PUBLISHED: 14:01 EST, 9 July 2013 | UPDATED: 20:06 EST, 9 July 2013
Have you seen this man? U.S. Marine Corps Col. George Bristol, who is believed to have retired in March, commanded the Special Operations units in Northern Africa when terrorists attacked American diplomatic posts in Benghazi, Libya
A key witness to the military’s response after the Sept. 11, 2012 terror attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya hasn’t appeared before Congress to testify about what he knows.
And Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who sits on the powerful House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee, is losing his patience with the Pentagon.
The Obama Administration’s Defense Department has so far declined to tell the committee anything about Col. George Bristol’s whereabouts, despite his position until March of this year as commander of Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara.
‘The Department of Defense is not willing to pass along any sort of information,’ Rep. Chaffetz told MailOnline. ‘That’s unbelievably frustrating.’
Bristol’s former unit, which operates under United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), played a key role in what unfolded as armed terrorists executed a military attack on the Benghazi diplomatic post, killing the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
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- Obama CRIES when asked about Benghazi during a press conference but he goes on the defensive calling the ‘cover up’ investigation by Republicans a ‘sideshow’
- Congressmen shown video of ambassador being dragged from Benghazi consulate during deadly attack as CIA insiders testify about raid
‘We know he was in the chain of command that evening,’ Chaffetz explained. ‘We want to know what his position was. And we will find out.’
Meanwhile, the Utah congressman is critical of the Pentagon for refusing to provide access to Bristol, or tell Congress where to find him.
Looking for answers: Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz (L) wants to interview Bristol, but the Pentagon claims it isn’t required to furnish the whereabouts of retired officers. But General Carter Ham (R), the retired former commander of the U.S. military’s Africa Command, was served up to Congress by the Dept. of Defense
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was in flames during the military-style attack by terrorists in Sept. 2012. Congress continues to look for answers, despite the Obama administration’s unwillingness to cooperate
‘It’s obvious to us that the Pentagon is choosing to not be helpful,’ said Chaffetz.
‘In general, they have probably been more helpful on Benghazi than other agencies, but with Col. Bristol, this is somehow different.’
Maj. Robert Firman, a Pentagon spokesman, told CBS News on July 5 that the Department of Defense ‘cannot compel retired members to testify before Congress.’
Chaffetz called that assertion ‘Hogwash.’
‘General Ham is retired,’ he said, ‘and they made him available.’
Army Gen. Carter Ham was in command of AFRICOM until April 2013, and was Col. Bristol’s superior on the day terrorists, including many affiliated with the al-Qaeda-linked group Ansar al-Sharia, bombarded the State Department’s Benghazi outposts.
Ham testified on June 26 in a closed session before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
Stonewalling? The Pentagon refuses to provide information about where Col. Bristol can be found, even as congressional Republicans ask for answers and former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is now the Defense Secretary
Chaffetz said he and other oversight committee Republicans are still attempting to track down everyone – both military and civilian – who can supply crucial pieces of the Benghazi puzzle.
Questions remain unanswered about why Special Operations soldiers were prevented from boarding a military plane in Tripoli during the attack – a plane that was already preparing to take off for Benghazi.
Other questions focus on the degree to which the State and Justice Departments may have waited too long to act in the attack’s aftermath, missing opportunities to find answers or collect evidence.
The FBI didn’t arrive on the scene in Benghazi until approximately three weeks had gone by, citing remaining security concerns in the Mediterranean coastal city.
‘You can’t do a thorough investigation without talking to everyone who knows something or saw something,’ Chaffetz said. ‘Absolutely everyone.’
U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel were killed by militants who attacked the diplomatic compound in the Mediterranean coastal town of Benghazi
And that, he said, includes the State Department employees who worked in or around the consulate compound. More than two dozen of them are believed to be either in military hospitals or under Pentagon protection. As with Col. Bristol, the Department of Defense has not provided Congress with any access to them.
‘I think we have a better idea of who they are, and we know where some of them are,’ Chaffetz told MailOnline, comparing the depth of Congress’ information with what it knew during the months following the Benghazi attack.
‘But we’re no closer to getting interviews with them. It will happen, but the State Department is just being incredibly unhelpful.’
President Obama told reporters on May 1 that he was unaware of any Benghazi survivors who had been prohibited from speaking to congressional investigators, and he pledged to find out more.
‘I’m not familiar with this notion that anybody has been blocked from testifying,’ the president said during a news conference, in response to a direct question about the situation.
‘So what I’ll do is, I will find out what exactly you’re referring to,’ Obama promised. The White House hasn’t commented publicly on the matter since then.
Not just Benghazi: Protesters destroyed an American flag pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo on the same day the Benghazi consulate fell
The State Department has pushed back against claims that any of its career employees have been threatened with retaliation if they provide members of Congress with new details about the Benghazi attack.
‘The State Department is deeply committed to meeting its obligation to protect employees,’ a spokesman told reporters during a May 1 briefing, ‘and the State Department would never tolerate – tolerate or sanction – retaliation against whistle-blowers on any issue, including this one.’
Neither the State Department nor the Pentagon responded to phone calls seeking comment. The Pentagon also did not reply to a request for information about Col. Bristol’s whereabouts.
A Libyan man told the Associated Press that bloodstains outside the Benghazi consulate were from an American staff member who grabbed the edge of the column while he was evacuated
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