“Before there was Benghazi, there was Extortion 17.” These are the chilling opening words spoken by Billy Vaughn, the broken-hearted father of Navy SEAL Aaron Vaughn. Aaron was one of 17 Navy SEALs, almost 30 American servicemen in total, killed when their archaic Chinook helicopter was shot down over a raging battle in Afghanistan on August 6, 2011. To have lost their sons in war is tragic enough, but as they discovered the very dubious circumstances surrounding the operation and the subsequent deception and cover-up by the military under the Obama administration, a truly gut-wrenching and highly suspicious picture emerged. Several families of the fallen, military experts, elected representatives and concerned others gave a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. on May 9th, 2013.
Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch calls Extortion 17 “perhaps the biggest disaster since 9-11 as far as Naval and Special Ops operations.” Before the dust had even settled on the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, President Obama and Vice President Biden revealed the classified identities of SEAL Team 6 and other servicemen and as a result these men “literally had targets on their backs.” Three months later these men and others were sent in on archaic outdated equipment without support and ambushed.
“We demand to know who sent our sons into hostile territory where evidence proves a shoot-down attempt had been in full force for weeks, in less than adequate, antiquated airframes documented to be in very poor condition,” declares Karen Vaughn, Aaron’s mother. “We also demand to know who made the call to mix conventional aircraft and forces with Special Warfare Operations.”
Charles Strange, father of fallen Navy SEAL Michael Strange says, “Michael knew what he was getting into. Michael knew what he was fighting for. Michael knew that someday he might have to give the ultimate sacrifice. But not like this. To put my son and the most elite SEAL team in the world in a Chinook helicopter over an active battle that’s going on for three and a half hours? Unacceptable! Somebody has to answer for this.”
Here are the heart-wrenching details of the labyrinth that is Extortion 17:
- The servicemen were put in a slow helicopter that is never used for combat operations, built in the early 1960s and last retrofitted in 1985, with no answer as to who made that decision.
- The helicopters they would normally have used and that they had trained with their entire careers were not available because under Obama the pace of Special Operations aviation climbed from an average of 56 per month in 2009 to a break-neck 334 per month in 2011.
- The mission was considered to be so dangerous that the decision had to be made from a commander out of theater. Yet still it is not known, even after an investigation that yielded a 1200 page report, what commander made the call or why.
- The Tangeen Valley in Afghanistan was known to be a hotbed of insurgent forces and U.S. Intelligence knew that there were one hundred or more enemy forces gathering there that night intending to shoot down American forces. As early as May 11 they knew that SEAL Team 6 was going to be targeted, but did not share this information with the appropriate people.
- The flight manifest was changed at the last minute, removing seven Afghani security force members who had been slated to fly. In fact there is still some uncertainty as to who was on the flight.
- The men were flown in unescorted and dropped into a battle that had already been going on for over three hours, without any suppressive fire support.
- Even in the pitch black, General Colt told the families they could see two men on the rooftop. “They call up the Afghan administration to find out at two o’clock in the morning what these guys are doing on the building,” Charles Strange explains. “You know what they told them? ‘They’re hanging crops.’” At 2am on a rooftop?
- The Chinook was shot down by Afghanis who were waiting for it in the perfect position and at the perfect time to strike when the aircraft was its most vulnerable, during landing.
- “Perhaps the most disturbing piece of evidence that Billy and I came across in our search for truth was uncovering the fact that the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Police, and the Afghan Security Ministry have been and still are involved in the planning of every single stage of every single Special Operation that takes place in that country. And yes, these plans include flight routes and landing zones,” says Karen Vaughn.
- The “eye-in-the-sky” predator feed over the area was turned off. It took the military ten minutes to figure out which aircraft had been shot down.
- American forces were not permitted to take out the attackers. The families were told new Rules of Engagement which dictated that we couldn’t shoot down any attacker even after being attacked because, as one high-ranking admiral put it to Billy Vaughn, “We want to win their hearts and minds.” Karen says, “We were recently told by a Special Forces operator that under the current ROE’s if the enemy fires on you, then runs back behind a rock, when he pops his head up from behind the rock you’re not allowed to engage him unless you can verify that he has not laid his gun down. In other words, you must be fired on twice now or your actions will be questioned by your government when you try to defend yourself or the lives of your teammates.”
- To add desecration to injury, the standard ramp ceremony at Bagram Air Base was presided over by an imam who gave a prayer damning the fallen to hell before their remains were sent home. No priest, pastor, or rabbi gave any prayer or said any words. Klayman says, “The funeral that was held in Kabul where you couldn’t even mention the name of our lord and savior Jesus Christ, but yet a Muslim cleric gets up and damns these fallen heroes to hell as infidels. Unbelievable that our military brass would allow this to happen!” And whereas it is standard practice that all parents of the fallen are given a transcript from the military of that ceremony, the families of Extortion 17 were not.
- In classified meetings elected officials were lied to about Extortion 17 by top military brass. The families were lied to by these and other military officials. “When we were first visited by one of the highest level admirals in our nation [Admiral William McCraven] on January 4th…the most shocking thing we experienced is that he lied to us so continuously that if we had not studied our documentation and known the truth he would have made a mockery of everything our sons died to represent. It got to be actually embarrassing.”
- The families were told the chopper’s “black box” was “blown away in the flood,” and was supposedly never recovered. A flood? “In Afghanistan?” Charles Strange asks, exasperated.
- “They told me my son had to be cremated, everybody had to be cremated,” Charles says, weeping. “I called the commander: ‘Why did you cremate my son? My son didn’t want to be cremated! I’ve got pictures of him. When I asked for the autopsy report from Dover they sent me a disc with pictures. He’s sitting there fighting! ‘Everybody was burned beyond recognition.’ No, everybody wasn’t burned beyond recognition! Another lie!”
- No Afghani officials were involved in the investigation of the shoot-down even though they are involved in the planning of every mission and were consulted during the mission.
- When asked how they assessed the crash, our military revealed that all sorts of support materialized. They told the families, “We had 30 planes to assess the crash. We had Black Hawks, we had Pathfinders, we had 140 men go in.” Yet there had been no air or other support for the men as they flew in.
“As we searched we became tragically aware that perhaps the cruelest, most deceitful acts of this administration have been perpetrated against the very ones fighting and dying to protect and defend it,” Karen says.
Charles recalls the day Obama greeted the families at Dover where the remains of the fallen were brought home. “He went to give me a hug and I whispered in his ear, ‘Mr. President, is there going to be a congressional inquiry?’ And Mr. President whispered in my ear, he said, ‘Mr. Strange, we’re gonna look into this very, very, very deep.’ Well, I haven’t heard nothing.” It is now nearly two years since Extortion 17.
Watch the video of the press conference below and please share it with others. Read the transcript of Billy Vaughn’s testimony. Each unanswered question, each deception that was revealed, each reckless – if not outright sinister – decision that was uncovered is a stab in the heart for these families. They deserve answers.
But more, we should take each as a stab to our own hearts and demand those answers as if these sons were our very own. Indeed, they are America’s brave sons. If Benghazi and Extortion 17 are any indication, our servicemen today face just as much treachery from the Obama administration and our military under his command as from America’s enemies on the battlefields in faraway countries. In Benghazi our personnel’s pleas for support while under terrorist attack went deliberately unheeded and then the truth was and continues to be covered up. In Extortion17, our servicemen were sent into a battle not to win, but to be deliberately sacrificed to our enemies. These words of Karen’s should serve as a dire warning: “The hearts and minds of the enemy are more important to this government than my son’s blood.”
Doug Hamburger, father of fallen SEAL Patrick Hamburger says, “It’s a shame that we have to ask for a congressional investigation to find out answers…We’re pleading with the American people to put the pressure on your congressmen and senators to make sure that that investigation does get started up and we do get some answers as to what was going on – not so much that we can do anything for our families or our boys. But we want to make sure that our military is taken care of in the future. We love our military…We want to make sure that their sons and daughters are protected and allowed to fight at the top of their abilities.”
These are more than just scandals, they are high treason. Nothing like Benghazi or Extortion 17 has happened in America’s history, military or otherwise, but we’re seeing that atrocities like these are common for the Obama administration. Treachery doesn’t begin to cover it. This is a betrayal of the highest order. It is a betrayal of our brave servicemen who gave everything for America, the very men who killed Osama bin Laden. It is a betrayal of America’s sons and daughters fighting for her today, and of their families who raised these heroic warriors and who now survive them as parents should never survive their children.
In the words of Billy Vaughn, “We must change the hearts and minds of the leaders in Washington and the high-ups in the military, or we must see that they are removed. Those responsible must be brought to justice.”
The following was transcribed from the above video press conference. These are the words of Billy Vaughn.
“Before Benghazi there was Extortion 17. Saturday August 6th 2011 was a day that changed the lives of my family forever. It was the day we learned our son Aaron and other American warriors had lost their lives in a helo crash in Afghanistan. It would quickly become known as the largest loss in the history of Naval Special Warfare, and the largest one-day loss in our now eleven-and-a-half-year-old war against Islamic Jihad. What is strange is that the military was allowed to do an in-house investigation with few questions asked by the media. We learned two very important things that day: Spec-Op forces were flying that night on a CH47D Chinook chopper. And let me say, by the way, when Aaron was a SEAL, he said, ‘Dad, you won’t believe the choppers we fly in. They’re like nothing I’ve ever seen.’
“But do you know what? My son wasn’t on that chopper that night. You know why? Because president Barak Obama had increased the Special Op missions an average in 2009 – this is straight from the military, it’s straight from the information we were given. In 2009 an average of 56 per month increased in 2010 to an average of 186 Special Op missions per month. From August of 2010 until July of 2011 – one month before the shoot-down of Extortion 17 – the number of Spec-Op missions in Afghanistan according to our military was an average of 334 per month. I know that’s hard to believe. Check it and make sure I’m telling you the truth. And Brigadier General Jeffrey Colt, who oversaw the investigation of the shoot-down of Extortion 17 made this statement in his report: ‘While the number of strike forces was increased to accommodate the operations, the number of Spec-Ops aviation was not.’ You know why it was not? Because it is not available. We have 61 MH47s available to us – and yes I said that to the military that day and he said that ‘Sir, your numbers are correct.’ And according to a high-ranking admiral: ‘Billy, if we have 60 MH47s, we’re only allowed 20 in theatre at one time. 20 must be down for maintenance and 20 for training.’
“Let me tell you something, if my son had gone in on an MH47 that night with guns blazing and they’d been shot out of the sky, it’d be a whole lot easier to live with. If the air weapons teams overhead were offering suppressive fire because a three-and-a-half hour operation was already under way in the valley, it’d be a whole lot easier to live with. But you know why we [sic] were not? Because according to a [high-ranking official] we want to win the hearts and minds of the enemy. Aaron Vaughn did not become a Navy SEAL, Team 6, Gold squad to win the hearts and the minds of the Islamic Jihadists. He became a Navy SEAL to fight for this republic and defeat the enemy, and I’ll tell you right now: Any American flag officer who does not want to defeat the enemy needs to find another job. Any man who sits in that White House who does not want to defeat the enemy of this republic needs to step down. And any vice president who goes around speaking gaffs time after time needs to be accountable just like the man who played the video [before] Benghazi. Where’s that guy today?
“That day at the debriefing we left with two questions. Why were they not on the right chopper and why did they not shoot down the enemy when the RPG was fired? …After the shoot-down I called numerous congressmen. Congressman Boehner: no response. Senator Reid: no response. Congressman Allen West: response, immediately, and help. Congressman Steven Spencer from Tennessee: response immediately and help. Congressman Tom Rooney who was then our congressman in our district and help. Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee…I called him. I called him numerous times, told them who I was, who my son was, what had happened. They told me to ‘Quit harassing the senator.’ Thank you, Senator Levin.
“Congressman Rooney, many weeks later his office called and said, ‘The Congressman is going to a… visit with some high-ranking military officials in Washington in a classified meeting to get your questions on why they were on the wrong chopper and why they did not take out the people who fired the RPGs at them.’ We were told at the debriefing that they did not…because of the Rules of Engagement, they were not allowed to do that. We were told that, the families were, several times that day. I told that to Congressman Rooney, I told that to Congressman West. Congressman Rooney wrote me a letter back after he went to that meeting that stated: ‘Mr. Vaughn, I was told at the classified meeting that it was not because of the Rules of Engagement we didn’t take out the men who fired the RPG’s. It was because we didn’t know where the shots came from.’ That crushed me because I knew it was a lie. I knew it was a lie…
“For several days I thought, what do I do next? What do I do next? I let the letter lay there. Finally, I called SO-Comm. A JAG officer who had been over the investigation, who had told us, the families more than once it was because of the Rules of Engagement. I asked him again to tell me about the night. He described it in detail – in fact, in more detail. The shots came from a tower, a turret, above a building. We did not fire back because of the Rules of Engagement and because there may be friendlies in the building. I called a high-ranking admiral, told him what Congressman Rooney had been told. I said, ‘Sir, were we told the truth at the debriefing?’ He said, ‘You heard it, Billy, just like I did. I don’t know why they would say that.’
“When you hide the truth, you become part of the lie…Many steps and actions were necessary for the loss of Extortion 17, just as they were for the failure at Benghazi. The record will show that the Islamists are responsible for the deaths of the Americans. But I submit to you today that the US government and many high-ranking military people own more credit for the shoot-down than the Taliban. Political correctness, building the esteem of the Afghans, leveling of the playing field, and failure of the Obama administration to name the enemy and to accurately identify the savage ideology our warriors are up against has made an otherwise primitive foe formidable. You saw the video. A ceremony [of] honor for our warriors made wretched and despicable as their bodies were desecrated by an imam. If someone lets a fox into a chicken house and he kills all the chickens, is the fox to blame? I say no. We know what a fox will do in a chicken house. We know what an imam will do. So I do not blame the imam today. The imam is the imam. I blame the American [government] and the high-ranking military officials who let this man speak and mock Jehovah God, the God of my son and of my family.
“Those responsible for this must be brought to justice. This administration apparently went to extreme efforts to make sure that the enemy, Osama bin Laden, had a proper burial. Our president was outraged when the Korans were burned. But then those who die for the republic, this is allowed to go on. To steal their first amendment rights, to steal their religious rights, to be violated by Islam… General Votel, it is sad – it is sad! – that our troops are under your command. It is sad, General. After the imam damned our American warriors you stood and talked about how we’re one, about how we’re brothers. General Votel, it is sad if you know. It is even more sad if you’re still ignorant about what the imam is and what Islamist Jihadists are doing to us.
“Mr. Obama, President Obama, you need to step up or step down. You must step up, President Obama, and defend our warriors. You must step up and show the outrage that you have shown when the religion of Islam is disrespected. You must step up and defend our warriors. President Obama, your silence will be your consent.
“I’ll tell you, today we have sheep and wolves in high places and they are getting our sheepdogs killed unnecessarily. But I will also tell you today that no plan of hell or scheme of man can separate Aaron Vaughn from the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord. Not the imam, or Washington D.C. Aaron’s God is the God in the Bible who is referred to as the Lord of Host[s]. He is the God of all gods. That is the God that my son [believed in], and by the way, my son lives today with that God because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
“Five terror attacks have happened under President Obama’s watch. Five terror attacks on US soil. All five had one thing in common. Islamists… [After the operation that killed Osama bin Laden and the subsequent release by Obama and Biden of the identities of SEAL team 6 and other servicemen, Aaron told us] get everything off your social media, Mom. Our families are in danger because of what has happened. Then, in the military testimony that we have by May 11, by May 11 the military says Intel knew that over one hundred Taliban fighters were moving into the Tangeen River Valley to shoot down, to give an extraordinary effort to shoot down an American helicopter loaded with American warriors. Still our military did nothing extra to stop this. By the time that Aaron deployed in June, Karen and I knew, knew that Aaron and these men would be working in the Tangeen River Valley…
“We knew. Apparently it’s very possible that the Taliban knew. As Larry told you in the military testimony, seven Afghans that night [were changed at the last minute. Some of the men who actually got on the chopper]…are not the same names who were on the manifest. In a meeting with a high-ranking admiral I said something about this, said ‘It must not be a big deal.’ The man with him said, ‘Mr. Vaughn, it’s a very big deal, ‘cause it was passed over.’ He said ‘It’s a very big deal. That should never happen. In fact after the crash we had to notify the family’s of the men we thought were on the chopper, re-notify them to tell them that their sons were okay.’ He said the reason why they were not on the chopper is that at the last moment a commander changed his mind about the Afghans he wanted on the chopper.
“I didn’t think to ask the right questions that day, but a few days later as it weighed in my mind: ‘What commander? What commander? Was this a commander that was on the chopper with Aaron? Was this a commander on the ground? Was it an Afghan commander? Was it a commander out of theatre? Where was the commander?’ I called SO-Comm again, talked to the same guy. I asked him those questions, the man who was there a month over the investigation. He said, ‘Mr. Vaughn, we didn’t know about the swap. Nobody told us.’ It’s very puzzling to me, very puzzling.
“…What is wrong with our leaders? Why do they still withhold information? Why do they still withhold the truth about this enemy, making us, the citizens, at risk? We must change the hearts and minds of the leaders in Washington and the high-ups in the military, or we must see that they are removed. And by the way, we are not here today – we are not here today to tear down the military. If a patient has a tumor, you want to remove the tumor to save the patient. I am not the man to remove the tumor, the disease from the military. But I’ll tell you who is: The American citizens. We as Americans can do this and it’s going to be up to us to save our military.
“And we’ve heard Mrs. Clinton’s statement about Benghazi: ‘What difference, at this point, does it make?’
“Well, on 9-11, 2001 there were forty Americans on Flight 93 who gave their lives. What difference at this point does it really make? Well I’ll tell you what difference it makes: The Capital Building is still standing because forty American citizens gave their lives.
“In the 1950s Americans, tens of thousands of Americans went overseas to fight Communism. What difference does it make at this point? I’ll tell you what difference it makes. Men and women all over the world in places where our men have shed their blood for this republic are not living under Communism today.
“WWI and WWII hundreds of thousands of Americans went abroad and around the world to fight for freedom. What difference at this point does it make? Because Europe, Japan and many places in Asia are free today because Americans have shed their blood, Mrs. Clinton!
“In the Civil War hundreds of thousands of Americans killed each other, shed their blood on American soil. Today, Mrs. Clinton, at this point what difference does it make? Because by the end of the war there were no more slaves in the United States of America.
“Washington crossed the Potomac, a General who had not yet won a war against British tyranny. A General who knew that in a few weeks his troops would all desert and go back home at the beginning of the year – took a gigantic risk at night with a rag-tag army, who, many of them didn’t have guns, many of them didn’t have shoes – and surprised the German Hessians across the river and won a battle. What difference at this point does it make? Well I’ll tell you what it makes. It did three things, first of all. First of all, his army didn’t desert. Thousands more reenlisted. Great Britain recognized that they had a foe on their hands with the American patriots. And the French, who had not given the American patriots any credit before joined the Americans and helped the Americans run out a tyrant and become the greatest nation that this world has ever seen.
“And the Mayflower? What difference at this point does it make that American [sic] men and women gathered up what little they had with their little boys and their little girls and sailed into the dark for a land they had heard about, where they could worship and practice their worship of almighty God…What difference at this point does it make? Because today all of us still are able to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob freely.
“My son had this on his arm [refers to Molon Labe tattoo], this on his arm. It’s Greek, but if you look it up it is the spirit of America, right here. The spirit of American citizens, the spirit of American warriors, what it says to the enemy and what it says to those who would take these freedoms from us. We as Americans must stand. We must stand, we must reclaim the Republic that has been given to us by others.”
– Billy Vaughn, National Press Conference May 9, 2013.