Pentagon officials were caught lying by congressional investigators about the status of Marine Corps Colonel George Bristol, commander of Joint Special Operations Task Force Trans-Saharra, a key military figure in the Benghazi area of operations. Congressional investigators were originally told by Pentagon officials that Colonel Bristol was retired and thus unable to be called to provide testimony to the Congressional Oversight Committee:
Defense Department officials have told members of Congress that Bristol cannot be forced to testify because he retired after stepping down during a March change of command ceremony, according to several media reports. The Pentagon reinforced that point of view to Marine Corps Times on Tuesday.
“Col. Bristol was not invited by Congress to testify before he retired,” said Air Force Maj. Robert Firman, a spokesman with the Office of the Secretary of Defense. “The DoD has cooperated fully with Congress and the Accountability Review Board since the beginning of this investigation, and we will continue to do so.”
That isn’t the case, however. While Bristol is preparing for retirement, he is on active duty through the end of July, said Maj. Shawn Haney, a Marine spokeswoman, on Wednesday. He will be placed on the inactive list on Aug. 1, she said. That contradicts statements that Pentagon officials have issued to both Congress and the media.
Contrary to Pentagon claims, it appears ( and this only reading between the lines of the linked story) that Colonel Bristol is currently on terminal leave, a leave status granted to members of the military that are burning up, “vacation,” days before officially entering retirement and separation from the military. For the military to claim that they don’t know where an individual is when on terminal leave or even after retirement is hogwash. The DOD tracks retirees through the address where they receive their pension paycheck, or in the case of mandatory electronic deposit, DOD would be able to provide congressional investigators with the bank Colonel Bristol is using to deposit his checks. From there, investigators would be able to subpoena bank records to find a home address for Colonel Bristol.
But why does Colonel Gibson’s whereabouts matter?
Bristol previously served from August 2010 to March 2012 as the assistant chief of staff at Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, the Corps’ special operations component, according to LinkedIn. Prior to that, he served from August 2009 to July 2010 as the special operations officer in charge in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Several recent attempts by Marine Corps Times to reach him have been unsuccessful.
In June, the former commander of a four-man special operations unit in Tripoli, Libya’s capital, denied that he was told to stand down the night of the the two attacks in Benghazi. Army Lt. Col. S.E. Gibson told a House Armed Services Committee panel that his commanders told him to remain in Tripoli to defend Americans there in the event of additional attacks, and to help survivors being evacuated from Benghazi.
“Contrary to news reports, Gibson was not ordered to ‘stand down’ by higher command authorities in response to his understandable desire to lead a group of three other special forces soldiers to Benghazi,” the Republican-led committee said in a summary of its classified briefing.
In an about face on a Friday afternoon (the best time to bury news) the Pentagon has agreed to make Colonel Bristol available to congressional investigators:
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 Army 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. ‘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.’
Read more here.