Congress to probe lethal SEAL crash

By on July 24, 2013
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Congress has launched an investigation of the helicopter crash that killed 30 Americans in Afghanistan, including members of the Navy’s elite SEAL Team 6 unit, The Hill has learned.

The victims’ families say the Pentagon hasn’t provided answers to their many questions about the deadly attack, which took place on Aug. 6, 2011, three months after Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by Team 6 forces.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on National Security, told The Hill, “We’re going to dive into this.”

Chaffetz said he met with the victims’ families about a month ago in what he described as an “emotional” gathering. He is poised to send questions to the Pentagon and may hold hearings on the matter.

Charlie Strange, whose son Michael was among those killed, said he asked President Obama two years ago at Dover Air Force Base to fully investigate. The death toll in the crash was the largest of any single incident for the U.S. military during the Afghanistan war.

Obama praised Michael’s service to Strange, who responded, “I don’t need to know about my son. I need to know what happened to my son.”

The president promised he would investigate, Strange said, but he never heard back from the White House. The Pentagon, meanwhile, has provided him and others with incomplete and contradictory information, he said.

Administration leaks that emerged after the bin Laden raid prompted members of Team 6 to worry about their safety.

For example, Michael Strange told his father he was working on a will before he returned to Afghanistan in the summer of 2011, his father said.

Documents provided to the families indicate that the Pentagon doesn’t believe the SEALs were targeted in the wake of the bin Laden operation on May 1, 2011.

The Hill reviewed many of those documents which total more than 1,000 pages.

In a transcript, a Department of Defense official disputed claims that there was an “established ambush.” The official states, “it was a lucky shot of a low-level fighter that happened to be living [in the area]. He heard all the activity and he happened to be in the right spot.”

Yet, Strange says insurgents were boasting on the Internet they had taken out Team 6 shortly after the helicopter crashed.

Shortly before the CH-47 Chinook helicopter took off on a rescue mission (operation Extortion 17), seven Afghan commandos who were on the passenger list were replaced by other Afghan military officials.

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