The U.S. Department of Defense will allow members of Congress to talk to the Marine Corps colonel who was in command of U.S. Special Forces in Northern Africa (AFRICOMM) on the night of the Benghazi terror attack. The key witness has previously been withheld from congressional investigators due to what officials are now calling an "administrative error," the Daily Mail reports.
Until Friday, the Pentagon had claimed that it could not "compel" Marine Col. George Bristol to testify before Congress because he was retired. U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) were never satisfied with that excuse. Chaffetz publicly criticized the Defense Department for being unwilling to "pass along any sort of information" about Bristol's location.
This file photo taken on September 11, 2012 shows an armed man waving his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames after being set on fire inside the US consulate compound in Benghazi. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
However, the Pentagon has now reversed course due to what it is says was an "administrative error." Air Force Maj. Robert Firman reportedly told the Daily Mail that Bristol was mistakenly identified as a retired officer despite his active-duty status.
"The Department of Defense has fully cooperated with congressional requests to understand the attacks on the Benghazi 'The Department of Defense has fully cooperated with congressional requests to understand the attacks on the Benghazi compound," Firman said. "Col. George Bristol, USMC, will be available to meet with House and Senate members and their staffs."
Sen. Graham reportedly sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday and asked that the decision be reconsidered. The letter apparently set off a chain of events that helped officials see the "administrative error" that prevented Congress from talking to Bristol.
Bristol does not officially retire until August 1. He has stayed out of the public eye and has reportedly refused multiple interview requests from MailOnline.
His testimony could prove to be key in understanding what really happened in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, when radical Islamists stormed a U.S. compound and killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.