Tag Archives: Obama Administration

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Former Army Green Beret Offers His Take on Deadly Navy SEALs Mission — Extortion 17

Thirty Americans died in Afghanistan Aug. 6, 2011, according to a DoD news release issued five days later.  All had been aboard a U.S. military helicopter, call sign “Extortion 17.”   Among those on board were 25 Special Operations Forces personnel, including 17 U.S. Navy SEALs.  Though it became the most-deadly incident in the history of Naval Special Warfare, it has received scant public attention.

Click on image to read DoD News Release Aug. 11, 2011.

Click on image to read DoD News Release Aug. 11, 2011.

As a former Air Force public affairs officer, I have virtually no first-hand familiarity with SOF, though I have had many opportunities to speak with SOF members and even wrote a book, Three Days In August, about one of them.

Today, I count as friends many veterans boasting decades of SOF experience under their belts.  In an email message yesterday, one of those friends, a former Army Green Beret, shared his expert observations and raised some serious questions about the extremely-controversial of the Extortion 17 mission.  The text of his sometimes-graphic message appears below:

What makes Special Operations Forces (SOF) great is the attention to detail — every detail.

All SOF missions require isolation prior to missions.  In my community, we isolated all parties involved until wheels up.  Our host-nation military guys never knew where we were going or who was going until we got off the aircraft, vehicle, boat, etc.  No need to tell them, because you train for many different types of missions (i.e., raid, ambush, hostage rescue, etc.).  The person or place doesn’t matter.

On a typical mission, the team conducts mission planning down to infiltration and exfiltration.   We, the team, decide how it will be done.  We, the team, submit our plan to our group commander who, depending on risk assessment and who it is we are going after, contacts the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF).   Every theater has one.  The CJSOTF person makes direct contact with the Secretary of Defense.  Once the “green light” is given for the plan, it is the responsibility of CJSOTF to arrange the assets needed to conduct the mission.   Once the team is notified of the green light, “dry runs” are conducted — if, that is, it isn’t a time-sensitive mission.  The dry runs involve everyone on the team.

Half the team conducts infiltration, actions on the objective and exfiltration with host-nation personnel.  At no time are the host-nation personnel told the mission’s five W’s — who, what, where, when and why.   Meanwhile, the other half of the team gets current intelligence reports and works to coordinate needed assets (i.e., air, MEDEVAC, artillery, fast movers, etc.).

Generally, two to three team members go to the aviation unit and conduct an “air brief” with the commander of the aviation unit as well as their intelligence, weather and flight operations personnel.  There, they are briefed on the five W’s and instructed by team members about where and how they will fly, where they will land, the location of pick-up points and about contingencies.  They are given Rules of Engagement for the escort gun ships on “gun runs,” and the communication frequency for all is shared at this time.

Once the air brief is completed, those personnel link back up with the whole team for a mission brief.  After final checks are done, movement to the flight line takes place.  Weapons are placed in “red” status (i.e., has a round in the chamber and the safety is on), communication is checked,  accountability is checked, and away you go.

Now, there is a large distinction between a Green Beret mission and a Navy SEALs mission. Green Berets primarily train and conduct various missions with host-nation soldiers.  SEALs and Delta primarily do not.  Delta uses Ranger Regiment, and SEALs use more of their own — or Green Beret or some host-nation personnel.  In all of my time with SOF, I never saw a SEAL team conduct a mission with host-nation personnel UNLESS the SEALs were assigned to us.

I have worked with, through, and by SEALs, and I’m sure every SEAL has done the same with Green Berets.  My point:  The SEALs were directed by someone to take these host-nation troops with them.  Now, that same person allowed those personnel to change out.  This violates the Mission Decision-Making Process, the Bible for all military operations.

Now I know the family is upset about the age of the aircraft and the fact it was a “D” model versus an “H” model.   The ONLY unit with the MH-47H is the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), a group known as the Night Stalkers.  While every SOF unit (i.e., Green Beret, SEAL, Delta) team requests them for their missions, there are not enough of those aircraft to meet all of the requests.

When the team says they are doing a air infiltration, they request the air assets required. Prior to the air brief, they will know what platforms are available.  For instance, they will be told, “You asked for 10 helicopters and you only get 3,” or “You asked for fast movers at 0330 hrs, but they can’t get on station until 0415 hrs,” and so on.  By the end of the briefing, team members know who is available to cover their asses all the way down to the drone in the sky.

The MH-47H is a SOF-only aircraft built specifically for night operations.  It emits a small radar signature and carries formidable countermeasures, including — but not limited to — two mini-guns and one .50-caliber machine gun.  All crew members, including the flight crew, are assigned and trained by SOF.

Conversely, crew members aboard the CH-47D come from the ranks of the conventional forces and are not trained in the MH-47H capabilities.  The CH-47D is equipped with basic countermeasures, including two 5.56mm M249 SAW machine guns.  That’s it!

To be in the 160th, everyone — pilots included — must pass the same rigorous selection process as everyone else in SOF.  Pilots, who go through Survival, Escape, Resistance, Evasion (SERE) School, must have been a regular aviation  brigade member for at least four years before applying.  In most cases, and depending upon the risk assessment, non-SOF aircraft would not be allowed to go on missions involving high-value targets in hostile areas.  Long and short, the CJSOTF air commander would be the one coordinating this, responsible to locate and coordinate all air assets to include Quick-Reaction Force (QRF) air frames as well as fast movers, drones, etc.

U.S. Navy SEALs offload an all-terrain vehicle from an MH-47 Chinook helicopter following a village-clearing operation in Shah Wali Kot district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, June 21, 2011. Operations such as these are conducted in order to promote the Government of Afghanistan, while denying Taliban influence throughout the province. The SEALs are with Special Operations Task Force ? South. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel P. Shook/Released)

U.S. Navy SEALs offload an all-terrain vehicle from an MH-47 Chinook helicopter following a village-clearing operation in Shah Wali Kot district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, June 21, 2011. Operations such as these are conducted in order to promote the Government of Afghanistan, while denying Taliban influence throughout the province. The SEALs are with Special Operations Task Force ? South. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel P. Shook/Released)

By now, you’re asking, “What does all of this mean?”  The items below explain things in a nutshell while raising important questions:

1) No aircraft goes out without escorts or layers of escorts.

2) The team commander had to be ordered to take host-nation personnel with him and to change out those personnel.  Who gave that order?

3) Someone in the aviation unit would also have to approve the manifest change and would have the name of the person who authorized the change on the manifest.  Who changed the manifest?

4) When, until now, was there ever a funeral with U.S. and host-nation personnel together.  In all of my time in combat, I never saw it happen.  Why did it happen in this case?

5) How many personnel since this war started has the government cremated?  Again, I personally worked a crash with four U.S. personnel and one host-nation soldier that burned.  I personally pulled three torsos out of the wreckage — there were no legs, arms or skull above the jaws — and I placed them into three separate body bags.  I waited for the the forensic doctor who would perform the autopsy to arrive and, for four hours, we sifted through the wreckage for the remaining body parts and personnel effects.  We had a sixth bag that we put the pieces in for DNA testing.  I went to the funeral for the four U.S. personnel.  The host nation held a funeral at a mosque on the installation.  I tell you this to let you know great care is given to the dead, no matter how the person dies or how gruesome it is.  Every Soldier, Sailor, Marine and Airman deserves to rest on American soil, and deserves to come home.

6)  What assets were deployed to recover the personnel and what was the time line for those efforts?

7)  The operations order would have listed a QRF assigned to the mission.  Who were they and from what base/location did they come?

These are but a few of the questions that remain about Extortion 17.

During a May 9 news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., several family members of the fallen warriors raised similar questions and were joined by a number of high-ranking, now-retired SOF members who did the same.  The news conference is captured in its entirety in the 3-hour video below.   Worth every minute of time you spend watching it, I hope you will watch it, share it and demand your elected officials in Washington obtain answers from the Pentagon and the Obama Administration to the questions raised about Extortion 17.

Our men and women in uniform deserve nothing less.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The story above was published for the first time June 4, 2013. I share it again today, because Americans need to remember it and not be satisfied until they get answers.

SEE ALSO: Did Afghan Officials Play Role in ‘Extortion 17′ Deaths?

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

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FLASHBACK: Attorney Says Unedited Versions of Oklahoma City Bombing Surveillance Tapes Are ‘Somewhere’

EDITOR’S NOTE: The article below was originally published Sept. 30, 2009. I share it again today with only minor modifications. I share it again today with only minor modifications and the addition of some new graphics as I continue my six years of coverage on this earthshaking event that changed the lives of so many in Oklahoma, the state where I was born and raised.

“Someday, somewhere, somebody is going to have the guts to release that stuff,” said David P. Schippers, speaking to me by phone from his office in downtown Chicago Tuesday afternoon.

Click image above to read other OKC Bombing-related articles.

Click image above to read other OKC Bombing-related articles.

The “stuff” to which Schippers was referring is surveillance-camera footage recorded in downtown Oklahoma City on the morning of April 19, 1995, prior to the truck-bomb explosion that killed 168 people at 9:02 a.m. Central.  It’s the same footage the FBI failed to release along with post-blast footage in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by Salt Lake City attorney Jesse Trentadue and highlighted in a NewsOK.com article published Sunday.

Who is David P. Schippers?

If you recognize his name, chances are it’s because of the notoriety he received while serving as chief investigative counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee during the Clinton Impeachment Hearings and as manager of the proceedings that followed in the U.S. Senate.  Likewise, it could be that you know him as the author of the book, “SELLOUT: The Inside Story of President Clinton’s Impeachment.”

Click on image to order book.

Click on image to order book.

I was introduced to the 70-something Chicago-based attorney by Jayna Davis, author of the book, The Third Terrorist, which chronicled her decade-long investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing and became a New York Times Best Seller.  Some 30 years his junior, Davis considers Schippers a close personal friend and something of a father figure.  Moreover, she trusts and respects him — so much so, in fact, that she had him write the foreword for her book.

Barely 24 hours after publishing a series of three copyrighted posts containing never-before-published information about Davis’ investigation of the bombing, I had the opportunity to interview Schipper for almost an hour.  And he did not disappoint.

Implicating Presidents

I began the interview by asking Schippers why no one had pursued Hussain Al-Hussaini, the Iraqi native Davis identified in her book as the third terrorist who, along with Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, carried out the attack?

“My honest opinion is that the original shot was made by (President Bill) Clinton in 1995,” he explained.  “Remember, it was 1995, and he had lost the congress — both houses of Congress — and people were saying he would never get reelected, and his numbers were way the hell down.

“If he had had another attack against the United States, he would have had to act, and he didn’t do a damn thing on the first Twin Towers bombing,” he continued.  “Clinton said, ‘Let’s not overreact,’ and, at that time, we had the Department of Justice with (Janet) Reno in there who was completely politicized, and I think (Clinton) just decided we’re not going to do it.”

Schippers continued, “riding” a bipartisan train of thought.

“Now, why didn’t the (President George W.) Bush people do it?” he asked rhetorically.  “That’s the one that really bothered me.  We deliberately waited until Reno and that gang got out of the administration and then Bush came in.”

Unfortunately, no one ever bit on the information Schippers said a president could have used as a legitimate reason to invade Iraq, and he blames it on a pact between the Bushes and Clintons — something akin to the mutually-assured destruction mindset that prevailed during the Cold War between Russia and the United States.

“I’m convinced that both sides know that if they blow the other up, they’re both going to get it,” he said.

He didn’t stop there.

“Now, why aren’t these people (in the Obama Administration) doing anything about it?” he asked.  “Because they’re not doing a (expletive) thing about anything!”

‘The Unedited Versions are Somewhere’

Asked whether he thinks anyone still has copies of the pre-explosion surveillance-camera videotapes, he said, “The answer is ‘yes.’”

“I maintain that those tapes were edited, and there’s no question about it,” he said, referring to the tapes the FBI released to Trentadue.  “They were edited.  That means the unedited versions are somewhere, and that’s the key.  I think the FBI still has all of those tapes, and I don’t think we’re ever going to see ‘em.”

Why?  He explained without prompting.

“I’ve lost all faith in the Department of Justice,” he said.  “I’ve lost all faith in anything in Washington.”

Proof in a Wanted Poster?

Hussain al-Hussaini (left) is shown after being arrested in Quincy, Mass., in March 2011.

Hussain al-Hussaini (left) is shown after being arrested for fighting with a fellow homeless man in Quincy, Mass., in March 2011.

Amidst a pause, Schippers turned the table on the interviewer and asked how many times I had seen sketches of suspects on wanted posters.  I told him I had seen them often.

Then he asked, “Have you ever seen a profile?”  I said I had not, and he continued.

“Do you know why the drawing of the guy was a profile?  Because they took it off the tape,” he explained.  “That’s where it came from.  You never see a profile.  It’s always a front view.”

Except in this case.

Schippers said he talked to the people in Oklahoma City who gave the FBI information and that there is no question in his mind — and in Jayna’s mind — that the side view of Hussain Al-Hussaini bears a more-than-striking resemblance to the profile sketch of John Doe 2.

It’s likely, according to Davis’ law enforcement sources who she cannot name in order to protect them, the sketch was taken from the missing surveillance tape footage.

“Why would you edit tapes unless there was something on there that’s gonna blow you sky high?” he asked, his voice animated over the phone line.  “What’s on there, on those tapes that they showed, that they gave this guy?  It was either Hussain Al-Hussaini — he was the passenger — or just a Ryder truck with unidentified people in it.

“But that picture with the side view of him was so obvious that it was taken from the passenger side and that was him sitting in the front seat.”

The One Thing He Wanted to Share

Asked what one thing he would share with the world about the matter of the missing pre-attack surveillance-camera footage from downtown OKC, Schippers pulled no punches.

“It would be that there is absolutely no question that those tapes existed and, if those tapes ever came forward, they would show conclusively that there was an Iraqi connection to the bombing and that there was an Iraqi sitting in the passenger seat of that truck as it pulled up to the Murrah building and that there was an Iraqi who jumped out with McVeigh and ran like hell.

“There’s a reason they’re not releasing it,” he continued.  “There were two cameras in one place.  They released (footage from) one that shows a hazy picture of a Ryder truck going by.  The other one would have been in such a position as to show everything about it — who’s in the front seat, the whole works.  And that’s the one that hasn’t surfaced.”

While his high-profile work on Capitol Hill was important, Schippers said he would “without question” prefer to be remembered for his work with Davis rather than his involvement with the impeachment of a president.

“I’d take Jayna anytime.”

Be sure to read Flashback: Best-Selling Author, Investigative Journalist Breaks Silence About OKC Bombing Videotapes, and other articles in my coverage of the little-publicized Oklahoma City Bombing Trial going on NOW in federal court in Salt Lake City. Also, please check out my second nonfiction book, The Clapper Memo, which Schippers endorsed asperhaps the most thorough investigative reporting I have encountered in years.

For links to other articles of interest as well as photos and commentary, join me on Facebook and Twitter.  Please show your support by buying my books and encouraging your friends and loved ones to do the same.  To learn how to order signed copies, click here. Thanks in advance!

Click on image above to order Bob's books.

Click on image above to order Bob’s books.