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Congressional Hearing on Extortion 17: 'There was no black box'

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After almost three years, the families of the fallen heroes of Extortion 17 were invited to attend a congressional hearing today to address the circumstances of the Taliban attack on the U.S. Boeing CH-47 Chinook military helicopter that claimed the lives of 30 military personnel, including seventeen members of SEAL Team 6.

As reported at the Examiner, it is fully documented that members of SEAL Team 6 believed that their lives, and the lives of their families, were in danger after Joe Biden inexplicably exposed their role in the killing of Osama bin Laden a mere three months prior.

The Black Box

In his opening statement, one of the panelists, Garry Reid, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Department of Defense said that "almost all" of the wreckage was recovered, and in part,

"...contrary to some unofficial statements, there was no flight data recorder - no so-called black box. This equipment is not standard on this aircraft."

As reported at the Hill in July,

"Their bodies were later recovered, but the helicopter’s black box was not. Pentagon officials have said that it could not be recovered, citing a flash flood that happened soon after the assault."

It is inconceivable that Pentagon officials would make such a thing up on the record. And if the assertion was incorrect, why is it that no statement was ever made to the media to correct the numerous reports that repeated the claim?

Rep. Jason Chaffetz mentioned this in his closing discussion, saying that people did not "make up" the statement that the black box was washed away in a flash flood, and the assertion indeed came from the commander on the ground who was specifically "looking for the black box."

Reid responded that he was unsure of why the commander would think such a thing.

The Afghans on the Flight Manifest

As reported by Bob Cusack of the Hill, one of the questions surrounding the attack was involving the flight manifest, whose names did not match with those Afghans who were killed on the helicopter.

"It's a question we cannot seem to get a straight answer to," said Karen Vaughn, the mother of slain SEAL Aaron Vaughn on Fox News. Mrs. Vaughn said,

"A senior enlisted adviser in the military notified us that it was a 'very big deal' that those men were not switched out on the manifest and that a commander had made a call at the last minute found out the investigative team had never been told about that last-minute switch."

Billy and Karen Vaughn published a book, Betrayed, on Extortion 17.

Reid addressed the disparity, saying in part that the names of the Afghans on the flight were switched with those on the flight with team Extortion 17 was sent to support, the Rangers who were sent previously.

It is surprising that the Vaughn's had such difficulty securing such a simple answer from the military. And it is clear that conflicting information regarding the attack has been decimated to the family members, as well as the press.

The Chinook

One of the most compelling exchanges came from Rep. John Mica, who questioned Garry Reid about the equipment considering that it was a "high risk mission." Mica said that he was "very concerned" that the DoD would use "this type of equipment," with the knowledge that equipment exists specifically to thwart Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs).

After Reid said that "specific to this," the equipment does not exist, Mica, visibly agitated, asked, "We don't have equipment in Afghanistan that would have allowed some protection against RPG fire...?" He cited his own travel on commercial airliners, which is equipped with RPG deterrent equipment.

Reid repeated his response, saying that there was no such equipment in Afghanistan.

The Taliban in the Tower

Mica also asked Reid about the men in the tower, who fired the RPGs at the Chinook. He asked, "Don't we assess the risk? [prior to sending a team]" Mica asked specifically who was in charge and said he did not "trust the Afghans" who were on board the flight.

The enemy was on a "heightened state of alert," said Reid later. And "prior scans" did not detect the Taliban members in the tower who shot down Extortion 17.

The Memorial Service

As discussed by Billy Hallowell at theBlaze, a memorial service held for the fallen heroes included a speech by a Muslim cleric. What the cleric said is in dispute (some say that the cleric disparaged the American soldiers), but the bottom line is that some family members were less than comforted by his presence, to put it mildly.

During the hearing, Rep. Jason Chaffetz observed that if it was his son, he would not want a cleric from the country praying over son. To this, Chaffetz received applause.

"I would hope the Pentagon would seriously consider honoring those Americans as our number one priority."

During the hearing, there seemed to be a disproportionate focus on how the military treats family members of lost heroes. It seems to this author that loved ones want answers related to the attack itself, not more information on resources provided by the government.

Rep. Chaffetz poignantly thanked the family for their sacrifices during his closing statement, and choked up as he expressed his sentiments.

Is is unclear why those individuals specifically involved in decision-making during the Extortion 17 mission, particularly Brigadier General Jeffery Colt, who wrote the Executive Summary, were not invited to testify.

Follow Renee Nal on Twitter @ReneeNal and Facebook.

Check out her news and political commentary on Liberty Unyielding, the Brenner Brief, and TavernKeepers.com for news you won't find in the mainstream media. Renee is also a guest blogger for the Shire Blog.

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