In late June, Rep. Darrell Issa slapped the State Department with subpoenas for four employees in a rather strongly worded letter to Secretary of State Kerry. These four employes had not been made available to the Oversight committee as was requested in May. (For more on the May 17 letter, Read: State Dept on Issa Subpoenas: Received “Out of the Blue”… Witnesses “Need Time to Review and Prep”)
The four employees named in the subpoena were:
To date, these individuals have not yet appeared before the Oversight committee.
In early July, interest in interviewing Colonel George Bristol of AFRICOM regarding the events that unfolded in Benghazi arose. An inquiry was made to the Pentagon and the response received was along the lines of ‘he’s retired, you can’t compel him…and oh, we don’t know where he is anyway’. CBS’s Sharyl Attkisson reported:
Marine Corps Col. George Bristol was in a key position in the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) chain of command the night of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. As such, he’s high on the list of people that some Republican members of Congress want to interview. But they don’t know where he is and the Pentagon isn’t telling.
Pentagon spokesman Major Robert Firman told CBS News that the Department of Defense “cannot compel retired members to testify before Congress.”
Colonel Bristol is not the only AFRICOM commander to testify; General Carter Ham was called on June 26th, 2013. General Ham was in command on the night of the attack in Benghazi as Sharyl Attkisson reported last month:
Ham was head of the agency during the Sept. 11, 2012 attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others. Lt. Col. Michael Gibson and Rear Admiral Brian Losey of Special Operations Command in Africa will also be questioned.
Gibson’s name has made news in previous Benghazi hearings; diplomat Gregory Hicks had testified the Army lieutenant colonel was told not to go ahead and send reinforcements to Libya as violence escalated at the embassy, an account that differed from that of the White House’s.
General Ham’s statements appear to contradict what multiple sources have said about threats to the mission in Benghazi. General Ham asserts there were no advance threat warnings nor does he think Stevens saw a threat either:
— Philip J. Crowley (@PJCrowley) July 19, 2013
This statement from Ham flies in the face of testimony by just about every official to date, that we were warned by Libyan officials three days in advance and ignores the cables sent by Ambassador Stevens himself warning of an attack.
Crowley also tweeted Ham indicated a two hour response time would be expensive:
This seems an odd thing to say when Ham told Rep. Chaffetz in October of last year that resources were at the ready but no order to protect the mission was given. Crowley also tweeted that Ham made an excuse as to why the perpetrators had not yet been brought to justice. These recent statements from Ham might suggest pressure has been brought to bear on him.
With the middle of July upon us and the pressure rising for the four State Department employees to testify looming, a funny thing happened in the case of the misplaced Colonel. The Pentagon found him:
The U.S. Department of Defense has agreed to make available to Congress a Marine Corps colonel who was in command of U.S. Special Forces in Northern Africa on the night armed terrorists staged a military-style assault on an American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya. A series of requests for Marine Col. George Bristol’s testimony from Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, both Republicans, had fallen on deaf ears until Friday. The Pentagon had claimed that since Bristol had retired, it ‘cannot compel’ him to tell congressional panels what he knows about the Benghazi attack. Chaffetz said on July 9 that the Defense Department was ‘not willing to pass along any sort of information’ related to Bristol’s whereabouts. Now Air Force Maj. Robert Firman has confirmed to MailOnline that due to an ‘administrative error,’ Bristol was mistakenly classified as a retired officer despite his current active-duty status.
‘Administrative error’? One has to wonder how stupid the Pentagon thinks we are? The use of ‘administrative error’ is being used because the Pentagon was busted telling a lie by the Marine Corps Times, the Mail Online reports:
Firman told MailOnline that the about-face came after Sen. Graham sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Thursday, asking for reconsideration. That move followed a report in the Marine Corps Times, which cited a Marine Corps source in concluding that Bristol’s retirement would not become final until August 1. On Tuesday Firman had told the newspaper, in error, that ‘Col. Bristol was not invited by Congress to testify before he retired.’
New new hearing dates have been announced as of the publishing of this article. When testimony resumes, coverage will be posted. In the meantime, here is an interesting question:
— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) July 19, 2013