WASHINGTON--Today, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations received a classified briefing from additional personnel involved in the response to the attack on Americans in Benghazi. Colonel George H. Bristol, USMC, Former Commander, Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara, Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command Africa offered his account of the events surrounding the attack in Benghazi, Libya on September 11 and 12, 2012. His responsibilities in that role were primarily to contribute to counterterrorism efforts through training and assisting military forces of other countries. Colonel Bristol clarified orders given to personnel on the ground responding to the attack. Colonel Bristol also elaborated on his activities as part of the chain of command during and following the attack. During the attack, Colonel Bristol was traveling in Africa. Unreliable communications prohibited him from participating in the attack response beyond an initial conversation with LTG Gibson and Rear Admiral Losey.
Col Bristol confirmed to the committee that, in his role as Joint Special Operations Task Force – Trans Sahara Commander, he gave LTC Gibson initial freedom of action to make decisions in response to the unfolding situation in Benghazi. Bristol elaborated that Gibson's orders changed over time, as conditions on the ground evolved. LTC Gibson previously testified to the committee that, contrary to some reports, he was at no point ordered to "stand down" but rather to remain in Tripoli to defend American embassy there in anticipation of possible additional attacks and to assist the survivors as they returned from Benghazi. Colonel Bristol confirmed this account of events.
Separately, as part of the Committee's oversight of this event, Chairman McKeon wrote to to ask whether any Department personnel had been required to sign non-disclosure agreements subsequent to the Benghazi attacks. The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs has since responded: “The Department has not requested nor required relevant personnel to sign any such agreements since the attacks.”
The Committee will continue its oversight of this matter, to include what steps the Administration has taken to better respond to these crises in the future.