.
Bristol was in a key position in the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) on the night of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.
Due to the fact that he has since retired, the Department of Defense cannot compel him to testify before Congress, Pentagon spokesman Major Robert Firman told CBS News.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) says that explanation is “hogwash.”
“They say he’s retired and they can’t reach out to him,” he explained.
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Bristol, a martial arts master, was commander of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara based in Stuttgart, Germany until he retired last March. In an article in Stars and Stripes, Bristol is quoted at his retirement ceremony as telling his troops that “an evil” has descended on Africa, referring to Islamic militant groups. “It is on us to stomp it out.”
Members of Congress in both the House and Senate, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have asked the Pentagon for assistance in locating Bristol so that they can question him about events the night of the terrorist attacks in Benghazi. But those efforts have come up empty.
“The Department of Defense has been entirely forthcoming on all matters related to our response to the attacks in Benghazi from the outset,” said Pentagon spokesman Firman. He added that “any congressional committee can call the witnesses it needs” through subpoena, if necessary.
On June 26, the House Armed Services Committee questioned other military members in the AFRICOM chain of command in a closed hearing. The witnesses included Bristol’s former superiors: commander of Special Operations Command Africa Rear Adm. Brian Losey and former AFRICOM commander Gen. Carter Ham.
So why did the Department of Defense make Ham available to Congress but not Bristol? The Pentagon said Ham was not yet officially retired.
However, Chaffetz says that the Defense Department has actually been more responsive on Benghazi than other federal agencies, the stonewalling with Bristol aside.
“We will end up talking to [Bristol] at some point,” Chaffetz added. “He had a very important role and we want to talk to him about it…All this raises concern when there’s so much resistance to letting us speak with him.”
Another important figure who was interviewed by the House Armed Services Committee in last month’s closed session was Lt. Col. Gibson.
“Gibson led a team that was on the ground in Tripoli during the attacks. A U.S. diplomat testified the team was stopped from flying to Benghazi to help the Americans who were under attack. That account differed from the Obama administration’s original version of events,” CBS News notes.
The Obama administration claims that Gibson’s team was stopped from going to Benghazi because they were needed more in Tripoli. Officials also argue even if the team had gone to Benghazi it wouldn’t have made a difference for the four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, who died in the attack.